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February 23rd, 2011

NETS Step Forward with Williams

For more on the Nets' acquisition of Deron Williams, you can read the news article, our official press release or watch this video interview with GM Billy King.

NETS Step Forward with Williams

File this under #didntseethatonecoming.

Just a day after the Knicks bested the Nets season-long efforts to acquire Carmelo Anthony, the team goes out and acquires one of the leagues best point guards for less than they reportedly offered the Nuggets for Anthony! Its the first step Mikhail Prokhorov has been attempting to take since assuming ownership of the franchise last May.

Free agency 2010 didnt offer any landing zones, and the Melo-drama ultimately offered nothing but a few burns upon three times toeing the line of agreement. With those unsuccessful attempts behind them, the Nets front office turned to an alternate scenario, what Avery Johnson termed another Plan A trading for two-time All-Star Deron Williams, a player most everyone assumed wasnt available.

Nets general manager Billy King has maintained a strong relationship with Jazz counterpart Kevin OConnor, ever since their days working alongside one another in the 76ers front office, and the connection facilitated a fantastically quick-escalating Tuesday discussion that resulted in Wednesdays trade. Though the deal immediately addresses on-court issues (need for a fourth-quarter closer) and off-court ones (lack of star power), the Nets as Johnson freely noted are not yet a playoff team, let alone championship-caliber.

But the building must begin somewhere, and the acquisition of an All-NBA talent (Second Team: 08, 10) provides an unquestioned cornerstone, one the Nets believe will enable them to begin convincing other top-flight talent that not only is the move to Brooklyns Barclays Center a reality, but also that the team playing there will be relevant in any discussion of the NBAs premier franchises. Williams, averaging a career-best 21.3 points along with 3.9 rebounds, 9.7 assists and 1.2 steals this season, forms a formidable pick-and-roll duo with Brook Lopez, who even during a season hes regressed as a rebounder still ranks fourth among centers with a 19.4 PPG average, despite constant double-teams and packed paint.

That Williams is a certifiable shooter, knocking down .458 of his attempts (.345 3P%) this season, will add a new dimension to the Nets offense, one that will greatly affect their play late in games. For all his ability (The speed in transition! That stepback!), outgoing point guard Devin Harris the teams best player was an inconsistent shooter, which allowed opponents to lay off him late, confident in their ability to close off driving and passing lanes without being penalized, a crucial weakness for a player viewed as option No. 1.

Yet Harris departure is difficult. He arrived from Dallas just three years ago, only to have the team deconstructed around him, and gamely filled the role of franchise face, from amiably undertaking daily dealings with the media to embedding himself within the community (earning awards for his efforts). He made his first All-Star appearance as a Net, and this year reinvigorated his game, distributing the ball at career-best levels, even as drama swirled around him from the first day of preseason practice.

That in mind, Id like to thank Devin for his time here. For playing hard and for caring and for being easy to deal with when it couldve been easier to blow off the media, instead of answering every question and developing running jokes about his flannels being lucky and making sure to mention every time his Badgers or Packers proved winners once again. Hes a good kid, that one, and like Billy King Im glad that at least hes entering a winning situation. Heres to hoping he thrives.

And also Derrick. Avery said today that he thinks Favors will be an outstanding player someday, but Deron is already proven. Both statements are true. Im intrigued to see Favors next season, when hes had an NBA offseason to prepare, and he opens the schedule with a sense of exactly what he can accomplish. I know his time here was muted, often spent waiting for an explosion that never shook that even-keeled demeanor, but he was in the right place or at least headed there often enough that I understood why all the expectations were in place. A career to keep track of, certainly.

But bittersweet moments aside, this is an exciting time to be a Nets fan. The front office found a way to take the first step. Once that second one finds solid ground, and Williams star burden is shared, they can forge an actual attempt at traveling to titletown, treacherous, winding path though it might be.

--Posted by Ben Couch at 6:28 p.m.

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