General manager Billy King built the roster that the Nets used to open the Barclays Center on the orders of Mikhail Prokhorov, the Russian oligarch and franchise owner. He wanted a team that would contend for a title, draw fans Barclays, and grab the attention of New York. King spent money like he just won the lottery and recklessly traded away the team’s future picks to get that squad with Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett together. (That team did open Barclays Center, but it only made the second round of the playoffs, and the Nets have not captured the hearts and minds of their own borough, let alone the city.)
That team also was never built to last, and King admitted as much speaking to the media Tuesday, including Rod Boone of Newsday.
The bills for all that spending were coming due, and the Nets started last season to reshape the roster and try to lessen payroll. Pierce left, Garnett was traded, and this summer the big move was Williams agreed to a buyout at a reduced rate (which when stretched out will hit the Nets for just $5.5 million against the cap, for the next five years). The Nets listened to trade offers for Johnson, but he’s still on the team and likely stays for a while. They re-signed Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young. The Nets look worse on paper this season, but they feel confident there is a culture change coming that will help lift them up, or at least keep them level for now, while they avoid the luxury tax and gain future flexibility. Here is more of what King said, via The Brooklyn Game.
King said he originally approached Deron Williams’s agent, Jeff Schwartz, about the buyout opportunity….
“We explored the possibility of a trade and there was no opportunity there, and so we looked at other options,” King said. “And that was the best option, not only for this year and tax, but also for next year and creating cap space for next season as well.”
King tries to dance around something else with the Nets — they feel they have a much better, much tighter locker room without the gloomy personality of Williams.
“I don’t know (what the difference is),” King said. “We were able to I think gather some guys…For example, Joe and Jarrett (Jack) and Thaddeus (Young) the night of the draft texted me for Rondae’s number and Chris’ number and they reached out right away. When we signed Shane (Larkin), they wanted his number. So they’ve taken it upon themselves to reach out to each other. Rondae (Hollis-Jefferson) was the one that got them all to go the Fashion Show last week.
“So it’s something about the personality of the guys that we have now and they’ve done a lot more to really reach out to each other to try to bond more.”
We’ll see how that translates on the court. I’ve got a feeling not that well.
It will be difficult for the Nets to rebuild, considering all the draft picks they sent away, but at least now they have the flexibility to chase a few free agents. What they did this summer wasn’t pretty but it was necessary for the future.