King Holds Court for First Time This Season
November 30, 2011
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.—Wednesday at the PNY Center, NETS general manager Billy King met with media to discuss the upcoming season in depth, from free agency to the shortened schedule and possible position changes.
For the first time in an offseason previously limited by lockout rules, Nets general manager Billy King was able to meet with media and utter the names of the players on his roster. They flowed, from free agents Kris Humphries and Brandan Wright to mainstays Brook Lopez and Jordan Farmar and others up and down the list.
It is likely none sounded sweeter than that of Deron Williams, the top-five point guard who now returns from Turkey, where he spent the summer and fall with his family, playing the point for Besiktas. Rounding into form, Williams reeled off a 6-1 league record, even flipping a 50-point outing in one of his final appearances. The team retired his No. 8 jersey. After 15 games.
“The bold move was getting Deron,” King said. “That was getting a face of the franchise, so now when players are looking, they say, ‘OK, I’m going to go play with this guy.’ Now, when you’re talking to agents, they know, ‘OK, you’ve got a pretty good point guard, so I can score with him.’”
From there, the team will continue to build, utilizing the flexibility and assets acquired thus far, with an eye on success – now. King pointed out that the future isn’t promised to anyone, making a sly, joking reference to the close of his time as President of the
Though yet unable to contact players directly until the collective bargaining agreement is finalized or sign any deals until December 9, when training camp begins, King has contacted several agents. In the market for big men, King said those early free-agent overtures have been well-received, as they would be considering the amount of cap space he wields. (King declined to specify a number; it’s going to be high.)
Aiming to make the playoffs this season, King approaches free agency in similar fashion to the draft, going in with a ranked list and adjusting to Plan B (or C, etc.) as names come off the board. Seeking only to build a winner, he’ll go for it if he sees available players that suit the teams’ needs, which might include shifting career-center Lopez to power forward.
“The way he plays offensively sometimes, he plays like a power forward,” King said. “He was picking and popping with Deron at the end of the season and Kris Humphries was around the bucket. Some of his jumpers are almost three-pointers. I don’t know, if you design your center, you want him doing that.”
The GM expressed encouragement that, despite the shortened schedule, at least eight rotation players will return. That should ease the offseason transition, especially because the majority of them play in the backcourt; he likened it to a football team preferring to keep a quarterback that knows the system and train a new group of receivers rather than the opposite.
But any free agents will be expected to hit the ground running, as will the team’s two rookies, guard MarShon Brooks of Providence and forward-center Jordan Williams, of Maryland.
“It’s basketball,” King said. “They could’ve went through summer league, but summer league is not training camp. You ask any rookie – they go to summer league and come to training camp and it’s faster, it’s quicker. No matter if we started and they had 29 days of camp or two weeks of camp, they’re going to be behind. It’s just part of being a rookie; they’re going to have to deal with it and grow fast.”
King promised that this season, the team’s last in New Jersey after 35 years, will be free of the “circus-like atmosphere” he felt surrounded the team during its unfruitful pursuit of Carmelo Anthony (and successful pursuit of Williams) last season, vowing to keep information tightly sealed so as not to treat the players unfairly. Following an ESPN.com report Wednesday morning, King strongly denied being in contact with Magic GM Otis Smith, claiming not to have spoken with him since February.
However, King did confirm the Nets would soon be announcing the hires of two new assistant coaches and would work with Williams’ agent, Jeff Schwartz, on possibly signing an extension. All told, he’s ready to get back to work building a team that can bring excitement to Prudential Center.
“We’ll put a product out there that our fans will be excited about, and I think they’ll come,” King said. “I think last year they did a great job of supporting us in Newark, even with the amount of wins we had. I think it’s great. It’s the 35th anniversary of the Nets’ move to New Jersey, so there are going to be some things that the organization’s going to do that really showcase the history of New Jersey basketball.”