The Nets had their hearts set on seeing Dwight Howard playing for them — either beginning this season by acquiring him via trade, or starting next year after signing as a free agent. New Jersey was widely reported as the team at the top of Howard’s list of where he wanted to play if he forced his way out of Orlando.
But after changing his mind multiple times throughout the process, Howard has committed to stay in Orlando at the very least through next season — a development which now leaves New Jersey scrambling to add enough talent to its roster to keep Deron Williams happy enough to where he won’t bolt this summer in free agency.
The Nets began that process by trading for Gerald Wallace, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. New Jersey is sending Mehmet Okur, Shawne Williams, and a 2012 first round draft pick (which is top-three protected) to Portland in return.
This is a pretty good deal for the Blazers, but only in the context of just how far the team has gone off the rails since the season began. Head coach Nate McMillan is likely to be fired at some point, and the team’s locker room has reportedly turned toxic. Going through a full-fledged rebuild and starting from scratch isn’t a great place to be for a franchise that’s had star power in recent years, but hasn’t won a playoff series in more than a decade.
Williams has a player option for next season at just over $3 million, and Okur’s deal of over $10 million expires at the end of the year. The cap space is good, and the Nets — even with the addition of Wallace — still are going to be hard-pressed to make the playoffs, making the draft pick more valuable to the Blazers.
Looking at it from the Nets’ perspective, is Gerald Wallace enough to make Deron Williams think about staying in New Jersey? Doesn’t seem like it, but if nothing else, the franchise is showing him that they’re trying. And if they can pull off another, more-impactful deal or two — either before today’s deadline, or this summer — then they may ultimately be able to convince him to stay.