Deron Williams' coming 'split-decision'
Deron Williams is a sportsman. He loves his Texas Rangers so much that he recently attended church services in New York while wearing his Sunday best – a Josh Hamilton jersey. He's so addicted to golf that one of his first post-NBA-season calls was to buddy/mentor Jason Kidd so the two of them could arrange a get-together on the links in San Diego, where Deron owns a home. And yes, there's even boxing …
"Boxing is now the worst sport in the history of the world,'' Deron tweeted following the controversial June 10 Manny Pacquiao split-decision loss to Timothy Bradley. "I'm never buying a fight again.''
What Williams does have to deal with, starting when the NBA free-agent window opens on July 1, is a "split-decision'' of his own:
Should he remain with his present employer, the Brooklyn Nets, serving as the centerpiece of a bad franchise in a new city and new arena that does come with some promise due to Russian owner Mikhail Prokhorov's unlimited funds?
Or should he make the move to another team – like the Dallas Mavericks, his hometown franchise, where the 2011 champs aren't so much "rebuilding'' as they would be "reloading'' if deep-pocketed owner Mark Cuban is able to add Deron to a team already featuring Dirk Nowitzki?
"I want to go to a place where I feel like they will have a chance to build and build fast," says Williams, a young and premier point guard hoping to finalize his decision in early July as he and Team USA prep for the Summer Olympics. "I'm not really in the mood for being part of a rebuilding process. I'm getting older. I'm about to be 28. I want to win. I want to win now. Also, I want to live in a place where I want to live and my kids will enjoy living. That's pretty much it."
If it's not also about the size of his first contract, that's a positive for the Mavs in their attempt to lure the native of The Colony back to North Texas. NBA rules try to tip the scales toward players remaining with their present employers by allowing that team to offer their own free agent a max-contract that in this case would be worth $98.77 million. What the Mavs can offer is four years and $73.35 million.
But it's more complex than that (as multi-million-dollar deals often are). The Mavs can propose that Williams get his "extra'' year in Dallas by extending before the first contract is up. Furthermore, New York's state income tax is 8.6 percent (Texas' is zero). And the cost of living when living anywhere near the Nets' new neighborhood is estimated to be 44 percent higher than the cost of living in DFW.
I've also been told that the Mavs have busied themselves lining up corporate support for their potential "big fish'' signee (they'll make sure to tell Deron that the Mavs have the second-strongest corporate sponsorship muscle in the NBA). Oh, and it is my understanding that "World Wide Wes'' (basketball powerbroker William Wesley) is pitching in to advise Deron, too. Wes has a connection with new SMU assistant basketball coach Jerrence Howard, who happens to be one of Deron's best friends. (Coincidence?)
As Deron is seeking a comfort zone and his buddies, his mom, his little brother and his uncle and aunt all reside in Big D …
Well, you can see how the Mavs are attempting to align all the dominoes.
There are ways to squeeze the salary cap to allow it to house a trio of stars. What I've termed "The 3D Blueprint'' could conceivably let the Mavs employ Dirk and Deron and someone of the caliber of Dwight Howard, too. Sure, it's pipedreamy. But the Mavs' big-thinking creativity has helped them to 12 straight playoff berths, two NBA Finals and, finally, a title. How was that championship roster built? Dirk was acquired in a draft-day trade for Tractor Traylor. Shawn Marion was acquired for the retiring Jerry Stackhouse's expiring contract. And Tyson Chandler was stolen in a trade for the semi-retired Erick Dampier's expiring contract.
Now the Mavs are trying to pull another rabbit out of another hat.
Worth noting: Kidd, himself a free agent, has repeatedly stated that his desires are twofold: One, to remain with the Mavs and continue to "go to war'' with Dirk. And two, to team up with Deron, in wherever city works out.
Kidd's updated quotes this week are being misappropriated by the New York media, which has somehow created in its stories a Kidd pecking order that starts with the Nets, continues with the New York Knicks (a virtually impossibility, but hey, they're in New York) and then mentions almost in passing the Mavs as a candidate.
My days of playing 38 minutes are over," says Kidd, 39, repeating that he'd be willing to caddie for his buddy. "We (Williams and Kidd) could play off each other and hopefully be successful."
