Jan 14, 2012, 6:22 PM EDT
In the film “Rounders,” Matt Damon’s former poker genius character lists the “cardinal rule”: Always leave yourself outs. It sounds much simpler than it is. The natural impulse when you lose one hand is to try and compensate the next quality hand you’re dealt. The addictive nature of gambling and the desperate mental impact of losing is what makes it so dangerous. In short, cutting your losses is extremely difficult and a loss only makes you more likely to attempt a wider gamble. That’s why you leave yourself outs, to take the long-term view of the situation.
The Nets, unfortunately, did not leave themselves outs.
If Howard is traded to the Lakers before the deadline, sources say New Jersey would then be forced to explore its D-Will trade options, knowing that Williams would be a virtual lock to leave come July. If Orlando keeps Howard or deals him anywhere else but L.A. or Dallas before the deadline, thus keeping alive its dream of pairing the two in Brooklyn next fall, New Jersey will wait.
The Nets, in other words, would have to be all the way out of the Howard Sweepstakes before abandoning their plans, having sacrificed so much last February (Derrick Favors, Devin Harris and two first-round picks) just to get D-Will.
This is no big shocker. You can’t just enter into free agency hoping Williams, who never specifically wanted to be with the Nets, having seen them fail to get him help in both free agency and through the Howard trade, will re-sign. And they surrendered such a massive set of assets for him that to get nothing out of it would be devastating. But it does put itself out there as a fact that Nets ownership is aware there is a very strong possibility that they will not acquire Howard. They’re still looking out to see what they have to do if they call and their hand comes up short.
Now, there are plenty of reasons for Nets fans not to be concerned. Deron Williams had his best game of the season Friday night against Phoenix, so perhaps it was simply injuries and not his mental outlook that has lead to him seeming so despondent in his body language. They have time to get Brook Lopez healthy and to increase his trade value to try and woo a third team into the mix to send veterans to Orlando, which reportedly is what they’re after. The Nets can right the ship and make Jersey/Brooklyn a more attractive option to convince Howard to push for them. And with Andrew Bynum playing as well as he is, it’s entirely possible the Lakers won’t want to trade him and disrupt their chemistry. Oh, and despite the ESPN report, Williams himself said it was 80% sure that he would re-sign. And athletes never say one thing and do another in free agency.
The Nets are trying to be sure they’re prepared for the worst. But the reality is that if all this gets them absolutely nothing to show for it, or even a diminished package for Williams, it will still sent the franchise back for years.
Good luck, Nets.