Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The New Jersey Nets officially became the
Brooklyn Nets back on April 30.
That doesn't sound like much of a move. After all, it's just under 14 miles
from the Prudential Center in Newark to the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn
but in the eyes of the fans and the players around the NBA, the jump is light
Brooklyn is everything North Jersey isn't. It's cutting edge and cool. So much
so that according to CNBC, on the day the Nets officially re-branded under the
Brooklyn name the franchise sold more team merchandise than the New Jersey
Nets did in the entirety of the 2011-12 season.
That said, the perception of relevance and any goodwill which comes along with
it will dissipate rather quickly if the Nets continue to flounder on the
court, something which was certainly a possibility with Billy King in charge
of the team's personnel.
After all King didn't exactly arrive in North Jersey with a sterling
reputation. He was fine as Larry Brown's yes man in Philadelphia but left to
his own devices after the nomadic mad scientist got the inevitable itch to
leave the City of Brotherly Love. King left the 76ers in ruins by the time he
departed the organization in December of 2007.
After the Sixers made the 2001 Finals, a team which was built by Brown, King
decided that playing ATM to a host of players in decline as well as a number
of glorified role players was the way to go.
The smooth talking, impeccably dressed, would-be politician's dazzling
personality shielded him for a number of years as the evidence mounted against
him as a talent evaluator.
King gave out some ludicrous contracts in Philly. There was $68 million for
Dikembe Mutombo, even though it was clear the aging defensive specialist was
in rapid decline. He then wrote a check for $35.5 million to an injured,
beaten down Aaron McKie before shelling out $29 million to journeyman point
guard Eric Snow.
How about a big free agent splash? Try $18 million to lure Greg Buckner to the
City of Brotherly Love. Next up was $40 million to keep limited 6-foot-7 power
forward Kenny Thomas and $25 million to get Brian Skinner back to
Philadelphia, a year after King could have had him for the league minimum.
Or how about $25 million to the ultimate one-dimensional player in Kyle Korver
or $60 million to the offensive juggernaut that is Samuel Dalembert after one
decent postseason series against Detroit.
The GM of the Washington Generals did a better job than King did with the
But the NBA is an old boy's club and King knows how to play the game better
than most. By July of 2010 he was hired as a general manager of the Nets,
replacing former president and general manager Rod Thorn, who ironically
enough landed in Philly.
Since then it's been more of the same for King. He put all his eggs in the
Dwight Howard basket last season and failed to get it done.
But there was no Plan B for B.K. and concerned about keeping Deron Williams,
he panicked at the trade deadline and sent what ended up being the No. 6 in
the 2012 NBA Draft to Portland for Gerald Wallace, a nice player but one who
was certainly not worthy of a lottery pick and was, like Williams, set to
become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
There is a big difference, however, between the Sixers and the Nets.
The names have changed from Pat Croce to Ed Snider to Adam Aron but no matter
who was or is running things in Philly, the Sixers have always acted small-
time in a large market. Mistakes on South Broad Street are treated like the
end of the world and a big one will set the organization back for years.
King's safety net in Brooklyn, however, is Russian billionaire Mikhail
Prokhorov, an owner intent on making the Nets relevant no matter the mistakes
and the price tag it costs to make them disappear.
The worm finally turned for King early this week. First he picked up an All-
Star level player from Atlanta, albeit one with an albatross of a contract, in
Joe Johnson for a host of expiring contracts and a lottery protected first
round pick, something he would have never been allowed to do with the Sixers.
King was also able to avoid a disaster and re-sign Wallace for $40 million
over four years and ink Spanish League star Mirza Teletovic, a power forward,
using his mid-level exception. King even completed a sign-and-trade with the
Clippers for rebounding machine Reggie Evans, an important component since a
projected front court of Wallace, Teletovic and Brook Lopez isn't exactly
going to control the glass.
The real sigh of relief came at 7:03 ET on July 3 when Williams himself
Tweeted "Made a very tough decision today" with a Brooklyn Nets logo. The
franchise point guard will sign a five-year extension with the Nets for
roughly $100 million.
Meanwhile, the Nets remain in play for Howard, even though the Magic have no
interest in what the team has to offer in trade. The big man, pushed by
adidas, has been steadfast in saying Brooklyn is the only place he will sign
an extension. So while Barclays Center might not house Howard until the
2013-14 season, make no mistake he's coming eventually.
And when he arrives, the Nets will have officially transformed from the 25-win
bunch which called North Jersey home to a 60-win club in the hippest of New
York City's five boroughs.
They will have morphed from laughingstock to championship contender simply
because Prokhorov wants Brooklyn to be big time.
And even Billy King can't screw that up.
The Sports Network