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Nucleus in Place, King Keeps Building a Team

April 20th, 2011

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.The Nets season ended with so many injuries, even the General Manager showed up for his wrap-up mini-conference with his right wrist in a soft cast. Billy King will be off the links for 6-8 weeks after surgery to repair a broken bone, but there remains plenty of work to be done from his East Rutherford office.

Armed with copious cap flexibility, seven players to make decisions on, and a late-first-round draft choice, King will spend the offseason attempting to build upon a year during which the team made progress changing the culture after a 12-win season in 2009-10. The crucial move so far has been the unexpected midseason acquisition of All-Star point guard Deron Williams, who though injured flashed All-NBA talent throughout the 12 games he played, averaging 15.0 points and 12.3 assists.

Weve got a star, so youre not worried about the star factor, King said. Were in the process of building a team. You have pieces that you like, a nucleus that you like, so you start trying to build around that. I think we need to get more athletic at our wing positions. If youre watching these playoffs, you see what Carmelo (Anthony) can do, you see what LeBron (James) can do, what Dwyane Wade can do, what Paul Pierce can do. Youve got to have guys that can guard those guys. I think it cant just be one, you have to have two or three guys you can throw out there.

With the NBAs collective bargaining agreement expiring on July 1, the free-agent and trade landscape can be somewhat difficult to anticipate it becomes tricky to budget when the spending limit is unknown. But King experienced a similar situation during the 1998 lockout, which arrived shortly after he took over in Philadelphia, and still targeted the players he intended to pursue, armed with an executable plan upon the end of the stoppage.

Trades wont become any more likely an avenue, because if they significantly impact cap space, they could have unforeseen repercussions under the terms of a new deal. But King often makes moves on draft day, and with this years event scheduled for June 23, hell be fully prepared for asset management, whether that means drafting at No. 27 (and either No. 35 or 36, depending on Sacramentos finish in the lottery) or moving picks, players or some combination thereof.

Were going to take the best player, King said. Thats what you do, thats what your scouts do; you hash it out. By the time of the draft, well have them ranked, in our minds, who we think are the best players, and once we get there, as guys come off the board, the next best player we have ranked, well take.

The reason I ended up with (Andre) Iguodala (in Philadelphia) was Toronto needed a big, so they passed. I think you take the best player, because if you do, that player will have asset value: if he doesnt work for you, somebody else will want him in a trade. If you bypass that for a need, then youre not taking the best asset.

King pointed out that even in drafts deemed weak classes, there always exist players who slip further than their NBA performance would merit, such as Tony Parker (No. 28) and Gilbert Arenas (No. 30) going late in a 2001 draft headed by maligned No. 1 pick Kwame Brown. While GM and President of the Sixers, King plucked Todd MacCullough (No. 47, 1999), Samuel Dalembert (No. 26, 2001) and Louis Williams (No. 45, 2005) off the draft board, also dealing for John Salmons (No. 26, 2002), Willie Green (No. 41, 2003) and Kyle Korver (No. 51, 2003) during their respective draft nights.

The wealth of assets allows King to maintain his confidence in eventually procuring Deron Williams signature on a contract extension. The point guard expressed strong, positive sentiments during his postseason wrap-up, and while King remains aware the Nets must improve to solidify their case, he believes the team will.

Our goal is to be in the playoffs next year and move in that direction, King said. (Deron) will know if were headed in that direction, and I think we all will. Im not sitting here like Ive got an hour sandglass and (time) is ticking. Weve got to get through collective bargaining before anything can be decided, and once we get through that, well wade through all this. But I think were in good shape: we have cap flexibility, draft picks and young players. Theres a lot on the horizon for us.

Quick Quotes

On negotiating with free agents:

Well have to see what the cap rules are going to be and what they want. Theres always going to be a number that well pay and we wont pay.

On moving to Brooklyn:

You see the building, you see the steel going up, and you get excited. Last year was two years away, now youre a year away. When it gets there, for me, its the first time being a part of an organization thats opening a new building. I was in Indiana when they were planning, but then I left and I wasnt able to see that part.

On Jay-Zs involvement as an investor:

It was great to spend time talking with him, getting to know him. To see him giving a pitch on Brooklyn, and the passion about going to Brooklyn, you see the passion there. If hes that passionate about going to Brooklyn, I cant imagine what the other 2.5 million people there are going to be like when we get there.

To see him as involved and as passionate about the Nets (as he is), thats a real positive. Its not just something that hes using or investing in this is something that hes going to be involved even more as we move to Brooklyn. I send him e-mails about this guy or that guy. Hes fully invested, not just financially, but from the heart.

NOTES King said C Brook Lopez would have minor surgery during the next week to remove a calcium deposit from his right arm. Details will be forthcoming.

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