The biggest deal of deadline day thus far sees the New Jersey Nets trade Mehmet Okur, his expiring $10.89 million salary, Shawne Williams, his not-expiring $3 million salary, and a 2012 first round pick to Portland, in exchange for Gerald Wallace.
Wallace, a one time All-Star and long-time quality player, averages nearly 13 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists on the year, in addition to quality, versatile defense. He dramatically improves New Jersey’s weakest position, small forward, where a whole host of players have been rotated through. After deciding Stephen Graham probably wasn’t the answer, the Nets turned to Damion James. When he got hurt, Keith Bogans, Larry Owens, Andre Emmett, Gerald Green and Dennis Horner all took turns. The longest runs have been given to Williams and DeShawn Stevenson, who are shooting 29 percent and 25 percent from the field respectively. Given that they had absolutely nothing at that position, and traded absolutely no production to get it, getting a fringe All-Star is a significant upgrade to the collective nothing that went before.
But let’s not lose sight of the issue. In spite of how good he is, and how bad D-Steve has been, New Jersey are not really trading for Gerald Wallace. They are really trading for Deron Williams, again.
And inevitably, it’s all for Dwight Howard.
The entire plan, the whole thing, the whole shaboodle, everything the Nets have thrown away the last two years for, is based around Dwight. Prokhorov didn’t buy the team to get Dwight, the team isn’t moving to Brooklyn because of Dwight and they didn’t trade their only semblance of a long term plan for Deron because, at the time, they expected to get Dwight. But it did become the expectation, and it did become the plan.
It became a very good plan, too. The future looked good. Deron Williams, the impressive rookie MarShon Brooks, the probably impressive rookie Harrison Barnes, Kris Humphries, Dwight. That’s some front five. New city, new arena, new fan base, plenty of money in reserve, Jay-Z adding some luster. No depth, but that doesn’t matter. That was the plan. It was beautiful. And when Howard declined a move to the Chicago Bulls, the best team in the league, because Derrick Rose was too famous or the weather was too windy or whatever the hell reason he used, the Nets’ plan looked almost consummated. You don’t disregard Chicago and consider joining the Nets unless you really, really want to join the Nets. Up until this week, it was all-consuming.
But it didn’t work. Dwight opted in. It seems now that he didn’t really, really want to join the Nets after all.
Not yet, at least. The pipe dream still exists. Dwight didn’t sign an extension with Orlando, commit his adult life to them, or declare an undying love that would only have looked facetious by this time; instead, he merely opted in. He opted in for only one year. In 12 months time, therefore, it is more than likely to be the case that Howard — who has trolled the entire NBA media and tormented his own team’s fans for a whole year — is going to be doing it all again. And so what is a stay of execution for Orlando is essentially an adjournment for New Jersey. The plan is still to get Dwight. By this time, it rather has to be.
However, in the time in between the two, one big variable exists. While Dwight Howard opted in, Deron Williams didn’t. The whole Dwight plan was, and is, dependent upon Deron. Concurrently, keeping Deron was, and is, dependent on getting Dwight.
New Jersey knows Dwight only joins them if Deron Williams is here. It’s why they traded for him in the first place. And it’s still the case. This year, they didn’t get Dwight, even with Deron. Now, to get Dwight next year, they need to keep Deron.
Read the rest of this entry »