Williams Arrives Excited, Allaying Any Fears About Attitude
February 24th, 2011
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.—Head still spinning from all the travel – Dallas to Salt Lake City to New Jersey and a flight to San Antonio to come – Deron Williams took center stage for the first time as a member of the Nets on Thursday, allaying any fears about his attitude toward a trade that came together Tuesday in a flurry of phone calls between Nets general manager
“It wasn’t that I was unhappy – I was just shocked; it was unexpected,” Williams explained. “When you don’t hear any rumors, and then you’re getting treatment with your teammates and you learn that you just got traded, there’s an initial shock.
“Once I got on the phone with Billy, I started to feel better about the situation. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about going to a team that was 17-40; that was my first process. But once I talked to Billy, that reassured me how committed they were, and that got me excited.”
Williams first found out while receiving treatment with his teammates prior to a Wednesday shootaround in Dallas, when the news scrolled across ESPN’s “Bottom Line” news ticker.
A call to his agent turned up no information, but shortly afterward his phone lit up with the number of Greg Miller, CEO of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies, (which runs the Jazz). Miller informed the All-NBA point guard that he had been traded to the Nets, for All-Star point guard Devin Harris, rookie forward Derrick Favors (the No. 3 overall pick in this year’s draft) and two first-round draft picks: the Nets’ unprotected 2011 selection, and the Warriors’ 2012 selection, which is protected 1-7.
That the Nets were willing to offer so much in exchange for his services impressed Williams, who seems to becoming steadily more amenable to his new situation, calling the possibility of signing an extension with the Nets a “strong possibility.” Such a statement must be encouraging to King and Nets coach Avery Johnson, who view this as a crucial first move in their plan to build a perennial playoff team and championship contender.
“In order to win a championship, you need a great point guard, and he’s a great point guard,” King said. “I think that part becomes the easiest selling point. We’ve got a billion-dollar building that’s opening in Brooklyn – the world’s first billion-dollar arena. With that, with Avery at the helm, with Mikhail (Prokhorov) owning the team, there’s a lot of positives.
“(Deron) has a lot of friends, and I’m sure they’ll ask him, ‘What do you think?’ And that’s what it’s about – building something and having someone that they want to play with. He’s someone that people want to play with, because he makes them a lot better.”
King echoed his previous statement of faith in Williams’ status as the league’s best point guard, saying at the press conference that he believed the sixth-year point guard to be the one player he’d determined the Nets had to roster if they were to seriously compete for an NBA Championship. Ready to make the move 1 ½ years from now in free agency, King pounced on the opportunity for an earlier acquisition.
Williams, drafted No. 3 overall in 2005, instantly elevated the Jazz to playoff contender, pulling their record from 26-56 to 41-41 in his first season before following that up with a 51-victory campaign that didn’t end until the Spurs knocked them out of the playoffs in the Western Conference Finals. For his career, Williams has averaged 17.4 points, 3.2 rebounds and 9.2 assists – all numbers that increased in his 44 playoff games (24.3, 3.7 and 9.6, respectively) – while shooting .358 from three-point range and .466 overall.
That complete skill set, packaged with Williams’ size (6-foot-3, 209 pounds) and durability (at least 76 games in four of five full seasons), has Johnson raring to unleash a talent of a kind he hasn’t coached since working with Dirk Nowitzki in Dallas.
“Whatever his strengths are, we’re going to play to his strengths,” Johnson said. “I’ve looked at a lot of the ways Utah used him, utilized his skill set. We’re going to try to figure out how we integrate that into what we’re doing, and we’re going to ask him what does he like? What plays does he like? Where does he want the ball when the game’s on the line?”
The immediate impact Johnson expects is in late-game situations, where the Nets have struggled all season to find a consistent scoring option during debilitating droughts, ones that have often flipped fourth-quarter leads into final-minute flops. Williams’ ability to close games could help the Nets steal more wins than they might have without him – important not only to a potential (though unlikely) playoff push, but also depressing the value of the unprotected first-round pick now held by the Jazz.
Having already played the Nets twice this season, and familiar with several of the team’s players off the court, Williams was encouraged by the talent of his new teammates.
“They’ve got some good pieces, some great pieces, some talent,” Williams said. “They play hard – we played them twice already this year: they beat us once here, and played us close in Utah. The team plays hard, they’ve got a great coach and they just need a few pieces.”
Williams is the first one. Who’s got next?
Front Office Opens Up on Wright, Gadzuric
Additionally, the Nets front office addressed the trade for Brandan Wright and Dan Gadzuric for the first time. Here’s Billy:
“One, Dan gives us depth. Losing Derrick and Troy, there was a void in big guys. He gives us shot-blocking, athletic ability – a veteran who knows how to play. Brandan, he’s a young talent, and now we get a chance to see him. We have his rights and we hope that this is the place that he blossoms.”
“We needed to move Murphy; Murphy’s been such a good guy throughout this whole process. So we needed to move Murphy, and get some bodies. We’ve just been down on bodies, especially in practice – big guys. Fortunately, we were able to get Gadzuric and Wright, one guy that’s been around the block a little bit in Gadzuric, and Wright, a young guy, still a young player – 21-years-old – (who) got drafted early. We need to see where he is: Is he a 3? Is he a 4? Is he a tweener? I just felt that was a solid move for us. He’s athletic and long, and we definitely need that.”