- Mike Mazzeo, ESPN Staff Writer
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Not a concern for Nets GM Billy King.
"We play the Knicks four times. And if we just win those four games but lose all the rest, it's gonna be a bad season for us. So our focus is not beating the Knicks or being better than the Knicks," King said at a news conference Tuesday.
"I know we're close, so the fans are gonna talk about it and you guys are gonna write about it. (But) I don't consume myself with the Knicks and anything they do."
Making the playoffs and meeting owner Mikhail Prokhorov's expectations of winning a championship within the next three years, however?
Now that's the priority.
"I think we've got talent. I think we've got a good team. And now it's gonna be how quickly do those pieces jell," King said. "We have a team that's a playoff team on paper. I think we have a team that can withstand injuries because we have depth.
"Can we win a championship? Yeah. But it takes luck in an NBA season to do that. You've gotta be healthy, get some breaks and the ball has to bounce your way sometimes."
The Nets, just 58-172 since 2009-10, went into the offseason with a lot of question marks surrounding their roster.
Just like that, the Nets turned themselves from pretenders into contenders.
"I think our starting five can match up with any five on the court," King said of Williams, Johnson, Wallace, Humphries and Lopez. "I don't think there's a position where we'll say, 'Geez, we won't win that position.'
"If you're going against the Lakers, Kobe's Kobe (Bryant), but Joe Johnson is a pretty good player. Deron's a pretty good point guard. There may be another position that may be stronger, but out of the five, most nights we're gonna have the advantage."
But are the Nets in the conversation with the upper-echelon teams in the league like the Heat, Lakers and Thunder?
"I don't know. ... Miami's very good. They're the defending champions so that's who everybody's trying to beat, but I look at when we play them. For once, we've got pieces where we have a chance to beat them," King said. "When we play the Lakers, we've got a chance to beat them. Every night we step on the court we've got a chance to win every game.
"We're new to the party, but we're going to be knocking on the door."
As for the distractions -- namely superstar trade rumors -- that plagued the team the last two seasons?
"It feels like my first year with the Nets because of the fact that each training camp there was that distraction," King said. "Carmelo Anthony or Dwight Howard. I mention them because it's not a factor anymore. And I think that's the greatest thing for our players and the organization is we're going into training camp focusing on preparing for opening night, not preparing for guys thinking, 'Am I going to be here on opening night?'"
King spent more than $330 million of Prokhorov's fortune on long-term contracts for Williams (five years, $98 million), Lopez (four years, $60 million), Wallace (four years, $40 million) and Humphries (two years, $24 million) and Johnson (four years, $89 million).
So, about that flexibility going forward?
"You're never locked in," King said. "You can always make maneuvers to position yourself. To me, if you have bigger contracts it makes it easier to make deals to get other bigger contracts, other better players.
"There's flexibility with some of the lengths of the contracts, some guys have (early termination options). I don't think we're locked in. We're not landlocked to where we can't do anything. There's ways to maneuver around."
But King really isn't worried about that.
"The championship is a goal that we have, whether it's this year, next year or in year three. That's our goal," he said.
3dSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann