Nets expect Deron Williams back

Updated: February 29, 2012, 3:44 PM ET
By Mike Mazzeo | ESPNNewYork.com

New Jersey Nets coach Avery Johnson was upset Tuesday and believed his words had been "twisted" after he told the media Monday he considered the Dallas Mavericks "a threat" to sign All-Star point guard Deron Williams in the offseason.

Johnson said the media focused only on part of the comments he made Monday, not the other part in which he said he expects Williams to re-sign.

"Anybody that's under the cap would be a threat to get a guy that's an unbelievable point guard," Johnson told reporters in Dallas Tuesday night before the Nets beat the Mavericks 93-92.

"But I said I believe he has every intention to re-sign with us because he's involved with what we're doing at the Barclays Center. He spends a lot of time with us behind the scenes. His brother's going to be going to prep school in our area. So I think because of that I said he has every intention to re-sign with us.

"Somebody kind of got it twisted where the focus was more on the 'threat' and saying that I said that I think he's going to Dallas. Which I never said. Never said that."

On Monday, in response to a question about former boss and Mavericks owner Mark Cuban being a potential suitor for Williams, Johnson said:

"He's a threat, OK? 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 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 believes he has a legitimate opportunity to win a championship there.

"I'm not concerned," Nets general manager Billy King said. "I'm looking forward to having Deron in a Brooklyn Nets uniform next year."

Williams, who is averaging team-highs of 21.9 points and 8.3 assists per game, can opt out of the final year of his contract and become a free agent at the end of the season, and is expected to do so.

The Mavericks are attractive to Williams because he grew up near Dallas, and the Mavericks potentially could sign Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard as well, forming a "Big 3 in Big D," with Williams, Howard and power forward Dirk Nowitzki.

But the Nets, sources told ESPN.com, are viewed as Howard's No. 1 destination. Like Williams, Howard can opt out of his contract and become a free agent.

The Nets, though, are expected to pursue Howard via trade. The NBA trading deadline is March 15.

Under the rules of the NBA's new collective bargaining agreement, Williams can earn almost $30 million more than any other team can offer and get an extra year on his contract if he re-signs with the Nets.

Mike Mazzeo is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.

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