3:35 pm Sep. 25, 2012
So with a glittering new arena ready for its closeup in Brooklyn, with a new roster, new logo and new claim on relevance, the Nets had general manager Billy King meet the media for an extended conversation at the team's old headquarters, on a dead-end road in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Not that King, or anyone else, was complaining. In fact, the chatter among the media prior to King taking his seat at the table in front of the room centered around the number of times they'd managed to speak with Billy King since the last time they'd chatted with his counterpart on the Knicks, Glen Grunwald. General consensus: "plenty."
King entered, dressed in a gray pinstripe suit, looking and sounding like a man who had accomplished a great deal over the summer.
The two targets most often linked with the Nets, Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard, landed elsewhere. And yet the Nets look to be every bit as talented as Anthony's current team.
"It was a long road to get to where we are as an organization," King said. "Lot of plans, lot of talks, lot of discussions. But I think we're here."
He laughingly pointed out that there wasn't much more he could do anyway, thanks to restrictions on trading newly signed players. After several years of waiting--for Dwight Howard, for the move to Brooklyn--the team King put together is it.
"It feels like my first year with the Nets," King said. "Because it feels like each trade was a distraction. Carmelo Anthony--I'll mention the names--Dwight Howard, I mention them because it's not a factor anymore. And that's the greatest thing for our players and our organization. We're focused on and preparing for opening night. And we've got a team that we know will be here opening night."
For King, too, the relief was palpable.
"I don't have to think about that," King said. "I don't have to dodge your questions about that."
King acknowledged that many of the parts that fell into place with the Nets might not have if Deron Williams, the free agent point guard, had elected to sign with the Dallas Mavericks instead of staying put. And interestingly, one of the reasons King believes Williams returned was the acquisition of All-Star shooting guard Joe Johnson from the Atlanta Hawks, something the Nets hadn't planned on until the last moment before free agency.
"Throughout the whole process, and our planning, Joe Johnson was never in the equation," King said. "I think they had a different G.M. at the time, so it wasn't really--we had other scenarios we were thinking about. So when he became part of the equation, then it changed my mindset about certain players we went after."
King even hid the Johnson deal from the media for a time, more interested in privately presenting it to Williams to convince him to return than getting the immediately positive press for acquiring a guard. The plan paid off, according to King, beyond just Williams.
"Other things came about. It's amazing, once we launched the logo, and changed the colors, and we were Brooklyn, how many phone calls, the perception of the team and the reality of the team, people were calling because their players had interest in playing in Brooklyn," he said. "So it became a selection process, not a recruiting process."
But as King acknowledged, "The key part was getting that piece. And that was Deron."
King's final roster, barring injury or an unheard-of camp from a non-guaranteed invite, is essentially set. And that group of fifteen players is as deep as any in the league, with enough frontline talent to challenge for the Atlantic Division title.
"Every night when we step on the court, we have a legitimate chance to win the game," King said. "And I think, that's all you want."