BROOKLYN — News flash: Great players want to play with other great players.
Having talented teammates makes your job easier and more enjoyable. It gives your team a chance to win games every night, even when you’re not at your best.
That’s why Kevin Garnett was willing to accept a trade to Boston five years ago, why LeBron James left Cleveland for Miami, why Carmelo Anthony had his sights set on New York, and why Chris Paul was happy to move to L.A. last December. It’s also why Dwight Howard has been begging for a trade to Brooklyn.
Howard isn’t coming to Brooklyn, but Deron Williams is, because Brooklyn Nets general manager Billy King got him another great player to play with.
Williams and Joe Johnson aren’t besties and they’ve never played on a U.S. National Team together. They didn’t plan or scheme their way into the same lineup. But they sure looked happy to have each other as teammates as they were introduced as “Brooklyn’s Backcourt” at Borough Hall on Friday.
Williams has said that he was close to leaving the Nets to sign with the Dallas Mavericks, who have a star power forward that he could have teamed up with. But then King pulled off the trade for Johnson, a move that Williams called “the deciding factor.”
“It was a basketball decision. That’s what you look at first,” Williams said. “It just came down to really the roster, how aggressive Billy was pursuing free agents and getting the Joe deal done. He already came to an agreement with Gerald [Wallace], which was key for me, because I loved playing with Gerald in the short time that I got to play with him.”
Now, with Brook Lopez re-signed and healthy, Williams should have a much better team around him than he did in his first year and a half with the Nets. Lopez and Wallace were already here, but the Nets’ returning threesome has still yet to play a game together. And now, they have Johnson added to the mix.
Johnson had a very good team around him in Atlanta. But he didn’t have a point guard and leader like Williams to be the face of the franchise. With the Hawks, Johnson was both the leading scorer and the primary ball-handler. At least one of those burdens will now be off his shoulders.
“We’re definitely going to take a lot of pressure off of each other,” Johnson said. “I haven’t had this much excitement probably since playing in my Phoenix days [when he teamed with Steve Nash].”
“We were able to put together what I call the best backcourt in the NBA right now,” King said Friday. “It’s a backcourt that can defend anybody in the league, score on anybody in the league, and can lead us.”
And it’s not like Johnson and Williams are the only good players on this team. Wallace is a more than capable small forward, especially defensively. Lopez is one of the best centers in the league, and Kris Humphries (who King says the Nets are “close” to re-signing) can do the dirty work at the four.
“There’s a lot of great pieces,” Johnson said. “I think we’re going to come in and be ready to win right away.”
After the news conference, the Nets held a pep rally in their new home. For the first time in 55 years, Brooklyn has a major league sports franchise to call its own. And with a pair of stars in the backcourt, it’s got a team will win right away.