NETS Stun NBA, Acquire All-Star PG Deron Williams
February 23rd, 2011
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.—One day after the Knicks brought a season-long saga to an end by acquiring forward Carmelo Anthony, topping an astounding offer from the Nets, general manager
The deal, which sends point guard Devin Harris, rookie forward Derrick Favors and two first-round draft picks to the Utah Jazz, brings in a player considered one of the top-three point guards in the NBA. Williams, who made his second straight All-Star appearance last weekend in Los Angeles – entered the break averaging a career-best 21.3 PPG, along with 3.9 rebounds, 9.7 assists and 1.2 steals in 37.9 minutes.
“I think it’s big,” said King, after Wednesday’s practice. “I look back at when (former President Rod Thorn) was able to get Jason Kidd (in 2001). You win with very good point guards. I think Jason took this franchise in a whole new direction, and I think Deron will do the same for us.”
The deal came together quickly – King said he spoke with Jazz GM Kevin O’Connor, whom he spent time with in the
Having spoken briefly with Williams, whose wife Amy is soon expecting the couple’s fourth child, King said the point guard is excited by the opportunity to help the Nets build as they gradually transition from Newark to Brooklyn over the next 1 ½ years. Williams becomes a franchise cornerstone, along with center Brook Lopez, as both King and Nets coach Avery Johnson touted each as ranking among the best in the league at their respective positions.
“I’m excited about it,” Johnson said. “Very rarely are you able to trade for somebody who’s arguably the best at their position. We know we had to give up a lot to get him but we felt it was worth it. When you go into a trade scenario, you’ve got a lot of plans and this one was definitely not a Plan B – he’s a Plan A. And we’re excited to have somebody with this type of a skill level, as we continue to build our team. Eventually we were going to have to do something like this. So now that’s an area where we can put a check.”
Johnson spoke highly of Williams’ “presence,” how it provides a fear factor for opponents and how that type of swagger was something the Nets’ front office believed crucial to further development. Yet Johnson expressed his love for outgoing point guard Harris, whom he coached twice (previously in Dallas from 2004-08), and whom Johnson believed “poured his heart” into a tough situation. As for Favors, the No. 3 pick in this year’s draft, and even still only 19 years old, Johnson said while the team still feels he’ll develop into an outstanding player, Williams is a proven commodity.
Though Johnson and King found it tough to part with Harris (who’s averaging 15.0 points and a career-best 7.6 assists) and Favors (who took over as the starting power forward while posting 6.3 PPG and 5.3 RPG in 19.5 MPG), the opportunity to acquire Williams proved too tempting to pass up. In 439 career games since being drafted No. 3 overall in 2005, Williams has averaged 17.3 points, 3.2 rebounds, 9.1 assists and 1.0 steals in 35.6 minutes per game, shooting .466 from the field and .358 from three-point range – numbers that all increased in his 44 career postseason games (four straight seasons).
Twice named Second Team All-NBA, Williams earned a gold medal playing for the USA Basketball Men’s National Team at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. After 5 ½ seasons with the Jazz, Williams ranked fourth on the franchise’s career leaderboard for assists (4,003) and fifth in three-pointers made (511). His game is familiar to Nets forward Kris Humphries, who played alongside Williams during the point guard’s rookie season.
“First off, it’s tough, because I got to know Devin and really enjoyed playing with him, so it’s going to be a change,” Humphries said. “But on another note, Deron is a great point guard. He gets mentioned with the one, two, or three best point guards in the league every year, so I think he’s going to bring us a lot. He has shown that he’s a winner, and hopefully we finish the year up strong and he’s our leader.”