- Mike Mazzeo, ESPN Staff Writer
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Billy King has made a lot of good decisions since taking over as Nets GM on July 14, 2010, and the franchise made a good decision Thursday, nearing an agreement to sign King for the long term.
The Nets were coming off a season in which they finished 12-70 when they hired King to turn things around -- and he has.
King may have missed out on acquiring superstars Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard, but he did land Deron Williams -- and kept him too. When the Nets GM made his biggest and boldest transaction as an executive, acquiring Williams in a blockbuster trade with the Utah Jazz on Feb. 23, 2011, many wondered if he could persuade the franchise point guard to sign an extension.
Despite all the uncertainty, King was confident that he could, and that confidence never seemed to waver.
Ultimately, the Nets beat out the Dallas Mavericks and retained D-Will -- inking him to a five-year, $98 million extension on July 3, 2012 -- because of King's controversial trades for Gerald Wallace (four-year, $40 million extension) and Joe Johnson (four years, $89 remaining on his deal at the time of the trade). King gambled that Williams would stay if he could put the right pieces around the 28-year-old, and that gamble paid off.
King and his staff committed $330 million in current and future contracts this offseason to turn cap space into a postseason contender. After failing to get Howard one last time, King re-signed Brook Lopez (four years, $60 million) and Kris Humphries (two years, $24 million). He also made solid low-cost additions, bringing in Andray Blatche and C.J. Watson, who have become vital cogs off the bench.
The Nets, playing in their first season at the $1 billion Barclays Center in Brooklyn, got off to a 14-14 start this season, which led to the firing of Avery Johnson. But they turned it around under interim coach P.J. Carlesimo, winning 35 of their final 54 games to finish with 49 victories -- the second most in franchise history.
They made the playoffs for the first time since 2006-07 and are tied with the Chicago Bulls 1-1 in their Eastern Conference quarterfinals series.
The Nets may have a long ways to go to catch the New York Knicks in terms of attracting fans, but they've certainly made inroads, selling out their building on a consistent basis and seeing their television ratings skyrocket.
That doesn't happen without a quality on-court product, which King is largely responsible for.
When Mikhail Prokhorov gained control of the Nets three years ago, he said his goal was to win a championship by 2015. Clearly, the Russian billionaire feels King is the right man to help him reach that goal.
Given how much money he has already committed, it's going to be a challenge for King to improve his roster and add that one more good player Prokhorov believes will make the Nets one of the best teams in the NBA.
But if there's anyone who is up for that challenge, it's Billy King, the wheeler and dealer who's always willing to orchestrate a four-team deal if it makes sense.
4dSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann