Monday, July 2, 2012

Deron Williams Key to Nets Debut In Brooklyn

His name is Deron Williams, a free agent point guard who wants to make his decision before reporting to Team USA training camp on Thursday. He doesn’t need them — but, oh, Brooklyn wants him, knowing he can definitely sell tickets in a new location for a franchise that moved from New Jersey to New York, one of the largest media markets in the country.

Hints as to where he will sign are vague and unknown at this point, but nonetheless we will speculate where free agency’s ultimate prize will end up shortly after Independence Day. As of now, that is, expect Brooklyn Nets general manager Billy King to aggressively work on a long-term deal to hold on to Williams. It’s a very provocative tableau, wondering whether or not he will stay to hopefully team up with Dwight Howard, who demanded a trade to Brooklyn. But knowing his ever-changeable mind, Howard could, as usual, change his mind about joining the new-look Nets. And, according to reports, the Nets have dropped out of the Howard sweepstakes and looked into another direction for now, with an agreement in principle to acquire guard Joe Johnson from the Atlanta Hawks.

It’s all in Kings’ hands to make sure the deal gets done, and with a tremendous amount of pressure on him, he could be the first GM to come through on a deal that wheedles him to build a foundation in Brooklyn. If he can’t talk Williams into staying, which is likely as the three-time All-star is leaning toward the Dallas Mavericks and the Nets, the idea of building one of the bona fide tandems in basketball falls apart. Williams, who grew up in the suburbs of Dallas — and now as the most coveted free agent — some are speculating his next destination is with the Mavericks. But even better, under the new CBA rules, he can sign a five-year deal worth approximately $100 million, whereas Dallas can offer him $75 million over four years.

Wherever he goes, Williams is a consolation prize any team would like to have on board, expected to keep on a Nets uniform after the team has relocated, in a nearby town next to Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudimire. If the Nets manufacture a raft of star power that can put butts in seats and churn out revenue for a franchise on the horizon — with enough victories — this team could respectfully be given the nod in the Eastern Conference and turn into instant semifinalists in their flashy new home. No one, least of all the Brooklyn folks, cares about the business aspect of it. But they do know they want to see Williams in a Nets uniform come next season. That’s all that matters. He’s all that matters.

If it does happen, he’s going to be the face of the franchise and will handle the point guard duties. He’s proven to be a trusty guard who runs the offense and is one of the best scoring point guards in the league with his elite passing and sharp ball-handling. The man, in addition to all of this, plays where he can make the money, and if it happens to be in Brooklyn, well, then he will most definitely call it home and be the Nets franchise player as long as the team continues to pay him. There isn’t a bigger blockbuster name out there who is worth keeping around, and the Nets are desperately hoping to finally persuade Williams to forge his signature for a long-term commitment, when much promise is suddenly coming to life.

It can be the most exciting franchise, and it can be more fun with Williams as a marquee name, a centerpiece for a blueprint to awe New Yorkers a couple of rivers over, on the busy streets of Brooklyn. And here comes a re-branded and resuscitated Nets team that fled Newark and opened the new Barclays Center in Boerum Hill, and here comes flamboyant billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov, one of Russia’s richest and charismatic moguls. What’s a boon for the Nets and Brooklyn homers, as a result of Brooklyn having money to spend in hopes to invest and build a winning product, is how Prokhorov is willing to do whatever it takes to convince Williams to not turn down the Nets and leave for Dallas.

He is, as a competitor and savvy tycoon, not going to lose his battle to Mark Cuban if he can re-sign Williams by putting together a sturdy supporting cast and building a workable nucleus. If Williams walks out on the Nets, however, Brooklyn won’t even qualify for the playoffs, especially now that the team has rebuffed interest in Howard. This is the biggest offseason for the Nets, and it feels almost like they are aggressively fighting for the most attractive free agent available. It would be a colossal disappointment if Brooklyn misses out on Williams, and fails to retain his services, as the Nets are styling a new logo and new jerseys. There’s no way he’d turn down the Nets, unless they refuse to give him the asking price and take care of him for the next five years.

In a perfect world, it shouldn’t be a problem financially, and not only do you have one of the wealthiest men investing billions on one team, but you have a famous minority owner in Jay-Z. At no better time, the Nets are fortunate and have $40 million in salary-cap space, a flashy new arena and, in a matter of days, could even re-sign Williams. In the meantime, the addition of Johnson, who is owed nearly $90 million over the next four seasons, was a strategy to woo Williams to stay. Flirting with Johnson, team executives would not have pursued him if he couldn’t persuade Williams to make his home in Brooklyn.

There’s still no guarantee Williams re-signs with the Nets, but maybe he’s now intrigued, realizing that he has assistance in the backcourt. In exchange for Johnson, the Nets sent Jordan Farmar, Johan Petro and Jordan Williams — including a signed-and-traded DeShawn Stevenson and a 2012 first-round pick from Houston to Atlanta. A $7.6 million hold for restricted free agent Brook Lopez will put them in serious salary-cap trouble. Very soon, Lopez is expected to re-sign, and when he does the Nets will be at $59 million — over the cap, but under the $70.3 million luxury-tax.

The best part — or maybe the foretelling part — following the recent transitions to meet a superstar’s demands when it comes to surrounding him with a supporting cast — is that this might have just kept Williams in Brooklyn.