HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Opening and closing arguments all in one day.
Can you think of a better way for the Brooklyn Nets and Dallas Mavericks to make their free-agent sales pitches to Deron Williams today?
Even though free agency kicked off at 12:01 a.m. Sunday, this is the day Williams designated for both teams competing for his services to make their presentations.
(Here’s David Aldridge’s take on the day of sales pitches from the Mavs and Nets)
It’s no secret Williams has been No. 1 on the summer to-do list for both franchises. The Nets have the luxury of having had his ear for the past season and a half. And Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov has no doubt made clear to Williams that they are willing to do whatever it takes (Dwight Howard) to build in Brooklyn the sort of team Williams can help guide to the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference.
The Mavericks, led by owner Mark Cuban, offer a chance for Williams — a former Texas prep star — to return home to a championship organization and slide into position on a roster featuring another superstar, Dirk Nowitzki, already set to give chase for the top spot in the Western Conference.
The Nets can offer a contract worth nearly $100 million, while the Mavericks are offering a four-year deal in the neighborhood of $75 million, so there is a distinct, bottom-line difference in what’s on the table for Williams.
This is the sort of high-powered tug of war that free agency presents every July, but rarely have we had such an intriguing cast of characters involved in one story line.
Dwight Howard, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, Joe Johnson are just a few of the other All-Stars and future Hall of Famers (in the case of Kidd and Nash), whose fates are directly tied to whatever decision Williams makes after hearing the oral arguments from both sides.
Howard and Nash have already made their own headlines, with Howard breaking his long silence and reiterating a trade demand delivered to the Orlando Magic months ago and Nash creating a splash up north with that three-year, $36 million contract offer from the Toronto Raptors.
And still, nothing gets done before Williams finishes up with the Nets and Mavericks, whose offseason and foreseeable futures hinge on their success or failure in pursuing the man.
The Mavericks are reportedly up first this afternoon, and according to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, they’ll launch their campaign without either Cuban or Nowitzki on the scene:
Sources close to the situation told ESPN.com that Nowitzki — who has maintained a friendship with Williams over the past few seasons — and Mavs owner Mark Cuban have been making their recruiting pitches to Williams by phone since free agency began Sunday at 12:01 a.m.
Yet with Nowitzki traveling abroad this week and Cuban in Los Angeles working on his “Shark Tank” television show, sources say that Dallas will be represented in Monday’s sitdown with Williams by president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson, coach Rick Carlisle and former Mavericks franchise player Michael Finley, who is making the trip in an unofficial ambassadorial role.
In reality, though, Dallas’ lead recruiter in the quest to sign Williams is Mavericks point guard Jason Kidd, who has spent the bulk of the week in close proximity to Williams in the Hamptons on a golf vacation.
ESPN The Magazine‘s Chris Broussard reported Sunday that Williams remains “torn” by the difficult decision, but the 28-year-old remains on course to choose his destination by Independence Day so he can report to Team USA training camp in Las Vegas on July 5.
The Nets’ pitch is a bit different, given that they have a few more moving pieces to deal with than the Mavericks right now. There’s Howard’s situation, namely how the Magic responds to his latest trade request demand, and whether or not they rush to react or take their time and ignore the deadline Williams has in place for making up his mind.
So many other factors have to be considered by both the Nets and Magic, as Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reminds us, with both teams working on multiple fronts to shore up their own situations:
The Nets already have agreed to terms with Gerald Wallace on a four-year, $40 million deal, and have engaged representatives for their own restricted free-agent center, Brook Lopez, in discussions about a long-term deal. League sources believe the Johnson-to-Brooklyn deal has a strong chance of happening in the next 48 hours. If it does, it just goes to show you that you can have any collective bargaining agreement you want — there’s still no substitute for having one of the richest men on the planet own your basketball team.
One point worth making, though. While the Magic plan to be patient with the process of trading Howard, think for a moment how Hennigan feels about watching the Nets — Howard’s preferred team — filling their cap space with Johnson, Wallace, Lopez and others instead of Howard and either Hedo Turkoglu or Jason Richardson. In addition to getting young players and draft picks for Howard, a key goal for Orlando is to move bad contracts — contracts that the Nets are, at the moment, one of the few teams that could absorb them. Once Brooklyn moves forward with Wallace and Johnson and re-signs Lopez, that trade avenue will be closed off to the Magic.
Things aren’t nearly as clear-cut for Nets general manager Billy King as they could be. It’s a much more complicated affair than the Nets had hoped for, per Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:
According to a league source, the Nets are ready to give up on Dwight Howard, who, disgruntled as ever with the Magic, is in L.A. recovering from back surgery. Howard still wants to play in Brooklyn, but his decision to opt into the final year of his deal in March killed most of his leverage.
Wallace, who’ll turn 30 this month, was traded by Portland to the Nets in March for what turned out to be the sixth pick in this year’s draft. The Nets expected Wallace to pick up his one-year, $9.5 million player option when they traded for him. Instead, he became a free agent and signed into a much more lucrative situation.
By signing Wallace, the Nets avoided an embarrassing situation. Wallace played just 16 games at the end of a meaningless season before he was injured and became a free agent. The former All-Star averaged 15.2 points and 6.8 rebounds during his limited action in New Jersey.
A capable starter, Wallace will be part of King’s sell to Williams. But the Nets haven’t experienced much winning in the last three years, neither on the court nor in these types of meetings. In their notable sit-downs, they failed to secure commitments from LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and, most embarrassingly, Carmelo Anthony.
They need Brooklyn, money and an upgraded roster to be the difference this time. If not, they’re just the Brooklyn Nyets.
We’ll know more before the clock strikes midnight, but even then we might not have all of the answers we need!