EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ — Billy King is now general manager of the Brooklyn (formerly New Jersey) Nets. How long he’ll stay in that position will likely be determined by what happens in the next two weeks.
His job is likely on the line, with little margin for error and a big window for just how good the Nets can be over the next few years. Maybe they’ll have Deron Williams and Dwight Howard. Maybe they’ll have neither. Maybe they’ll have just Williams and a supporting cast that can compete for the fourth or fifth spot in the Eastern Conference.
Officially, Williams has declined his player option for next season. He has been working out at the Nets’ practice facility, visited the Barclays Center this month, and even popped his head into King’s press conference on Wednesday.
Nets coach Avery Johnson was reportedly at Williams’ private birthday celebration Tuesday night. And given all the signs, it would be pretty cold-blooded for Williams to go elsewhere. But with less than four days before free agency begins, there are no indications that he’s made a final decision.
“I’m not over confident,” King said when asked about his feelings toward the possibility of Williams re-signing. “I’m not any less confident. I just feel pretty good.” He added that the team has “contingency plans” if Williams signs with another team.
“When something happens, you don’t look back,” King said. “You go on to the next play, good or bad.”
What Williams decides will ultimately determine if the Gerald Wallace trade (with Portland for the No. 6 pick) was good or bad. Wallace has opted out of his contract, but if he and Williams both re-sign, then the Nets are moving in the right direction.
“I still feel it’s a good deal,” King said, “and I think at the end of the day we’ll figure it out and have [Wallace] back on the roster.”
Including Williams and Wallace, six of the Nets’ top players are (or could be – Jordan Farmar has a option with a June 30 deadline) free agents. So while the point guard is the big domino for the Nets, King has a lot of other holes to fill. But he also has a lot of cap space to fill those holes with.
We can potentially have $35-40 million in cap space,” said King. “We can replace our free agents, if they were to choose other places, with other players. So I think that takes a little bit of the pressure off because of the fact you can replace players and still build a team.”
At this point, King won’t be filling any of those holes with a draft pick. The only pick the Nets have in Thursday’s Draft is the Heat’s second rounder, the 57th pick overall.
They do have $3 million to spend if they want to get a late first rounder, and King said that’s a possibility.
“If we wanted to, we can get into the first round,” he said. “We’ll be prepared if we have to get in there.”
The Nets could also make deals involving veteran players, to improve Williams’ supporting cast before he has to make his decision.
“There are things on the board that we are looking at where a player can be going out, other players could be coming in,” King said. “Or players could be going out and picks could be coming in.”
A lot is up in the air with the Nets. And with a new building to fill, the next few days could be some of the biggest in franchise history.