Certainty Coming for Nets as Free Agency Opens
July 1, 2012
BROOKLYN, N.Y.—With the 2012 NBA Draft behind the Brooklyn Nets, General Manager Billy King now focuses his attention on free agency. He discussed his outlook with media before Thursday's NBA Draft.
With the 2012 NBA Draft behind the Brooklyn Nets, General Manager Billy King now focuses his attention on free agency. At 12:01 a.m. Sunday, the NBA entered a 10-day moratorium period in which teams begin negotiating with free agents. Teams can announce deals when the NBA resumes business on July 11, though players can reveal decisions at their discretion.
The Nets currently have five players under contract: Jordan Farmar, Anthony Morrow, MarShon Brooks, Jordan Williams and Johan Petro. Point guard Deron Williams didn't enact an opt-in, becoming an unrestricted free agent and joining forward Gerald Wallace, who opted out of his final year. The team extended a qualifying offer to fourth-year center Brook Lopez, who becomes a restricted free agent; the Nets will have three days to match any offer he signs with another team.
"There's certainty coming," said King, who discussed his outlook Wednesday, before the Draft. "That's the thing about it and we're prepared either way. The greatest thing I learned from Coach K (Duke's Mike Krzyzewski) was when something happens, you don't look back, you go to the next play. We're prepared. If things happen, we'll go on to the next play. Good or bad."
King won't downplay the importance of this free agency period, which comes just three months before Brooklyn's Barclays Center opens in September. But King remains confident in the multiple contingencies he's developed along with Assistant GM Bobby Marks and Coach Avery Johnson. If players decide to play elsewhere, the Nets could wield potentially $35-40 million in cap space.
Williams will be the main focus. King believes the seven-year veteran to be the league's best point guard, sending Devin Harris, Derrick Favors and two first-round picks to acquire him from the Jazz in February 2011. The GM's pitch will center on the Nets' current cap flexibility and willingness to build around him.
Additionally, Brooklyn and the Barclays Center will offer an opportunity for Williams to succeed on the NBA's biggest stage. After multiple tours of the under-construction arena, meetings with owner Mikhail Prokhorov and a knowledge of King's vision, the decision now rests with Williams. The point guard has indicated he's likely to choose before heading to the USAB Men's National Team Training Camp on July 6.
"I don't waver," King said. "I think I've stuck with the same thing: I'm not overconfident, I feel good. July 1 is July 1, and we'll have some finality to it."
The plan is to team Williams with Wallace, whom the Nets acquired from the Trail Blazers for
Though King says the Nets won't do a deal if it's not suitable, he believes Wallace will find common ground during negotiations and return to the roster. In 16 games after the trade, Wallace averaged 15.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists while immediately providing leadership and toughness.
"I wanted to draft Gerald (in 2001), so I knew a lot about him as a person," King said. "Once we had him here, I spent a lot of time talking with him. I don't think he's as invested as much as Deron, because Deron's been here longer, but I think he likes the direction we're going, and now it's about me and Rob Pelinka both coming to a point where we feel good about a deal."
The third point of the Nets' free-agent triangle is Lopez, who struggled through an injury-plagued fourth season after three years of playing all 82 games. Breaking his foot in the final preseason game cost Lopez two months; he returned for a five-game stretch -- including a 38-point outburst against the Mavericks -- before reinjuring the foot against the Bobcats and sitting the rest of the schedule.
But Lopez had established his bonafides during the previous three seasons, posting career averages of 17.4 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks with true 7-foot size in the middle. He's an effective pick-and-roll player, who meshes well with Williams, has gradually added strength and expanded his post repertoire.
"Brook's averaged (nearly) 20 points in his career, the short career he's had, and he's still a young player," King said. "And I think Brook has worked on his game physically, with Dr. Bettle, our strength coach. He's reduced his body fat, he's gotten stronger. And I think that missing last season has gotten him hungry to get back on the court and play. I think that was the hardest thing that he's ever had to go through, not being able to play."
Beyond those three, the Nets will look to add a starting power forward, whether that means the return of double-double machine Kris Humphries -- an unrestricted free agent -- or someone from a deep free-agent pool that includes familiar names like Kevin Garnett and Kenyon Martin, or developing players like Ersan Ilyasova and Brandon Bass.
The overall free agent class features a strong crop of restricted free agents including Eric Gordon, Roy Hibbert, O.J. Mayo, Michael Beasley, as well as notable names like Steve Nash, Ray Allen, Jason Terry, Jamal Crawford. However the process develops, King will be able to leverage a nearly complete Barclays Center in his pitch.
"Before we had to have brochures and video of 'This is what it's going to be when we're in Brooklyn.'" King said. "Now we can take them there. It's a reality now and I think it's going to be great for the people of Brooklyn and our fan base. It's going to be great for our players to be part of something special."