Taking A Look Back At Billy King’s Gamble For Prominence


On February 24th, 2011, the New Jersey Nets acquired Deron Williams from the Utah Jazz in exchange for Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, two first round picks and cash considerations. Nets general manager Billy King said that he believed Deron Williams was the best point guard in the NBA and he felt that having him and one of the best centers in the NBA Brook Lopez together could help turn the Nets franchise around.

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After the 2012 season, Williams opted out of his contract like he was expected to and there was fear that Williams would leave the Nets and head back home to play for the Dallas Mavericks. The Nets were confident that they would trade for Dwight Howard to convince Williams to stay, but when talks stunningly fell apart the Nets went into plan B and traded for at the time six time All Star Joe Johnson. Trading for Johnson convinced Williams to stay with the Nets and entering their first season in Brooklyn, the Nets had high hopes and expectations to be contenders in the Eastern Conference.

The Nets finished the season 49-and-33 which was good enough to finish fourth in the Eastern Conference and they had home court advantage as they faced off against the depleted Chicago Bulls. The Nets lost the series in seven games and the Bulls reportedly called the Nets ‘heartless’ and ‘gutless’ and believed that the team had no true leader. In the offseason, Billy King made another big splash trading away Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks, Kris Joseph, Keith Bogans and three first round draft picks for Jason Terry, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. The Nets added leadership and it was clear that Brooklyn was in a win now mode.

The Nets fired interim coach P.J. Carlesimo and hired recently retired Nets legend Jason Kidd to coach this veteran group of players. Many people questioned the hire due to Kidd’s lack of coaching experience, but King was confident that Kidd was the right man for the job. The Nets started off the season 10-and-21 and things took a turn for the worse when Brook Lopez went down for the season after breaking his foot. The Nets resorted to small ball and found a way to make it work and sneak into the playoffs as the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference with a 44-and-38 record and they had a first round matchup against the young and pesky Toronto Raptors. The Nets won the series in seven games and Pierce and Garnett’s leadership was felt throughout the entire series and the Nets were confident that they could beat the Miami Heat in the second round. The Nets were undefeated against the Heat in the regular season, but the playoffs are a different animal and the Heat beat the Nets in five games and King’s power play deal to try and win a championship in one season failed.

The Nets had some reason to be optimistic going into the offseason. They finally have their coach of the future, Garnett was likely to come back, Pierce wanted to stay and maybe bringing the same unit back under the same system with the same coach could give the Nets another shot at competing for a title. Wrong. Kidd saw the money that other coaches were getting and he wanted some of that. Kidd asked the Nets for a promotion and when he was denied that request he wanted out of Brooklyn and owner Mikhail Prokhorov said good riddance and allowed Kidd to coach the Milwaukee Bucks. The Nets decided to get younger which opted them to not bring back Paul Pierce and he headed over to Washington. Garnett decided to return for the final year of his contract which was good, but losing head coach Kidd would mean that the Nets would need to learn a completely different system yet again which could mean another slow start to the year.

The Nets hired Lionel Hollins to take over as coach and the hire made all of the sense in the world. Hollins is a defensive minded coach who isn’t afraid to confront his players and frankly he is very old school. Deron Williams was ready to go after undergoing surgery on both of his ankles and Brook Lopez was anxious to get back after he underwent foot surgery. The Nets have gotten off to yet another slow start this season and many Nets fans are sick and tired of the core of Williams, Johnson and Lopez and want King to blow everything up and start from stage one again. The Nets are 6-and-9 at the moment and implementing a new system takes time so there is a very good chance that the Nets will be in the postseason once again, but the impatience from Nets fans is justified. This is their fourth coach in three years, Owner Mikhail Prokhorov spent $200 Million last season to lose in the second round and if the Nets don’t turn things around by the trade deadline it is believed that King will trade away Lopez, Williams and Johnson and start over again. That would mean Millions of dollars were spent for a couple of early playoff exits. Even if the Nets turn things around and make the playoffs this year it is highly unlikely that they will reach the finals, so Billy King and Nets management went all in for an attempt to bring Brooklyn a title and that plan failed drastically.

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