Friday, April 27, 2012
Deron Williams seeks contract
By Mike Mazzeo
Special to ESPNNewYork.com
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Deron Williams wants to make a decision about where he's going to play in the future by the Olympics.
"I don't want to play in the Olympics without a contract," said the Nets point guard, who has reiterated his intentions to opt out of his current deal and become a free agent.
If Williams holds firm to his statement, it could rule him out of the Olympics in London. USA basketball officials have repeatedly said they'll set the 12-man roster in June, but the NBA's free-agency signing period begins July 1.
Training camp for the U.S. team begins July 6 in Las Vegas, and the team will begin training in England on July 17.
The Nets, who wrapped up a disappointing 22-44 season -- their last one after 35 years in New Jersey -- on Thursday night in Toronto, are heading to Brooklyn and the $1 billion Barclays Center next season. But they don't know if Williams will be joining them.
Williams, who said he's "anxious" to figure out his future, hasn't counted out re-signing with the Nets for the max. He visited the team's new arena construction site on Tuesday with general manager Billy King.
"It would be great to be a part of that first game, first team there, and start our own legacy in Brooklyn," Williams said. "So that's definitely enticing and something I think about on a regular basis."
Still, Williams said his No. 1 priority is winning.
"That's first and foremost: I'm gonna go where I have the best chance to win," Williams said, adding that he wants to go to an organization that is moving in the right direction where he can build something special.
The Nets are "going all-in" to keep him, according to coach Avery Johnson.
"We want to win a championship, and we want him to lead us there," Johnson said.
Due to injuries, Williams has played just 67 games since being acquired by the Nets in a blockbuster trade in February 2010. He called this past season the most difficult one of his career.
The Nets were hoping to be a playoff team, but they were decimated by injuries and fell way short of expectations.
Williams thinks the Nets have a decent foundation, but still need to add several pieces to become a legitimate contender.
Williams said his sore right calf is "good" and doesn't believe he'll need any offseason surgeries of any kind. He averaged 21 points and 8.7 assists in 2011-12.
The 27-year-old All-Star was asked if he'd miss anything about playing in New Jersey.
"Not really," he replied.
Williams said he will take a break from basketball but will work out in the New York City area during the offseason.
Williams may be the Nets' most important free agent, but he's far from their only one.
Center Brook Lopez (restricted), power forward Kris Humphries (unrestricted) and small forward Gerald Wallace (opt out) can all become free agents in some capacity.
Lopez, who played just five games this season because of injuries, said he wants to stay with the only organization he's ever played for.
"This is really the place I want to be. I was drafted here. I love being a Net," Lopez said.
Lopez fractured his fifth metatarsal in his right foot in the preseason, causing him to miss the first 32 and 33 of the first 34 games of the season. He returned briefly before suffering a season-ending injury on March 4 in Charlotte. Lopez said that was a "higher ankle" injury.
He plans to visit with Nets trainer Tim Walsh on May 16 and then, assuming all goes well, he'll begin running and jumping and eventually resuming basketball activity.
The Nets expect Lopez will be healthy by training camp.
Wallace sounded as though he plans to opt out of the final year of his contract worth $9.5 million and become a free agent.
"I don't want to play on a one-year deal," Wallace said, adding that he'd like a multiyear deal and will likely decide on his intentions in a week.
The Nets dealt their top-3 protected 2012 first-round draft pick to the Portland Trail Blazers for Wallace. They finished tied with Sacramento for the fifth-worst record in the league. Their odds of winning the lottery and retaining their pick aren't good, but if they do keep it that would go a long way toward convincing Williams to return.
Humphries also said he'd like to stay -- and the Nets may decide to re-sign him -- but they'll also explore other avenues at the power forward position. Sources have told ESPNNewYork.com that the Nets plan to pursue the likes of Kevin Garnett, Ryan Anderson and Ersan Ilyasova during free agency.
The Nets, Johnson said, have contingency plans in place if Williams leaves, but his departure could be potentially devastating with the team trying to build a fanbase and sell tickets in its new borough.
Mike Mazzeo is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.