The indecisive Magic center had let it be known that he wanted out of Orlando. The Nets wanted in. They were willing to throw anybody and anything at the Magic in order to acquire Howard, which would essentially ensure Williams’ future with the team. They even supposedly offered Brook Lopez and five first-round picks for Howard, showing their total desperation to please Williams. At the same time these discussions were taking place, Grantland’s Jonathan Abrams had an inside look at Nets’ training camp and what he found was Deron Williams dining with Billy King each day for lunch and anointing himself “assistant general manager.”
While every team’s star player certainly has some input on personnel decisions, from the article it was obvious Williams was getting quite comfortable in King’s office. Knowing that the future of their organization depended on Williams, the Nets continued forward with the trade talks surrounding Howard, especially after Brook Lopez broke his foot. Yet again, Avery Johnson was left to coach a team filled with uncertainty at who would be there on any given day. This continued all season long.
The Nets ultimately brought Lopez back (perhaps prematurely) a few weeks before the trade deadline in the hopes of showing the Magic that he was healthy and good to go. Lopez played all of five games before reinjuring the foot and putting a damper on the Howard talks. When Howard opted-in to his contract with the Magic, the Nets were left hanging at the altar, and that is when they made the move most designed to appease Williams.
After missing out on Howard, the Nets traded their first-round pick (top three protected) and a couple of spare parts to Portland for Gerald Wallace. Wallace is one of those players who would be a great veteran piece for a contending team, which is why Portland traded for him last season, not the second-best player on one destined for the lottery. By trading for Wallace, the Nets were obviously trying to say to Williams, “Look, we will do whatever it takes to win” even if winning meant finishing 10th instead of 11th in the standings. For a team mired in mediocrity, the chance to draft a prospect who could be an impact player for the next 10 years in a loaded draft is not one the Nets should have given up for a pseudo-playoff run. Wallace also had the option to opt out after this season, which he appears likely to do as he seeks a long-term contract. The Nets would be wise not to overspend to keep Wallace around, but the loss of a draft pick unless they luck out and land in the top three is one the Nets won’t be able to get back, and if Williams leaves, their future will be incredibly bleak going forward.
So while Brett Yormark can tout Brooklyn and the Barclays Center all he wants, and he has done one hell of a job at that, the statement he made about the team being bigger than one player is just not true in this case. For the Nets, these last two years were always going to be about one player: One star who could be the face of the organization as they moved to Brooklyn. That star happened to be Williams, and since acquiring him the Nets have played all their cards to keep him happy and they should just be honest with themselves, and their fans. It’s the least they can do at this point.
Will a move to Brooklyn turn things around for the Nets?
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