- Mike Mazzeo, ESPN Staff Writer
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New Jersey Nets coach Avery Johnson said he considers the Dallas Mavericks a threat to sign Dallas native Deron Williams in the offseason -- assuming he opts out of the final year of his contract with New Jersey.
While acknowledging that nightmarish scenario is a possibility, Nets general Billy King isn’t that fearful.
“It’s not a fear, it’s a reality,” King said Tuesday while appearing on ESPN NewYork 1050’s “The Michael Kay Show.” “The Mavs will have cap space along with other teams and he’s from Dallas. I don’t think it’s any secret, but I’m not fearful of them, no.”
Williams has reiterated his intent on staying with the Nets once they move to Brooklyn next season -- as long as they put the right pieces around him and he feels like he has a legitimate opportunity to win a championship there.
“I’m not concerned,” King said. “I’m looking forward to having Deron in a Brooklyn Nets uniform next year.”
At the same time, King does have a contingency plan in place if Williams does decide to leave.
“You always have ‘Plan A, B and C’ obviously, that’s my job,” King said. “But I don’t worry about it and I don’t lose sleep over it.”
King wouldn’t reveal if Williams has given him an assurances that he’s going to stay, but did note that they have a great relationship and have had multiple conversations about the roster and the direction of the franchise going forward.
“Is there a chance that he might not re-sign? Yeah. But I think I’m gonna do my job and put the pieces together that will keep him here,” King said.
Orlando’s Dwight Howard would be the ultimate prize, and sources have told ESPN.com that the Nets are his No. 1 destination. Like Williams, Howard is expected to opt out of his contract at the end of the season and become a free agent -- if he isn’t traded by the March 15 deadline, of course.
As has always been his M.O., King would not comment on any trade rumors and proposals involving the Nets and Howard. Asked if he expects Howard to be dealt by March 15, King replied, “I think the only person who knows that is [Magic GM] Otis Smith.”
King claimed he doesn’t necessarily need a star of Howard’s ilk to retain Williams, however.
“It’s about knowing he has a chance to win, that’s what it’s about, that’s what every player wants,” King said, “and that’s what I want, putting together a roster that you can win with.
“It’s not about having to have that star. It’s about a team that we can look at and say that team has the chance to compete for the ultimate prize. That’s what it’s about.”
King sounded very optimistic about the team’s future, noting that the Nets could have more than $20 million cap space heading into the offseason, along with two first-round picks in the 2012 NBA draft: their own, which would be a lottery pick right now, and Houston’s, which is lottery protected.
The Nets’ only 2012-13 salary commitments are to shooting guard Anthony Morrow ($4 million), center Johan Petro ($3.5 million), shooting guard MarShon Brooks ($1.16 million) and power forward Jordan Williams. Small forward Shawne Williams ($3.1 million) and point guard Jordan Farmar ($4.25 million) have player options, while center Brook Lopez will become a restricted free agent, meaning the Nets have the right to match any offer he receivers from another team in the offseason.
If the Nets were to trade for Howard, they’d have to dismantle their roster and sent away a myriad of those assets. But if they were to attempt to sign him in the offseason, they’d only have to give up money, and would have a strong nucleus of young and talented role players going forward.
Johnson said Monday that the Mavericks have a chance to undermine the Nets’ ideal plans because they have a billionaire owner in Mark Cuban.
“He's a threat, OK?" Johnson said of Cuban. “I know the guy. I think because of the success he's had -- and I know he got criticized a lot for quote-unquote having all those years where he didn't win a championship -- but he's had some great success here that rivals any situation. So that's a threat.”
Williams also said he loves playing at American Airlines Arena, and appreciates the atmosphere.
“It's always good when an arena has a lot of energy,” Williams said. “Ours doesn't have too much energy.”
The Nets won’t be playing in D-Will’s most-hated arena, Prudential Center, next season, though. They’ll be playing in the $1 billion Barclays Center.
The Mavericks have several millions coming off their books this offseason, and could maneuver their way into having enough money to make a serious run at trying to put together the “Big 3 in Big D,” featuring D-Will, D-12 and power forward Dirk Nowitzki.
“For us, we don't make any assumptions until we get Deron signed on the dotted line,” Johnson said. “The main thing is we keep doing what we're doing.
“Deron's been a major part of what we're doing behind the scenes. He's been a major part of what we're doing with the new Barclays Center, so we're saying he's doing all of that with the intent that he's going to remain with us in the future.”
King also spoke highly of power forward Kris Humphries in light of all the booing he’s had to endure for no reason -- or rather, his failed 72-day marriage to reality star Kim Kardashian.
“That sham of a show portrayed him as someone he isn’t,” King said.
As for picking between Dallas and Brooklyn, King said. “This is a nice place, but it’s definitely not New York, so why would you wanna live here?
Information from ESPN Dallas’s Tim MacMahon was used in this report.