In the next 48 hours -- maybe less, maybe more -- one franchise will celebrate the prospect of a bold, new future with Williams as the other is left scrambling to regroup.
Williams' decision will have a ripple effect for teams and free agents across the league, including Mavs free agents such as Jason Terry and Delonte West. If Williams signs, those two are practically assured of playing elsewhere. For Terry, it would end a remarkable eight-year run in Dallas. His situation seems to be halted by Ray Allen, who is being pursued by the Celtics, Heat and others. Terry would like to re-sign with Dallas and the Mavs would like to have him back, but only if the finances work.
West, who joined the Mavs in December, took to Twitter a few nights ago to publicly recruit Williams to Dallas. The irony is that if Williams' signs, it would essentially seal West's exit. The money just won't be there.
"That’s all right. If you don’t have loyalty, you have nothing," West said Saturday as the hours ticked down to free agency. "Right now, I’m a Dallas Maverick and if I can do anything to help out and make this team better, that’s what I’ll do. If that’s my ticket out the door, hey, that’s something that comes along down the road. But right now, I'm trying to do everything I can to make my team better and get back to a championship."
How many teams are interested in signing the uniquely quirky and intense, 6-foot-3 combo guard,and how much they're willing to pay and for how many years is not clear. West, who quickly endeared himself to his Dallas teammates and coach Rick Carlisle, said he is confident the Mavs are interested.
But that would seem possible only in the case that Williams re-signs with the Brooklyn Nets. West is determined to end a two-year run of one-year, minimum contracts. Those contracts came on the heels of his unfortunate 2009 arrest, but West believes he has proven both his value on the court and that he is not a risk, even as he deals daily with bi-polar disorder, away from the arena.
"I would like to see a team offer me something based off my skill set, not off of something that happened three, four years ago," West said. "The guys in this free agency, when you see the type of contracts that they’ll be offered and really take a look at what they do, and you compare it to what I bring to the floor, you might see two points or three points more over here, maybe a few more assists, but you look at everything I bring to the game and the defense that I do, I’m going to be on that guy.
"That’s what I’m hoping for, a team that looks at the skill, what I bring to a team. Pay me based on that rather than when I was making stupid decisions."
West averaged 9.6 points and 3.2 assists in 44 games for Dallas. He missed nearly a third of the 66-game season with a gruesome fractured right ring finger that required surgery. It was the second consecutive season that West has missed large chunks of the season with an injury. He played in just 24 games in 2010-11 and hasn't played in as many as 69 games since 2006-07 with the Boston Celtics, the team that drafted him 24th overall in 2004.
West said he'd like to agree to terms as quickly as possible so he can take advantage of a team's facilities, coaches and trainers. He predicted next season "to be the best year of my career."
He'd like a contract with equal promise.
"I look at the top free agents at my position, and you really look at it and you really say, 'I’m not in that group of guys?'" West said. "And you see us match up and I’ll play one of those guys and you say I’m really not in that group? I think they know that. I'm just praying and hoping a team sees what I bring to a team and where I’m at in my career, just scratching my prime. I’m a young man with tons of playoff experiences. That’s it."
And as soon as Williams makes up his mind, West can get on with the start of the rest of his career.