Saturday, July 11, 2015

Nets part ways with point guard Williams, former cornerstone of "Brooklyn's Backcourt" (and reboot team)

(L-r) Amy & Deron Williams; announcer David Diamante; Joe Johnson

and girlfriend Kayla; Avery Johnson; Marty Markowitz; Brett Yormark;

photo by Kathryn Kirk, Borough President's Office
Almost three years ago to the day, then Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, bellowing and loose, welcomed "Brooklyn's Backcourt"--holdover point guard Deron Williams and new shooting guard Joe Johnson--to a rally at Borough Hall.

It was a long time ago, in Brooklyn Nets time. Markowitz is gone. Coach Avery Johnson is gone too.

And now Williams-- the cornerstone of the team's move from New Jersey after it whiffed in 2011 on other free agents but portrayed unflatteringly by author Jake Appleman as "perpetually brooding"--is gone.

The oft-injured Williams, no longer an All-Star but still quite capable, has agreed to a buyout with the Nets; the team will pay a part of his huge salary but take the rest off the books, and he will sign with his hometown Dallas Mavericks. The deal makes sense for all involved, says a Bleacher Report columnist, especially since a report has now surfaced about Williams nearly getting into a fight with Coach Lionel Hollins.

Here's a good chronicle from NetsDaily of the highs and lows of the Williams era.

Not quite a fit

Flashback: perpetually hyping Nets CEO Brett Yormark declared that Williams "loves being in New York," though the Daily News's Stefan Bondy later wrote that "Everything about his New York experience — from the spotlight to the lifestyle to the roster carousel — never meshed with Williams."

Indeed, Williams, who was raised in Texas and spent the bulk of his career in Utah, last year admitted to Resident magazine, "I don’t really feel so much like a New Yorker."

It's unclear whether the Nets will trade the similarly high-priced Johnson, who likely has more value to the team, but General Manager Billy King hasn't ruled it out.

Photo: Stefan Bondy/Twitter
"We Are: Continuity"?

But the Nets' message has changed, as noted by Bondy after a recent press conference:
At the height of Mikhail Prokhorov’s spending just two years ago, the slogan that the Nets pushed was some variation of “We Are: All In” — a reference to their strategy of competing for a championship regardless of the cost of luxury taxes or draft picks.
On Thursday at the introduction of their new signings — an unheralded crew highlighted by Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young — the slogan in the background was less urgent, more of a mouthful.
“We Are: Continuity/Core/Youth/Commitment,” it read.
Well, it depends on what "Continuity" and "Core" mean, apparently. But, as the Seinfeld saying goes, you're only rooting for the clothes.

Update: the columnists weigh in

From the New York Post's Mike Vaccaro:
He leaves his empty tenure as the franchise face of the Nets as perhaps the single-most forgettable would-be superstar in the history of New York sports.
...Williams is different. From the start, it was pretty clear he didn’t want to be here, whether “here” was in New Jersey or Brooklyn. Even when the Nets re-signed him to a $98 million max extension, he came across, instantly, as he if he were doing someone a favor pocketing all that cash.
The Nets moved heaven and earth — actually, worse, they moved an uncountable amount of assets — to surround Williams with the kinds of players he believed were of his status and to his liking, and were rewarded with one playoff series victory and hundreds of nights when Williams’ scowl and his brutal body language hinted he was being held in an unheated hut somewhere near Park Slope against his will.
Wrote the Daily News's Bondy:
It was about an hour after another disappointing performance from Deron Williams, a couple days following Paul Pierce’s public comments casting Brooklyn’s point guard as a mental softie.
In the Barclays Center hallways, a Nets player made a plea for compassion. Or maybe it was pity.
“If you can,” he told two media members, “take it easy on D-Will. He can’t handle it.”
Those last four words came to define Williams’ tenure with the Nets, a three-and-a-half season stint that ended in a way thought unimaginable when he signed a $100 million contract three years ago. The Nets agreed to buy him out Friday, essentially paying Williams $25 million to walk away and sever the regrettable ties.
So how’d it get to this point? How did a player once deemed the best point guard in the NBA end up on waivers just to spare Mikhail Prokhorov some luxury-tax penalties? Why did Williams force a move to the Dallas team he spurned to sign with the Nets in 2012?
We can look at his injuries. The poor response to the spotlight. The fragile psyche. The discomforts of city living. The alienation by teammates. The multiple personalities Williams projected.
The issues accumulated, and they all boiled over.
"We Are/ Brooklyn"?

(Update July 12: he's gone.)

And it's surely time for the Nets to update the background photo on their Twitter page, which uses Williams as the symbol of "We Are/ Brooklyn."

Update July 15: a new era for the Nets

The Nets are now promoting a new era. The New York Post reports 7/14/15, Nets’ latest transformation: A team in Lionel Hollins’ image:
Nets general manager Billy King has made a series of moves the past few weeks to remake the roster, and you can begin to see the makings of a cohesive plan — one that constructs the team in the image of its coach, Lionel Hollins....
Though outside of Williams, none of those moves were far from ground-breaking, taken collectively it has left the Nets with a group filled with the kind of athletes and grinders who fit Hollins’ personality, while lowering the team’s payroll and luxury-tax bills, and setting them up to be potential players in free agency the next two summers.
The Wall Street Journal reports 7/14/15, The Brooklyn Nets Aim to Be Back in the Black:
The Nets no longer resemble the overcompensated team of their first three seasons in Brooklyn.
They still have Brook Lopez, who last week re-signed for three years and $60 million to remain the Nets’ longest-tenured player. But now general manager Billy King is pivoting away from the model that had the team spending an NBA record $90.57 million in luxury taxes in 2013-14 as it lost a reported $144 million.
Because of last week’s buyout of point guard Deron Williams, the Nets saved more than $40 million in wages and luxury taxes and are now under the luxury-tax threshold for the first time since moving from New Jersey. And instead of losses, the Nets’ profit margin might finally resemble their black uniforms.
According to several sources within the Nets’ various ownership groups, there is real hope that the team will turn a profit for the first time in over a decade.
Being profitable wasn’t necessarily the goal of the Nets’ new strategy. Billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov can afford to pay the losses. What he and the team can’t afford is another disaster like the 2013 trade that brought Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce over from Boston while denying the Nets control of their first-round pick until 2019.
...These Nets still want to win— and without control of their first-round picks, have no incentive to lose. But now, for perhaps the first time since Jason Kidd helped propel the franchise to a pair of NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003, the Nets appear to want to build a team rather than buy one.

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