The New York Knicks, under Donnie Walsh, are 3 years into a plan to form a Big Three to rival the Boston Celtics and Miami Heats’ star trios. With the arrival of Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire they now have a pair of stars, and now have their sights set on the summer of 2012, when Chris Paul and Dwight Howard can potentially change teams and change the fortunes of franchises. The New Jersey Nets are attempting to change that 2012 forecast, launching a preemptive strike today by forcing Deron Williams to New Jersey in a trade with Utah. So now two questions stand, where previously only one stood. Will the Knicks sign Chris Paul next summer & can the Nets trade for Dwight Howard next season?
Reports are flooding in from all over the place that New Jersey is trading Derrick Favors, Devin Harris and 2 first round picks for Deron Williams. Williams is unable to even consider a contract extension until July, so the Nets have just traded away assets to acquire a player with ZERO guarantee that he will resign with the team. Delusional Nets fans will no doubt proclaim this the first step toward a Nets dynasty, instead of addressing the reality that New Jersey just traded for an NBA star (Williams) who was reportedly unwilling to resign with a much better team in Utah. If D-Will didn’t want to resign with a team that had Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson, two players far better then anyone on the Nets roster, then why the hell would he resign with New Jersey? Why would he refuse to resign with a franchise known for building playoff teams and then choose to resign with a franchise known for failure?
The answer is simple. He wouldn’t & he wont.
There is no way that Deron Williams will sign that extension with New Jersey (barring a restrictive new CBA) and there’s no way that the Nets are dumb enough to think that he will. If that’s the case then why did they pull the trigger on this trade? Well for one they had a knee jerk reaction to looking stupid in twice being rejected by star players, first LeBron and now Melo, but they also took a gamble in their attempts to match the New York Knicks, star for star.
The Nets know that they are the laughing stock of the NBA right now, so they needed to do something to alter that perception. They know that no one cares about the Nets and star players have no desire to play for them, so they forced Deron Williams to New Jersey while retaining enough assets to make a run at another star player next season. Their primary target? Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard. I believe that they intend to make a move for Howard if/when he demands a trade next season, once again without the guarantee of an extension, because they know they’ll have to pair the two stars up if they have any hope of convincing either to sign long term with their terrible franchise.
This is by far the most desperate maneuver I’ve ever seen a sports franchise take, even worse then Donnie betting everything on free agency last summer, and I fully expect it to blow up in their faces. It’s the route the Nets have chosen however and now the ticking down of the clock toward next seasons’ trade window is louder then it has ever been in New Jersey.
Putting the summer of 2012 aside for a moment, what are the Nets chances of making the playoffs this season, realistically? Well Deron Williams has never come off as a player talented enough to carry a team to the playoffs by himself, the Jazz actually fell out of the 8th seed before the All-Star break, and he has no running mates in New Jersey similar to what he had in Utah. So with the Nets 9 games back of the Pacers for the 8th seed, and 11 of their final 25 games against playoff teams, there’s no chance of the Nets making the playoffs this season. The Nets prospects of making the playoffs next year don’t look too good either. Williams has come off as a difficult player to coach, which doesn’t bode well for New Jersey. If the man didn’t want to listen to Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan then why the hell would he listen to Avery Johnson? Hell not even Troy Murphy and Devin Harris wanted to listen to Avery! That kind of locker room turmoil will make the challenge of reaching the playoffs, for a roster as weak as the Nets, all the more difficult.
D-Will has also had issues playing along side slow lumbering bigs like Al Jefferson, preferring more athletic big men like Carlos Boozer. Last I checked Robin Lopez wasn’t exactly Blake Griffin and New Jersey traded away their athletic power forward in the deal for Williams, so don’t expect a plethora of highlight reel plays just because D-Will is in town. This roster issue is something New Jersey must now address in free agency this summer. In order for New Jersey to have any hope of salvaging this deal/roster/franchise, it must for starters draft well this off-season. Secondly the Nets must hope that Orlando is willing to trade Howard next season instead of risking loosing him in free agency, in a vain attempt to convince him to stay. Thirdly, the Nets must manage to outbid every other trade partner Orlando will have in a Dwight Howard sweepstakes. Lastly, if the Nets manage to acquire the Magic superstar, then they must sell Deron Williams and Dwight Howard on the prospect of being able to win together in New Jersey/Brooklyn and therefore sign their extensions.
From New Yorkers’ perspective on this topic, I’m sure many fans are wondering why the Knicks didn’t attempt to trade for Williams instead of trading for Carmelo Anthony. Well for starters, Melo is the better player out of the two, so let’s get that straight. New York can also go after a better point guard in Chris Paul next summer, a star who has made it known that he wants to play in New York, so there was no real need to trade for Williams. Besides, Deron Williams has made no real indication as to where he would like to play, so dealing for him without an extension would have been risky. The New York Knicks are in prime position to establish their own big three by either signing Chris Paul or Dwight Howard, both of whom have reportedly shown interest in joining the Knicks before the trade that landed New York its’ second star. Unlike the Nets, the Knicks have far better odds of improving their team moving forward.
Whatever happens this season and beyond, the Knicks and Nets appear to be building up the kind of animosity toward one another that great rivalries are built on. Here’s to heated playoff battles and on-court fights, where the Knicks coach accidentally gets clocked by one of his own players. It’s like the 90’s all over again, except vs Nyets instead if the Heat.