The eve of change


The question that was born on February 24th, 2011, will at long last be answered shortly after free agency begins Sunday at 12:01 am.  “Will the Nets be able to convince Deron Williams to stay?” All of the tiresome speculation will finally be put to rest as early as this weekend. Has there ever been a more important offseason to a professional sports franchise than this?

The Nets have sacrificed young and promising players, an assortment of highly valuable draft picks, and their future, all for the chance to convince one player, whom they covet so desperately, to buy into the grand vision that they have for their future in Brooklyn. Some have called it foolish, others have called it futile, but I think everyone can agree that it was bold and courageous. If we learn that Williams intends to leave them for Dallas then history will quickly forget how admirably bold the Nets move to acquire him was. Instead, it will be remembered as one of the most ridiculously self-destructive trades in the history of sports, a perfect example of mismanagement in the highest form.

Every night that the Brooklyn Nets trot out what could likely be the worst team in the NBA onto the court, it will serve as a bitter reminder of the Nets failed attempt to leapfrog the better part of the league into instant contender status. This bleak scenario would likely span numerous, dreadful years from the NBA’s gloomy basement. The lowly teams that usually inhabit that neglected space are seldom discussed in the national sports media. It is almost as if the basketball world forgets they exist, and they make little attempt to change this. The problem for the Nets would be that they would find it difficult to blend in anonymously at the bottom while they slowly try to rebuild themselves traditionally. A bottom-feeding team with a $1 billion dollar arena in the world’s biggest market would stick out like a sore thumb. Their well-publicized failures would make for an easy target amongst sports writers and talking heads alike. This is the doomsday scenario that the Nets cannot afford to see materialized.

With the Dallas Mavericks having a virtual fire sale as of late, they have successfully shed some salary from their cap without taking any new contracts back. It looks as though they will be able to clear enough space to sign one max-contract free agent outright. They would certainly have to use the amnesty provision on Brendan Haywood to accomplish this, a move that has long been expected. What seems to have escaped the minds of the media for the most part is that even if the Mavs pull this off and are able to lure D-Will away from New York, they will have exhausted all their resources and left themselves with no flexibility to build a quality team around Dirk and Deron. When Dirk’s massive contract is up after two more years, and they finally have a significant opportunity to sign marquee free agents, Deron will be 30 years old and Dirk will probably be a shell of his former self. The stage is set nonetheless, for a photo finish that will lift one franchise up in glory, and leave the other one in complete disarray.

It has been widely been viewed as a foregone conclusion that Deron Williams has one foot out the door with his bags packed for Dallas, regardless of what he said. No one ever likes to give the Nets much respect, it’s a role this franchise should be used to by now. However, there have been a few positive signs popping up here in the home stretch of this anxiety riddled period of Nets basketball. Deron has been working out in Nets facilities almost every day, many of those have been spent working out with Nets coach Avery Johnson. The two have reportedly been mapping out strategy for basketball next season. When Deron turned 28 last week, Avery Johnson was one of the few close friends that celebrated the occasion with him and his family. All indications suggest Deron is planning to be the face of Brooklyn next season and beyond. If you needed any more dots to connect, how about the fact that Williams apparently went to the Barclay’s Center and picked out his locker for next season? All these actions point to a guy who is expecting to be around for the future, not one who is preparing to bolt in a few days and leave the organization that he loves, and has built a close bond with, in shambles.

Certainty is coming. We do not yet know if it will be positive or negative, but it is coming nonetheless. Only a few hours remain in this period of Nets basketball, soon we will usher in a new era. The eve of change is upon us.