|Deron Williams explained his decision to re-sign with the Nets. (Getty Images)|
LAS VEGAS -- All smiles, with the weight of the world off his shoulders and nearly $100 million heading towards his bank account.
You wouldn't be surprised to find out that Deron Williams was in high spirits as he joined his USA Basketball teammates for the first day of practice on their way to the 2012 London Olympics. Sure, he had to sit out Team USA's 5-on-5 scrimmage play because his 5-year, $98 million contract agreement with the Brooklyn Nets can't go official until July 11, but that hardly dampened his mood.
"I just wanted to get it over with so that people would stop talking about it," Williams said, as he smiled, facing a large semi-circle of reporters. "I don't like being the topic of discussion."
There was no way around all of the discussion, given that Williams was the clear-cut No. 1 free agent in the Class of 2012 and the fact that Brooklyn had traded a King's ransom for him at the 2011 trade deadline. In the days before announcing his agreement on Twitter, word spread that he was down to the Nets and the Dallas Mavericks. Williams attended high school in the Dallas-area but the Mavericks could only offer him a 4-year contract worth $75 million.
"It was a stressful process," he said. "Everyone talks about how fun it is but I don't think it's fun. I guess it's fun because you get to pick where you want to go but it was a hard decision."
Williams, 28, met with both teams in advance of his decision. He also watched as the Nets moved aggressively to assemble a team ready to compete now, re-signing 30-year-old forward Gerald Wallace to a 4-year deal worth $40 million and agreeing to a trade with the Atlanta Hawks for 31-year-old All-Star guard Joe Johnson. The deal for Johnson, Williams said, ultimately proved critical in his decision to re-sign with Brooklyn, as he feels the three players, can enjoy a "rejuvenation" by teaming up.
"I was really close to going to Dallas," he said. "I actually thought that's where I was going to go, but I had the meetings and I changed my mind. Once I got out of the meeting with Dallas, the way they were going, the team they were putting out there, and we just made a trade for Joe Johnson, I just felt that team for a longer time would be a better team.
"Joe I think got me over the hump. I've never played with anybody like him. A guy on the wing who can get his own shot, get me involved, is a great defender. I think we can be one of the top backcourts in the NBA for sure."
While Williams was quick to stress that this was a "basketball decision" he acknowledged that the Nets' move from New Jersey to Brooklyn played a factor in his decision-making.
"The buzz in Brooklyn was big," he said. "I think it's a big move. The arena is amazing. It's going to be an exciting time. I think we have a pretty good team this year... New York is a basketball city. It's going to be great."
That decision, of course, altered the trajectories of two franchises. The Nets are clearly poised for their best season at least 2006 and are virtual locks to end a streak of five consecutive trips to the Draft Lottery. The Mavericks, on the other hand, are reeling. Days after Williams opted against Dallas, Jason Kidd left the Mavericks to sign with the New York Knicks. Dallas was also unable to find a way to re-unite All-Star forward Dirk Nowitzki with free agent guard Steve Nash, who agreed to a sign-and-trade to the Los Angeles Lakers, and the Mavericks are now left with multiple holes to fill and a serious lack of available talent with which to fill them.
Williams said the situation in Dallas weighed on him in recent weeks.
"My hometown team, the one I grew up watching, I would have loved to play for, my family would have loved to see me play for," he said. "I felt like I let the city I'm from down because they wanted me there so bad. It was a really, really tough decision. It ultimately came down to where I felt I had a better to chance to win, especially for a long period of time."
The decision done, he was free to bounce around the UNLV gym, getting up plenty of shots after practice while talking some good-natured trash with James Harden and a boom mic operator who briefly obscured his vision on a corner jumper.
There was only one question left: Will Orlando Magic All-Star center Dwight Howard be the next star that is Brooklyn-bound?
"That's all rumors and hearsay," Williams said, dismissively, before jetting off to the team bus. "I'm not really concerned with all that."
why should he be? Things are pretty good right now just as they are.