The Nets had no intention of trading Deron Williams by Thursday's 3 p.m. deadline -- even if the Lakers offered Pau Gasol -- and they followed through on that.
The Nets still feel confident that they can re-sign Williams in the offseason once he likely opts out of the final year of his contract. Williams has a strong relationship with upper management, and Wednesday night spoke highly of all the marketing opportunities he has been afforded.
Williams is from Dallas, and the Mavericks are expected to pursue him. The point guard, though, has reiterated all season his desire to ink a long-term max deal with the Nets when the team moves to Brooklyn and the $1 billion Barclays Center in 2012-13.
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The Nets had hoped that Dwight Howard would be joining them, but in a stunning decision, the Magic center changed his mind just hours before the deadline and elected to waive his early termination option and stay in Orlando through next season.
ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard said on SportsCenter that the Nets were "shellshocked" by the news, and why wouldn’t they be? They were hopeful that they'd acquire Howard either via trade or free agency, and form a dynamic duo between him and Williams. The Nets and Magic were talking trade late Wednesday night, ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported. But along the way, Howard had a change of heart and dashed those hopes.
The Nets acted quickly from there. Stein's sources said the Nets' strategy is to stockpile as many draft picks and players as possible, while creating salary-cap space to make a run at Howard or another yet-to-be-determined superstar by the June draft.
But they seemed to steer away from that philosophy by trading Mehmet Okur (injured, $10.9 million expiring), Shawne Williams (injured, $3.1 million player option) and their 2012 first-round draft pick, top-three protected, to the Blazers for small forward Gerald Wallace.
Many fans expressed outrage via Twitter, calling the move risky and brash.
Wallace is a high-motor player who will instantly become the team's best defender, but he's owned $9.5 million this season and has a player option for 2012-13 at the same salary. So it's conceivable that the Nets may surrender a No. 4 pick -- they would be fifth, pending the lottery, if the season ended Thursday -- for a player who can opt out and go elsewhere in the offseason.
But the Nets are banking on the idea that Wallace will make them a better team and appease Williams in helping them win now.
If Brook Lopez, who will become a restricted free agent, can ever get healthy, the Nets could conceivably start him, Kris Humphries ($8 million expiring), Wallace, MarShon Brooks and D-Will and make a playoff push. The Nets will offer an update on Lopez (sprained ankle) on March 23. They are just 4.5 games behind the Bucks and Knicks in the Eastern Conference playoff standings.
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The Nets' only guaranteed salary commitments in 2012-13 are to sharpshooter Anthony Morrow ($4 million expiring), Johan Petro ($3.5 million expiring), Brooks and Jordan Williams.
Jordan Farmar ($4.5 million), Wallace and D-Will have player options.
The Nets are likely to keep emerging high-flyer Gerald Green, who is in his second 10-day contract, for the rest of the season. They'll have to make a decision to keep him or let him go by Sunday. And they could keep him beyond that, given how well he has played since they signed him on Feb. 27.
The Nets still have Houston’s top-14 protected first-rounder as well, which may bring a projected salary of around $1.4 to $1.8 million.
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So who will be available in the offseason? More importantly who makes sense?
If they don't bring back Humphries (they have his Bird Rights), free agents Kevin Garnett (unrestricted), Tim Duncan (unrestricted), Michael Beasley (restricted) and Ryan Anderson (restricted) could all be on the market.
Boston may not retain Garnett, so he could make some sense. Would Duncan really leave the Spurs? Probably not. Beasley has a ton of talent and has been rumored to the Nets all season, but there are issues about his maturity and character. Anderson is a young and emerging stretch 4, who has played quite well next to D-12 in Orlando. Perhaps a return engagement would make sense. The pipe dream would be Josh Smith ($13.2 million expiring next season), who had asked for a trade out of Atlanta but didn't get it.
And don't forget, Howard's deal -- at least as of now -- will be expiring again next offseason. It's not like he'll be damaged goods in a year. And the Nets may end up having even more assets to send Orlando’s way.
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Funny, the Nets were after Nene in the offseason, but the Brazilian big man wound up re-signing with Denver for five years and $67 million. Now, he finds himself in Washington with the lowly Wizards after he was traded Thursday. Ouch.