The New Jersey Nets finally landed a big-name All-Star in a blockbuster trade that gives them point guard Deron Williams and sends rookie Derrick Favors and point guard Devin Harris to the Utah Jazz.
The Jazz also will receive the Nets’ first-round pick in 2011, which could be a lottery pick, cash, and Golden State’s 2012 first-round draft pick.
”I feel Deron Williams is the best point guard in the NBA,” Nets general manager Billy King said in officially announcing the blockbuster deal Wednesday afternoon.
”I spoke with Deron and he’s excited about it. He understands where we are and where we want to go. In this league, you win with point guards. Jason Kidd turned this franchise around when he came and we feel Deron can do the same thing.”
The Nets now hope Williams will sign a contract extension with them, which they can offer this summer. If so, he would become the face of their franchise when they move into their new arena in Brooklyn for the 2012-13 season.
The 6-foot-3 Williams was selected third overall in the first round of the 2005 NBA draft by Utah from Illinois. He is in his sixth NBA season and holds career averages of 17.3 points, 3.2 rebounds and 9.1 assists.
In 439 career games, including 406 starts, he has shot .466 from the field, .358 from 3-point range and .808 from the free throw line. In 44 career postseason games, Williams has averaged 21.1 points, 3.7 rebounds, 9.6 assists and 1.2 steals.
The deal came two days after the Nets failed to land Carmelo Anthony, who was acquired by the New York Knicks as part of a blockbuster deal with the Denver Nuggets.
Jazz CEO Greg Miller said he made the move because of a ”gut feeling” that he wouldn’t be able to sign Williams to a long-term deal after next season.
”If you look at what happened with Phoenix, Toronto and Cleveland … they all lost their marquee player and had very little if anything to show for it,” Miller said. ”This trade allows us to be competitive now and beyond the 2012 season.”
Asked how he would be able to market a team in Salt Lake City without a star, Miller said with ”classic Jazz basketball.”
”It’s lunchpail, work boots … and everybody’s got to overachieve, which we’ve been known to do for many years,” Miller said. ”And who knows, we may have a star player before any of us realizes it.”
Harris, a former All-Star point guard, and Favors, the No. 3 pick in the draft, were part of the package the Nets were offering the Nuggets all season for Anthony.
”Everybody was talking about getting longer and athletic and when are you going to get one of these guys,” said Jazz GM Kevin O’Connor, who hinted that he may not be done dealing before Thursday afternoon’s trade deadline. ”We got one now (in Favors) and we’ll see how he progresses. He’s not a finished product but at least it’s somebody we can build on.”
Both GMs said they discussed a deal several weeks ago, but it only came to fruition after the Nets lost out on Anthony.
O’Connor acknowledged cash was part of the deal and that the maximum that can change hands is $3 million.
The Jazz were a perennial contender with Williams, but his reputation took a hit when Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan retired one day after clashing with him during a game.
Sloan, reached Wednesday morning at his second home in Illinois, was aware of the trade but didn’t want to say much.
”I have no reaction to what the Jazz are doing. We wish him well,” Sloan said of Williams. ”We wish the Jazz well. Good luck to Deron.”
Miller insisted Sloan’s retirement and Williams’ trade were not connected.
”There’s no need to make a villain out of this,” Miller said. ”Deron is a very competitive, driven individual. Jerry was as well. They undoubtedly had a number of conflicts over the course of their careers. But this doesn’t directly tie into that. These are separate events.”
Miller reiterated that the Jazz have always been about structure, order, discipline and respect.
”One of the things that will always be the case as long as our family has anything to say about it is we will support our coach first and players second ,” he said.
That doesn’t mean new Jazz coach Ty Corbin isn’t in a tough spot.
Just two weeks ago he was second assistant to Sloan, who saw longtime assistant Phil Johnson follow him into retirement on Feb. 10. Now Corbin is 0-3 as head coach and without his All-Star guard and team leader.
Corbin received the news as he left for a shootaround in Dallas, where the Jazz were facing the Mavericks on Wednesday night.
”My initial reaction is that I’m going to miss Deron. He was a good player for us,” Corbin said. ”I’ve been with him his entire time in the NBA as an assistant coach and now as a head coach for a few games, and we’re going to miss him. I wish him well as he moves forward, and we’ll have to work our way through it.”
Williams was as shocked as anyone, and was expecting to play at Dallas Wednesday night. He learned about the deal watching television at the hotel gym before Wednesday’s shootaround, and shared a laugh with teammates initially thinking it was just another rumor.
Then he officially got word from the Jazz.
”I know it’s a hard pill to swallow,” Jazz guard Raja Bell said he told a shocked Williams. ”Regardless of what your relationship was with the team or fan base when you get traded, it’s still tough.”
Miller said his entire conversation with Williams lasted about 30 seconds, and he wished him well.
Williams was expected to be one of the headliners of the 2012 free agent class along with 2008 Olympic teammates Dwight Howard and Chris Paul.
New Jersey has been desperate to make its first score under new owner Mikhail Prokhorov. The Nets talked with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh last summer and when that failed they turned their attention to Anthony. They quickly bounced back from the disappointment of missing out on him with Williams.
”Utah traded DWill??” Paul wrote on his Twitter page, adding hashtags with ”EpicFail” and ”notagoodlook.”
Williams joins the exodus of top West players heading East, following Amare Stoudemire’s move from Phoenix to New York and Anthony’s deal to the Knicks. The Jazz are only a half-game ahead of Memphis for the final playoff spot in the West and will have to try to hold on without their best player.
”It would have been great to have him end his career in a Jazz uniform, but I just didn’t get the indication his heart was in it (to do that),” Miller said.
Nets head coach Avery Johnson was happy about acquiring Williams.
”Very rarely are you able to trade for someone who is arguably the best at his position,” Johnson said. ”We had to give up a lot, but when you get a chance to get him, you go for it. It wasn’t a planned trade. This wasn’t a plan B. He’s a plan A guy. We eventually had to do something like this to get a player of this skill level. We felt we needed to get someone who was going to give us a little swagger. He’s someone we will have for the long run. Sometimes, you have to try things to get better.”
Other coaches around the league were surprised.
”My initial reaction is, ‘Wow,”’ Cleveland Cavs coach Byron Scott said after his club’s morning shootaround. ”That I didn’t see that coming, whatsoever. So that was a little bit of a shocker.”