- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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DALLAS -- All-Star point guard Deron Williams doesn't want to address the subject of possibly playing in his hometown on a permanent basis during this trip to Dallas, but his coach acknowledged that the Mavericks are a major threat to sign the free agent-to-be.
New Jersey Nets coach Avery Johnson has a lot of respect for his former boss, Mavs owner Mark Cuban. The billionaire has teamed with Dallas president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson to give the Mavs the financial flexibility this summer to attempt to sign Williams and/or Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard.
"He's a threat, OK?" Johnson said of Cuban after the Nets' practice Monday night at SMU. "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, whose team plays the Mavericks Tuesday night, pretended to not be aware that the Mavericks would have enough salary-cap space to be major players in free agency this offseason. He made it clear that he had no intention of discussing the possibility of joining Dirk Nowitzki in Dallas next season.
"I'm just going to play out this season and look at my options after this season," Williams said, repeating several variations of that statement during a five-minute session with the media.
But Williams, a native of Dallas suburb The Colony who attended several Mavs playoff games during last year's championship run, acknowledged that he enjoys playing at American Airlines Center.
"I've always liked playing here," he said. "This is one of my favorite arenas to play in, probably my favorite arena to play in. I just enjoy playing in it. I enjoy playing in front of my friends and family. It's always good for them to get the chance to see me play."
Williams, who has averaged 22.3 points on 50.3 shooting in 10 career games at American Airlines Center, said he likes the shooting background in the arena. He also 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 hope that changes when they move into Barclays Center in Brooklyn next season. They also hope that Williams will be the face of the franchise when that happens.
"For us, we don't make any assumptions until we get Deron signed on the dotted line," said Johnson, who played 55 games for the Mavs late in his career and coached Dallas from 2005 to 2008. "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."
Nets general manager Billy King also isn't fearful that Williams could leave.
"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 said he is open to 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 he 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.
Tim MacMahon covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com. Information from ESPNNewYork.com's Mike Mazzeo was used in this report.
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