By John Schuhmann, NBA.com
Posted Jul 15 2010 4:56PM
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ -- When Billy King was fired as president of the Philadelphia 76ers in December of 2007, he didn't have the opportunity to finish what he started. He had traded Allen Iverson and cleared cap space for the summer of 2008. But before he got to use it, he was shown the door.
Two years later, in his new position as general manager of the New Jersey Nets, King finally gets the chance to enjoy the flexibility that he worked to get in Philly. The Nets did not get LeBron James, Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh last week. But they also didn't spend a lot of money on players who they didn't think deserved it.
And with the additions of Travis Outlaw, Anthony Morrow, Jordan Farmar and Johan Petro, the Nets' roster is almost complete, and they still have almost $15 million of cap space.
Along with a bevy of young players and several extra draft picks over the next few years, that puts King in an enviable position. Because at some point down the line, he should have the opportunity to add an impact player.
"In this league, players become available," King said after he was introduced by the Nets at a press conference Thursday afternoon. "Pau Gasol became available and the Lakers had the pieces to get it done. The Celtics had the assets and the ability when Kevin Garnett became available."
King didn't have the assets needed to bring Garnett to Philadelphia the summer before he was fired. Three years earlier, he could have acquired Rasheed Wallace from Atlanta if he had a first round pick to send the Hawks. But he didn't have the pick and Wallace went on to help the Detroit Pistons to a championship.
"The Nets have the picks and they have the cap flexibility, so deals will come along," King said. "And you just have to be ready to do that."
King won't just sit back and wait though. Thursday was his first day on the job, but he planned to go looking for an opportunity to add an impact player, or at least plant a seed in a fellow general manager's mind, right away.
"There are some guys in my mind, teams I'm going to call, because we have the flexibility," he said. "I'm going to make some calls today. And I'll make some calls tomorrow to the same people. I just think you've got to be a pest, be a nuisance. And eventually, they get tired of you and either do the deal or don't.
"I think that's how the Lakers got Gasol. They kept calling and kept calling. And as [Lakers general manager] Mitch [Kupchak] said, I think it took a year. They eventually got him."
Patience is the key, King says. If there's one thing he learned from his 10 years in Philadelphia, that's it.
"In Philly, I tried to do a lot of things quickly," King said. "And in this league, if you do some things and it doesn't work, you're punished for a while. So I think I'm going be a little more patient. You can't take shortcuts."
The timing of King's hire is not standard. He didn't get to participate in the draft and he missed out on the first two weeks of free agency. He also comes in a month after the Nets hired coach Avery Johnson.
In a bit of a role reversal, Johnson took part in the search for the successor for current team president Rod Thorn. Johnson also had input in the free agent additions that the Nets made, and will have input on roster decisions going forward.
"We're going to work well together as a team," King said. "I will take his input, his advice. I will take his prodding and his pushing. Sometimes we may not agree, but we're going to walk out of the room in the same light. It's about what's best for the Nets.
"I told Avery, 'I'll never say you work for me. We work together.' That's how I've always worked with coaches."
"We're both basically coming in together," Johnson said, adding that it was important for him to be a part of the process of hiring King.
The opportunity to add a star to the Nets' young roster may not come right away. And for now, the onus is on Johnson to take the team that Thorn has put together and turn it into a competitive squad.
"Right now, we have to develop talent," Johnson said. "That's not an easy job. We have to get some chemistry. I don't even know what the starting lineup is opening night."
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