The NY papers tied that quote into their stories that started with declarations about ex-Net Kidd's willingness to return to that franchise. They push to the bottom of the tales Kidd's relationship with Dallas, scoot past his distaste for Nets coach Avery Johnson (with whom Kidd did not get along when they were both with the Mavs) and omit entirely the truly new and notable quote issued by Kidd:
"I really think Cuban is going to put the pieces together to give us an opportunity to get back to win it," Kidd said. "He put himself in position to go get two more studs."
Yes, there's that "3D Blueprint'' again. See, it's not just me talking about it.
I don't believe Deron's decision is simply about the largest contract; if that was the case, he could've re-upped with the Nets long ago and cashed his checks while the Nets perennially won half as many games as the Mavs perennially win. Certainly it is in part about the team around him – though Deron vehemently denies a Yahoo report quoting a league source as saying his willingness to stay with the Nets hinges on whether they acquire Dwight.
"I didn't say that,'' Williams says. "That's not how I feel. I don't think I'm going to base my decision, my family's decision on somebody else coming to a team or not. I have to make a decision that's best for me and my family. That's what I'm going to do."
Ah, there's that "family'' issue again.
Deron has a lovely bride (who seems to favor wearing Texas Rangers caps, too) and four children. Can you raise a family in Brooklyn, in Manhattan or in northern New Jersey? Certainly. Traffic can be a nightmare but the schools are some of the best in the world. And a $17-million-a-year salary can buy a guy a large estate, if that what he wishes. A Nets player could easily get to The Barclays Center while living in nearby Brooklyn Heights (a lovely area but one devoid of the mansions or even McMansions usually favored by athletes earning millions.) Or some Nets players might continue to live in New Jersey, on the other side of the Holland Tunnel. … a bit of inconvenience in exchange for whatever benefits they find in being Nets.
Meanwhile, Deron's mom lives in a $229,000 house her son purchased for her in 2007. It is the sort of handsome home that would cost four times that amount if located in New York City. Last month, one of Deron's children celebrated a birthday. Deron didn't bring Grandma to Brooklyn for the party; he brought his family to The Colony for the gathering. … to Grandma's house, which is located in a community nearby The Colony High School, where Deron attended, where there are neighborhoods about 22 minutes from the AAC.
Amy Williams' parents are also based in the Carrollton/The Colony area. Amy and Deron have known each other since second grade, were high-school sweethearts, and belong to the Carrollton church where Amy's father is the minister.
Deron himself could live a bit further south, in the same generally vicinity of where Dirk, Cuban and Carlisle live. It takes each of them about eight minutes to get from home to work. Oh, and the Cuban and Carlisle daughters attend The Hockaday School. Deron's girls might like that, too.
How significant is all of that to Deron? Or does he have "Big Apple'' aspirations?
Oh, and hey: Is Brooklyn really "The Big Apple,'' anyway? Or is it rather off-Broadway?
If Deron is at all interested in his marketability, the Mavs will note than in New York, the Nets will continue to (always?) play second fiddle to the Knicks. And the Giants. And the Jets. And the Yankees. And alongside the Mets, Islanders, Rangers and Devils. … and the entertainment world.
If he wishes, Deron Williams can own the endorsement market in this region. Tie him in with the two-time AL champion Rangers, and/or with the headline-owning Dallas Cowboys, and Deron can be as beloved as Dirk ... or Aikman ... or Emmitt … or Staubach ... In DFW, those guys are the entertainment world.
The Mavs will pitch the deep involvement of their owner (Mark Cuban is as hands-on as they come, while Prokhorov makes infrequent trips to The States while involving himself in business, politics and playboying in his native Russia). And the stability of the coaching situation (Carlisle has his ring and a new four-year deal; the Nets' Johnson is ... well, still growing into the job). There is Kidd, who is represented by agent Jeff Schwartz, as is Deron. And of course there is Dirk Nowitzki, the best player Deron will have ever passed to and the best teammate he will ever have.
Deron Williams says Dallas is his favorite place to play. Does he mean that only as a visitor? Or can he mean a "place to play and live''?
Which franchise has the building blocks needed to contend? Which front office has a creative and championship pedigree? And then -- again putting aside the chance to compete for titles, which Dallas believes it will do in The Deron Era, and also setting aside for a moment the finances involved -- there is the simple pitch that the Mavs hope will break Deron Williams' own "split-decision'':
Financial opportunities? Dallas will do its best.
Family, comfort and competing for championships? Dallas will say it IS best.