Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Updated: January 20, 10:39 AM ET
Nets players put distractions to rest
By Mike Mazzeo
Special to ESPNNewYork.com
NEWARK, N.J. -- Derrick Favors was in a state of disbelief.
Told by ESPNNewYork.com prior to Wednesday night's game against the Utah Jazz that the Nets had pulled out of the proposed three-team, multi-player trade that would have sent him to the Denver Nuggets in exchange for superstar Carmelo Anthony, Favors seemed stunned.
"I don't have to worry about it [any] more," Favors said before the Nets snapped a six-game losing streak, defeating the Jazz 103-95 at the Prudential Center. "It's over with. This is my first time hearing it. I'm excited."
Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov was expected to meet with Anthony on Thursday to try to convince him to sign a three-year, $65 million extension with the Nets, which would've been the final piece of the puzzle needed to facilitate a deal. But the Russian billionaire -- frustrated with how the talks had become public, how they'd dragged on and how they'd negatively affected his team -- reneged.
"I'm not happy with the way ... this deal has gone until now," Prokhorov said during his pregame news conference. "It has taken too long. It has been played out in public and it certainly has taken a toll on the players and I believe that it has cost us several games. I think management did a great job, but there comes a time when the price is simply too expensive. I'm instructing our team to walk away from the deal."
Unlike Favors, many of the other players involved in the nixed deal didn't hear about it until after the game was over, including point guard Devin Harris, who would've landed with the 19-year-old rookie in Denver.
"It's a good start, now there will be less distractions so we can really focus on just going out there and playing and the guys can put their minds at ease," said Harris, who was told the news by a member of the Nets' public relations staff before going on television for his postgame interview. "Hopefully with today's win and moving forward we have more wins like this.
"I don't think anybody's walking on egg shells, but when we constantly get asked about it, it's kind of a distraction at some point. It'll be good to get back to normal and go back to practice and trying to win these games."
During the process, Anthony told ESPN.com's Colleen Dominguez during an interview that he was having trouble sleeping. Not Harris.
"Nah, I've slept pretty well," Harris said. "It's tough to be in [Carmelo's] position because he's dictating a lot of this stuff and I know he doesn't want to cause any problems. I think he's a good-hearted person so I can see that. But it's a tough situation and you always have to look out for yourself and what's best for you so we're moving on as a team and hopefully we can get more wins like this."
Nets head coach Avery Johnson said his team is ready to do just that: move on.
"I don't think [Prokhorov's announcement] hurt," Johnson said. "Guys were out there playing free."
That much became evident during the third quarter, when the Nets took a 14-point lead, and they led by as many as 16 in the fourth. The Jazz ultimately cut their deficit to just two, but Brook Lopez's layup with 1:39 left made it 95-91. Harris stole the ball from Deron Williams on the ensuing Utah possession and that was it.
Lopez led New Jersey (11-31) with 20 points and was one of seven Nets to score in double figures.
Favors also played well, scoring 12 points, grabbing six rebounds and blocking three shots in 27 minutes.
"It feels good [that it's over]," Favors said after the game. "You get tired of hearing the questions all the time. It was just a big relief."
Now that the Melo Drama is over, the Nets are more than prepared to move forward.
Johnson said he and the rest of the organization unequivocally stand behind Prokhorov's decision.
"Whatever decisions he makes, we stand by it," Johnson said. "We stand by him 100 percent."
Mike Mazzeo is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.