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After D-Will, Nets hope chemistry improves

7/13/2015
Play2:47
Brooklyn's next move

Kevin Arnovitz and Kevin Pelton discuss Deron Williams' buyout and what's next for the Nets with New York Post's Tim Bontemps.

The Brooklyn Nets accomplished plenty financially and saved millions by buying out Deron Williams over the weekend.

But the D-Will purge could feel like a bargain if it improves the chemistry in the locker room –- something the Nets are hoping for.

Let's face it: The team chemistry the past season was far from ideal. Players didn't always see eye to eye with new coach Lionel Hollins, and it took time for both sides to understand each other. There were new faces on the roster and the threat of a core player being traded at any moment, with some involved in trade talks until the trade deadline, which ultimately brought Thaddeus Young.

There was plenty of frustration, even early on, as evidenced by Joe Johnson's comments about how the Nets were playing selfish basketball. With the moody Williams gone, will the Nets be a happier bunch?

They might be banking on addition by subtraction. Earlier in the offseason, sources said Brooklyn wanted to shed both Williams' and Johnson's contracts. Johnson's name was involved in trade talks with Cleveland and Memphis earlier this summer.

But recently, sources have said the Nets were more focused on cutting ties with Williams. After that happened, sources said Brooklyn's thinking toward Johnson is he can be very useful for the team and his veteran presence will be key.

Johnson, 34, would probably prefer to play for a contender at this stage of his career. Given that he is entering the final year of his contract worth $24.8 million, Johnson could be traded later.

But for now, Joe Jesus is a Net, and perhaps his frustration from early the past season will be a thing of the past, if it isn't already.

A second season with Hollins should be better for the team. This is, after all, Hollins' team now more than ever. A permanent point guard switch from Williams to, say, Jarrett Jack, who is by all accounts universally liked by players in the league, could help chemistry.

To be fair, Johnson never singled out any teammate in his warning that the team could struggle even more if the selfish play continued. When Johnson made the very uncharacteristic comments in early November, the Nets were 4-2.

The comments, which were eye-popping at the time, given that Johnson rarely says anything headline-worthy, also happened to come a day after Williams won Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors.

"Defensively, we help from time to time," Johnson said. "Offensively, I think guys kind of exhaust their options, and then when there is nothing else for them, then they'll pass it when they have to. For the most part, we have been very selfish."

After the Nets beat Orlando 104-98, Johnson vented his frustration with a lack of ball movement and guys getting "a little selfish."

"Just some frustration, obviously," Johnson said in explaining the tweet. "I am not hiding anything ... I just didn't think that as individuals, as players, that we all have each other's backs out there. I felt I didn't believe it. I go back, and I watch the tape just to try to get a different perspective. My feelings haven't changed."

Again, Johnson never singled out a teammate. But he was so agitated that he felt the need to get it off his chest and say something to the media.

The Nets' Big Three is now down to Johnson and Brook Lopez. Williams' exit certainly leaves the Nets less talented. Williams might have been unpredictable and injury-prone, but he was a former All-Star point guard capable of offensive explosion on any given night.

However, he also needed the ball in his hands and dribbled a lot to be effective offensively. With Williams gone, Johnson should be able to handle the ball more and have the offense go through him.

Johnson was extremely effective when Jason Kidd played his offense through Johnson in 2013-'14. That season, Kidd used Johnson effectively out of the post and against second-team defenses, and the swingman averaged 15.8 points and shot 40.1 percent from behind the arc. The past season, his scoring and 3-point shooting dipped to 14.4 points and 35.9 percent.

The Nets paid a fortune -- $27.5 million of the remaining $43.3 million on Williams' contract -- in the buyout. But Brooklyn could ultimately save approximately $40-50 million in salary and luxury taxes for next season because of the move, according to ESPN.com's Mike Mazzeo.

What's the price for more stability and improved team chemistry?

The Nets will find out this season. They appear ready to move forward with what they hope will be a less frustrated Joe.

Jefferson waived: The Nets announced Monday that they waived Cory Jefferson. He was battling a nagging ankle injury, and Brooklyn had until Monday to decide whether Jefferson would receive a $150,000 guarantee on July 15. With Thomas Robinson, Willie Reed ($500,000 guarantee as part of his deal) and Andrea Bargnani already providing depth in the frontcourt, the Nets decided to move on.

Mike Mazzeo contributed to this report.