The Brooklyn Nets had a simple plan. Acquire a star player like Deron Williams, sell him on the move to Brooklyn and the all-star, mega-billionaire ownership of Mikhail Prokhorov and Jay-Z, and then work on acquiring a second superstar player to make the move to the Barclays Center complete. That task was accomplished by clearing out enough cap space to have only $9.4 million committed toward 2013 if every eligible player declines his option.
Billy King did some masterful cap work.
The only problem was that Deron Williams never committed to signing a new deal (really unless the Nets do bring in that second star) and Dwight Howard, rumored to have favored Brooklyn throughout his whole indecision, opted into the final year of his contract and is not available for Brooklyn to bring in this year. The Nets' last chance (perhaps) to get Dwight Howard passed when they lost out on the top overall pick and the chance of giving Orlando the next Dwight Howard in exchange for the current one.
With dreams of making the move to New York in grand style, the Nets are not likely to sit on that cap room, Williams or not. Brooklyn already is rumored to have interest in Kevin Garnett (reportedly also contemplating retirement) and Ersan Ilyasova while still holding out hope of putting together a package to bring Howard into their new burrough.
Goal one (and two) is to resign Deron Williams. To borrow from Reggie Jackson, he is the straw that stirs the drink for the Nets and the guy they want to build around. And for the first time since acquiring Williams and developing this aggressive plan to make the Nets a star in their first season in Brooklyn, the Nets are on the defensive.
Brooklyn is preparing to fend off a strong effort from Dallas to maintain Williams, and rumors are beginning to circulate that Phoenix could enter the fray if the team loses Steve Nash in free agency. This from Fred Kerber of the New York Post:
Despite reports the Mavericks will make the mother of all recruiting pushes for Williams, the Nets have proceeded with confidence they will retain the All-Star point. That was coach Avery Johnson’s contention all season and he never wavered. King sounded even more confident in a video on the team's website.
"We'll do everything we can [to improve]," King said. "We're going to re-sign Gerald Wallace. We're going to re-sign Deron Williams."
Sounds confident. And don't forget D-League call-up extraordinaire Gerald Green wants to remain a Net, as does restricted free agent center Brook Lopez, for whom the Nets can match any offer.
So even if the pursuit of Dwight Howard never regains traction, the Nets still can have a core of Williams, Wallace, Lopez, Green, MarShon Brooks, perhaps Ilyasova and maybe Andrei Kirilenko.
Confidence indeed. Brooklyn has the bravado, the plan and the money to spend and make do with the secondary plan. But the Nets are going up against a lot of factors when it comes to Williams, the center of all this.
Deron Williams is from the Dallas area and has a championship pedigree and program established through Mark Cuban. Prokhorov seems willing to get there, but he does not have the track record. The Mavericks also have Dirk Nowitzki, so that "second" star is already in place. If Williams is ready to win championships now, Dallas might be a better place than Brooklyn despite all the fireworks Prokhorov seems read to pull out for his team in its new palace.
The Nets though have been knocked off their plan. Despite this talk of bravado, they have to come up with a new plan to attract Williams and keep him in Brooklyn for the long term. The Howard plan seems to have fallen through, and so the question -- one that the Nets have not had to ask in this little year and a half long experiment -- is what is Plan B?
Prokhorov and King surely have one. The question is will Williams buy into it and Brooklyn long enough for them to implement it. Consider the Nets on edge until July 1.
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