Sources: Nets agree to Hawks trade
The Brooklyn Nets have come to terms with the Atlanta Hawks on a multiplayer trade that will land them All-Star guard Joe Johnson in exchange for several players with expiring contracts, according to sources briefed on the discussions.
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The Nets reached a handshake agreement with the Hawks, after talks between the teams all weekend, while officials from the Dallas Mavericks were meeting face-to-face in New York with Nets star Deron Williams, this summer's marquee free agent.
The deal as it stands, as reported Sunday night by ESPN.com, calls for the Nets to send the expiring contracts of Jordan Farmar, Johan Petro, Anthony Morrow and Jordan Williams along with DeShawn Stevenson (via sign-and-trade) and a future first-round pick (lottery-protected in 2013 via Houston) to Atlanta in exchange for Johnson. This trade construction allows the Nets to meet two of their key objectives, as they managed to keep promising guard MarShon Brooks out of the trade as well as retain their own first-round pick in 2013.
"There is a framework of a deal," said one source close to the talks.
Once the trade terms were accepted by the Hawks, sources said, Nets executives proceeded to their own evening sitdown with Williams, who is expected to decide between Brooklyn and his hometown Mavericks before the July Fourth holiday.
Williams will more than likely make his decision Tuesday, a source told ESPN The Magazine's Ric Bucher.
ESPN.com reported Sunday that finalizing any deal with the Hawks was contingent upon Williams telling the Nets that he plans to re-sign with them July 11, which is the first day new NBA contracts can be signed. But sources close to the process said Monday that the Nets have changed their stance and are preparing to go through with the trade whether or not Williams commits to Brooklyn.
After months of unsuccessfully chasing Orlando Magic star Dwight Howard via trade, Nets officials are hopeful that the acquisition of Johnson will convince Williams to choose Brooklyn over Dallas in free agency when Williams makes his decision. But the Nets also privately acknowledge that this move all but rules out the ability to acquire Howard, who Monday publicly reiterated his long-held desire to be traded to the Nets.
Of recent attempts to re-engage the Magic on trade talks for Howard, one source told ESPN.com: "They didn't want to dance with us. Dwight blew it in March (when he opted in to the final year of his current Magic contract)."
The Nets, though, would remain over the salary cap if this trade with the Hawks goes through as designed, which would enable them to keep their mid-level exception. Sources say that the Nets have serious interest in signing Bosnian free agent forward Mirza Teletovic with that exception to add additional frontcourt depth.
The Hawks, meanwhile, did not get much in the way of talent that can make an immediate impact, but new Atlanta general manager Danny Ferry simply could not pass on the opportunity to deal Johnson's contract, which still owes him nearly $90 million over the next four seasons. Ferry can now start to rebuild the Hawks after shedding the richest contract in the whole league, worth $126 million when Johnson signed it in the summer of 2010.
The deal, pending league approval, would mean that Ferry will have shed the Hawks' two most onerous contracts -- Johnson and Williams -- in his first week-plus on the job.
The Nets can offer Williams a five-year deal worth nearly $100 million. The Mavericks can counter with only a four-year deal in the $75 million range, but Dallas has been trying to convince Williams that he has a better chance to win with the Mavericks alongside star forward Dirk Nowitzki, who has already proved he can lead a team to a championship. The Nets have been trying for months to acquire another All-Star to prove to Williams that they will continue to put quality pieces around him if he chooses Brooklyn over Dallas.
The Mavs may also be Howard's top landing spot, with his hopes of moving to Brooklyn all but dead with the consummation of this trade.
Howard's preferred destinations, when he first alerted the Magic that he wanted to be traded last season, were the Nets, Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers, in that order, sources told Bucher. The Lakers, however, have fallen back into the mix of 28 other teams, said a source close to Howard.
Brooklyn already has agreed to a four-year, $40 million deal with its other top unrestricted free agent, small forward Gerald Wallace. The Nets could work a sign-and-trade deal with Wallace when the official signing period begins on July 11, but sources told Bucher that Wallace has been assured that is not the Nets' intention.
The Nets, depleted of talent after acquiring Williams from the Jazz at the 2011 February trade deadline and ravaged by injuries, were 22-44 last season.
ESPN The Magazine senior NBA writer Ric Bucher and ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst contributed to this report.
• Began covering the NBA in 1993-94
• Also covered soccer, tennis and the Olympics