HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Even with the Draft on the minds of most everyone affiliated with the NBA, there is no shortage of attention being paid to the looming drama of the free-agent summer.
It makes perfect sense, considering there is just as much smoke involved in the draft process as there is in free agency.
The most discussed name on the free-agent scene is Deron Williams, who has made it clear that he has yet to make up his mind about his future and would appreciate those of us prognosticating about it (check his May 30 Tweet) taking a break from the speculation.
His wishes will not be adhered to, not with rumblings from the likes of Ken Berger of CBSSports.com, who reports that a handful of league executives are convinced that the All-Star point guard is Brooklyn-bound:
Four rival executives and a fifth person familiar with Williams’ thinking told CBSSports.com Tuesday that the Mavericks are becoming increasingly worried that the All-Star point guard will stay with the Nets when the free-agent floodgates open Sunday.
While optimists in the Mavs’ camp are holding out hope that they still have a “50-50″ chance of landing Williams, who grew up in Dallas, executives working the phones Tuesday have detected a real concern from the Mavs that Williams will opt to join the Nets in Brooklyn next season. Free agency opens at 12:01 a.m. ET Sunday, and Williams will have a very clear financial decision in front of him.
Under new CBA rules, the Nets can offer Williams a five-year deal worth approximately $100 million — one year and about $26 million more than the Mavs, the only other team the All-Star is believed to be considering.
The recent vibe executives are getting from Dallas contradicts the word in the sneaker industry only last week. A high-ranking person in that field told CBSSports.com that the feeling among sneaker execs was that Williams would prefer to join his hometown team at a discount rather than stay with the Nets. Such a decision, the person said, would be based on the understanding that Mavs owner Mark Cuban would be able to sway Williams that any lost earnings could be made up via endorsements and by the Mavs being better positioned to reload their roster around Williams and Dirk Nowitzki and compete for a championship.
For young stars like Williams and Dwight Howard, the year of earnings lost by changing teams is somewhat underrated; barring serious injury, they’d simply get the money back when they extend their contracts or sign new ones. This is perhaps more true for Howard, 26, than for Williams, who turned 28 Tuesday.
Williams and Howard have seen their names linked together for over a year now. There’s no reason to believe things will change until their futures are decided this summer.
The notion of them joining forces somewhere, be it in Brooklyn or perhaps somewhere else, in the future is what makes free agency the ridiculous fun it always turns out to be.
But we can’t imagine the Mavericks being scared off by the sentiment of a handful of rival executives who believe Williams would pick the Nets (and that extra $26 million) over the hometown Mavericks and the chance to chase championships with Nowitzki before he’s done.
July 1 can’t get here fast enough!