By Steve Lichtenstein
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According to a report by ESPN.com's Marc Stein, Deron Williams is sick of Brooklyn.
The feeling is mutual.
Having failed in his attempts to unload the underachieving point guard in the trade market for about a year, Nets general manager Billy King may have finally received a stroke of luck on Thursday night.
Stein reported that Williams, who is owed over $43 million in the final two seasons of the nearly $100 million contract he signed in the summer of 2012, is in discussions with Nets management regarding a potential buyout.
That would free the Dallas native to sign with the Mavericks, who have about $11 million in salary-cap space after being jilted by center DeAndre Jordan on Wednesday.
It would be a win-win-win.
Williams would get to start fresh in his hometown and the Mavs would fill a need without going over the cap.
As for the Nets, I wasn't opposed to buying out D-Will at his full contract value and then stretching the salary-cap hit over five years, per the provision in the league's collective bargaining agreement. The cap will rise 11 percent for the upcoming season to about $70 million per team -- before the windfall from the new TV deals take effect and likely send the per-team cap into nine digits.
Williams will surely have to surrender some portion of his current contract to extricate himself, which would make the stretch provision even more palatable to King, who is desperate to get his payroll under the luxury-tax line and thus avoid onerous repeater tax penalties and restrictions.
Shedding D-Will should be a no-brainer for King if he has an opportunity to pull it off.
In his four-plus seasons since the blockbuster trade from Utah, the injury-plagued Williams has never seemed to be able to handle the responsibilities that come with being labeled the face of the franchise.
D-Will's game deteriorated due to chronic ankle woes and he often suffered crises in confidence. Sure, there have been flashes of brilliance, including his 35-point masterpiece in Game 4 that evened last season's first-round playoff series with Atlanta at 2-2.
But then Williams followed that performance with a pair of pedestrian efforts that contributed to the Nets' third loss in four postseason series during his tenure.
Williams had a tendency to shrink from pressure. He was the last guy Nets fans wanted to see have the ball with a game on the line. Good luck finding a buzzer-beating D-Will highlight as a Net. More unforgettable were his devastating late-game misses in key playoff games in Chicago and Atlanta.
The argument against turning the page would be to acknowledge that a clean break from D-Will would certainly mean that the Nets would take a step back this season. A starting lineup consisting of Jarrett Jack, Joe Johnson, Bojan Bogdanovich, Thaddeus Young and Brook Lopez would be the most ball-hogging and defensively-deficient team in the league. Without a first-round pick in the 2016 draft, tanking wouldn't pay.
But really, what would the Nets' ceiling be with this group if Williams stayed? Maybe another eighth seed and a first-round shellacking?
Getting out from under the boulder that is D-Will's contract is the first step towards rebuilding. Johnson and his overpriced ($24.8 million) salary will expire after this season and -- while I believe that the new deals signed by Lopez and Young were too rich for the limited services they provide -- I can appreciate that their hits might not be so burdensome over time as the cap rises.
In the meantime, King is attempting to fill out the roster with younger and more athletic players. Some of them may even be good at basketball.
I believe the Wayne Ellington free-agency signing has the potential to be another one of King's bargain-basement successes (a la Shaun Livingston, Alan Anderson and C.J. Watson). I'm also intrigued whether draft-night acquisition Rondae Hollis-Jefferson will develop into coach Lionel Hollins' new Tony Allen -- a defensive stopper on the wing whose offensive game is just enough above atrocious to have to be accounted for by opponents.
The jury is still out on most of King's other moves. Free-agent signees Shane Larkin and Thomas Robinson -- both of whom shared the podium with Lopez and Young at Thursday's press conference -- fit into that "young and athletic" category, but they have a lot to prove at this level. Sophomore Markel Brown still has a long way to go to fix his jump-shooting mechanics, based on limited viewings from summer league contests.
Even with the Willie Reed signing on Thursday, the Nets could use another big man (at least until first-round selection Chris McCullough returns to action from his torn ACL and proves to be rotation-worthy). Three-point shooting will also be a concern -- the Nets on Thursday rescinded their qualifying offer to long-range specialist Mirza Teletovic, who promptly signed with Phoenix.
I know it's blasphemy in New York basketball boardrooms, but these improvements are easier to make if you have cap room. Sign-and-trades, full mid-level exceptions -- these could come back into the Nets' playbook next summer if King plays his cards right.
The Nets got into trouble reaching for undeserving stars. D-Will fooled everyone into believing he was marquee-worthy. If he's offering a way out now, King should take it and run.
For a FAN's perspective of the Nets, Jets and the NHL, follow Steve on Twitter @SteveLichtenst1.
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