Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Christmas Countdown: Player Spotlight
By Mike Mazzeo
Continuing through Dec. 23, ESPNNewYork.com is running a series called "Christmas Countdown" examining a hot topic each day that involves the New Jersey Nets.
Today's Hot Topic: Player Spotlight
The Nets didn’t trade for Deron Williams to watch the 27-year-old point guard leave at the end of this season.
They can’t afford to have Williams bolt after playing just 78 regular season games in a Nets’ uniform.
That’s why the Nets are exhausting all of their efforts in an attempt to make sure their superstar stays happy.
Williams has reiterated his desire to remain with the organization on a number of occasions. But, he says, that will only happen if the Nets put the right pieces around him.
It’s the two-letter word Nets fans have come to hate. Unfortunately, it’s a two-letter word they’ll keep hearing until Williams signs his John Hancock on a five-year, max contract extension worth over $100 million to stay with the Nets before they move to Brooklyn in 2012-13.
The Nets went into the offseason hoping they could upgrade their roster and position themselves as a contender in the East. They had a ton of cap space, but their main free agent targets signed mega-deals elsewhere. So GM Billy King went with Plan C and re-signed power forward Kris Humphries, while maintaining flexibility going forward.
Williams has made it no secret that he wants to team up with Orlando center Dwight Howard, forming the most dominant point guard-center tandem in the NBA. The Magic have made it known that they aren’t willing to trade Howard at this particular time, but that could change down the road. Given that they still have Brook Lopez and a bevy of first-round draft picks, the Nets remain the favorites -- along with the Lakers -- to land Howard.
Williams has said he’ll definitely stay if the Nets wind up with Howard. So there’s that.
On the court, the Nets are expecting a healthy season out of Williams. The two-time All-Star averaged nearly 13 assists for New Jersey after being dealt there in 2010-11, but shot a low percentage because he was hampered by an injured right shooting wrist. That shouldn’t be the case this season.
And with Williams returning to his dominant form, the Nets -- as currently constituted -- will most definitely make a run and the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.
Williams has been a winner throughout his basketball career: whether it’s been in high school, college or the professional ranks. He even told reporters he gets “grumpy” when he loses.
The Nets are positioned to have success now and possibly down the road. But that won’t happen unless they retain Williams.
The Nets may be moving into a $1 billion arena next season, but they’ll be worthless if they don’t have any marquee attractions.
D-Will and D-12 or bust it is then.