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Williams, bold moves make Nets a fun team… for now

Jul 4, 2012, 2:19 AM EDT

Deron Williams, "Jay-Z" Sean Corey Carter , Beyonce Knowles AP

The Brooklyn Nets are a much better team right now than they were 72 hours ago.

They will walk onto the court at the Barclays Center with an entertaining lineup, a team with offensive firepower, something you couldn’t really say about the squad last seen in New Jersey (they move to Brooklyn this fall). They should be a team on the second tier in the East along with Indy, Boston and the Knicks. They won the battle to keep the face of the franchise in point guard Deron Williams. They should be popping champagne at the Nets headquarters tonight.

But they are not title contenders, not unless guys who have never been good at it suddenly learn to defend and board. And the way this team is built — with massive contracts for some players seeming past their prime — the moves of the last 72 hours will come back to haunt them in a couple years.

And Dwight Howard is not going to be bailing them out — all these bold moves make it nearly impossible for the Nets to trade for Howard (and there is no way they can sign him as a free agent next summer now). Howard still wants to land in Brooklyn, but it is going to take a Houdini-like escape from the confines of the CBA to find a way to free up salary to pull it off.

Nets GM Billy King was clearly under orders from owner Mikhail Prokhorov to get a team together that could open a new building, one that could compete in the nation’s largest market with the much more established Knicks. Something the Nets could sell.

He did.

Deron Williams is an Olympian and arguably the second best point guard walking the face of the earth. He’s also taken to living in New York City and will be a great ambassador for the team.

They added Joe Johnson and while we can all agree his contract is ridiculously large — $89 million over four more years — the guy is an All-Star and he can play. Johnson averaged 18.5 points per game last year, shot 38 percent from three and had a PER of 18.5.

The Nets also have Gerald Wallace, a guy who averaged 15.2 points a game, is an efficient shooter and can defend. Somehow the Nets held on to MarShon Brooks, the impressive rookie that a lot of teams coveted. They added Mirza Teletović, a quality stretch four from Europe. Reggie Evans will be a fan favorite but drive coach Avery Johnson crazy.

There are some pieces to like. This Nets roster should put up points. If Avery Johnson can get them to defend as a unit they could be better than just good.

But they are still looking up at Miami (as is everyone) and a healthy Chicago. And getting more quality pieces to change that will be nearly impossible. As you read this, the Nets have $54 million committed to six players (via Zach Lowe at Sports Illustrated who did the math). The salary cap is $58 million, and what is more by using the full $5 million mid-level exception on Teletović the Nets have locked themselves in with essentially a hard cap of $74 million they cannot exceed.

Bottom line is the Nets have $20 million to round out the roster and we haven’t talked about re-signing Brook Lopez or Kris Humphries yet. And they want to keep Lopez for sure, ideally both. Very quickly the Nets are going to be looking and inexpensive veteran minimum deals because they will be running out of space below the $74 million apron (as it is called in the CBA).

Which comes back to the dream of trading for Howard. First off, the Magic have consistently rejected an offer of Lopez, Brooks and picks for Howard and that is not suddenly going to change. The Magic have all summer or longer to make a move, they are not the ones that take the PR hit for how they handled the situation. They are more than happy to let Howard twist in the wind. And they sure as heck don’t care where he wants to go, they want the best deal for themselves.

More than that, Howard (set to make $19.5 million next year) along with Johnson, Williams, Wallace and the other couple guys already under contract but not shipped out would be owed nearly $70 million. So that leaves $4 million to get seven more guys. You’re not getting quality for that.

There are scenarios you can create where the Nets get some third party to help them out, taking on salary and opening the door for them to get Howard. But not realistic ones. And you can bet no GM in the East is going to help the Nets create another Super Team in their conference.

No, what you see with the Nets is pretty much what you get. They will be good. They will be fun. They will compete with the Nets and the fans in Brooklyn will love them. Jay-Z will love them.

But in a few years the real cost of opening the Barclays Center the right way will come home to roost.

  1. cmehustle - Jul 4, 2012 at 2:26 AM

    Wow, I would love to see Dwight in the Brook. I wonder what we were thinking bringing Iso Joe and his extremelly large contract up norf. To me it makes no sense, its not like Joe sells a bunch of jerseys and has tons of fans and what not. Eric Gordon could have been a much better get for us. And by the way Harrison Barnes, at 2 to 3 mil for four years, or Gerald Wallace and 10 for four?? Yeah thats what I thought.

    • turnmymicup - Jul 4, 2012 at 10:19 AM

      Love how people from up north constantly talk about us down south being uneducated. Must suck when one of your own completely bashes the english language. Awesome.

  2. saint1997 - Jul 4, 2012 at 2:50 AM

    I know people complain about bringing in J.J. to brooklyn and overpaying (slightly) Gerald Wallace but I actually don’t mind the move. The east is by no means as good as the west but with these moves at least the playoff race in the east becomes slightly more interesting and close, rather than having the Bucks at 9th. It also creates an actual rivalry between the NYK and Brooklyn. In the interests of making the NBA more interesting, I’m all for it

  3. knightrider1755 - Jul 4, 2012 at 5:01 AM

    “They will compete with the Nets.”? Dunce, they are the Nets.

  4. reycruz24 - Jul 4, 2012 at 5:09 AM

    Umm, am I the only one that saw Deron Williams play last year for the same team he just re-signed and see his team finish dead last in the Atlantic Division. Top 5 players don’t lead teams to the worst record in their division. That aside, Deron Williams is a great PG, not hating on his game at all.

  5. 1historian - Jul 4, 2012 at 8:00 AM

    This is a good piece. It shows how important the GM is to building a good team – in all sports. To me the best example of this is Jerry Krause of the Chicago Bulls from 1986 – 1998.

    When Krause arrived in Chicago in 1986 the Bulls had Michael Jordan. Not a bad start. The Bulls won their 1st title in 1991. All of the coaches on the team and the 11 players along with Jordan were brought to Chicago either by draft, trade or free agency by Krause. From the 1st title in 1991 thru the 6th (out of 8) in 1998 there was an 83% turnover in personnel – 10 out of 12. It doesn’t hurt if your remaining 17% are named Jordan and Pippen but that is STILL a remarkable accomplishment. And Krause was very fond of saying “organizations win championships.”

    Not to mention that Krause took a big chance on a guy no one wanted as a coach – his name was Phil Jackson.

    • borderline1988 - Jul 4, 2012 at 8:47 AM

      True, Krause was very good.

      But don’t underestimate what having Jordan and Pippen on your team does for you. Jerry Krause couldn’t rebuild the Bulls after Jordan had left (he tried for 4 years and failed miserably).

      • 1historian - Jul 4, 2012 at 11:41 AM

        good point but please remember that at that point Jackson was gone and Pippen was damaged goods.

        And I would never underestimate what having those two on your team does. It was easier for Krause to get people to come to Chicago with Jackson, Jordan and Pippen there. It was because of Krause that Jackson and Pippen were there. Remember too that Jordan told Krause on the plane home after #6 that he was all done and he asked Krause to keep it to himself, which Krause did.

        Krause really wanted to prove that he could build another champion without those 3 guys there and he did fail miserably, but to me that does not take anything away from what he accomplished.

  6. jerseyfinatic - Jul 4, 2012 at 10:08 AM

    Jesus Chirst Kurt! The Nets are finally good again after 5 years! Let them enjoy it. Instead, you bring up aspects on how in a couple of years, it will come back to haunt them and how they will suck in years to come. WOW. ESPN and NBC Sports really hate the Nets dont they? SMH

    • scalfor3 - Jul 4, 2012 at 10:38 AM

      idk how good they really are. unless they pull off some CBA shenanigans to land howard, they’ve basically kept last years roster and added joe johnson.

    • trickybastard - Jul 4, 2012 at 10:46 AM

      Jesus Christ jerseyfinatic!! Dramatic much?

      As much as I like to bag on Kurt he is exactly right. The Nets are a bumbling franchise with a history of bad decisions under Prokhorov’s regime. They risk giving away draft picks. Let’s not forget how much money they threw at Outlaw, Jordan Farmar and Morrow very recently.

      Now, they trade for Joe Johnson and give a lot of money to Wallace – players not exactly in their prime.

      I fail to see a clear cut strategy with the Brooklyn Nets. I don’t. Unless you call throwing money and draft picks at anything that moves a strategy.

  7. 1historian - Jul 4, 2012 at 11:45 AM

    FYI – I am a Patriots’ fan.

    To me the best owner in all of pro sports is Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots and he has 3 simple rules about being an owner:

    1) Hire the right GM

    2) Sign the checks

    3) GET THE HELL OUT OF THE WAY

  8. pistolpete0903 - Jul 4, 2012 at 12:29 PM

    it’s not like the Nets would be an overnight title contender, even w/Howard. The good thing is they are relevant and atleast make some noise (both with the fans and in basketaball). They needed the buzz for next season.
    Having said that, the Joe Johnson signing baffles me. A good player being paid elite money is how you screw the team in the long-run (Rashard Lewis anyone?)

  9. jolink653 - Jul 4, 2012 at 12:56 PM

    not sure why they bothered taking on joe johnson…yeah the guy is a good player but he’ll be getting $22.5 million a year for the next 4 years and you know atlanta is doing cartwheels that someone was stupid enough to take on that contract…they would have been better off keeping the cap space for dwight howard and throwing more of those players at orlando…i’m not really impressed yet at what they’ve done this offseason

  10. bknowledge - Jul 4, 2012 at 2:42 PM

    Please let the Nets get Dwight…

    but if not…
    maybe they should start Reggie Evans…
    Reggie Evans
    Gerald Wallace
    Gerald Green
    Joe Johnson
    Deron Williams

    ask Brook Lopez to be our “Ginobili”…Brook could finish quarters and finish the game (preventing the hack-an-Evans tactic)…and Brook could stabilize the offense on the second team/Nets could run the second team offense thru Brook in the low post…

  11. davidly - Jul 4, 2012 at 4:48 PM

    After December 21, 2012, the Nets’ owner is gonna install Russian cyborgs who will win straight champeenships into the next century.

  12. southpaw77 - Jul 5, 2012 at 3:29 AM

    When are the Nets gonna release their jerseys?
    See the caps and t-shirts with the cool logo but no jerseys yet, what are Deron, Joe and Reggie gonna hold up for the press conference July 11-12th?

    • knightrider1755 - Jul 5, 2012 at 7:47 AM

      Their roster has not been finalized yet. They are going to wait until they know who all of their players are for next season.

  13. southpaw77 - Jul 5, 2012 at 3:53 AM

    Don’t forget Tyshon Taylor backing up Deron Williams.

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