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When the Nets swung a huge trade for Deron Williams last season, they were hoping they would wind up with an iconic player whose presence would always be part of franchise lore.
They got just that, although the franchise wound up being Besiktas, the Turkish team that Williams played for during the lockout. Williams played just seven games for Besiktas, but they retired his jersey in a ceremony after the end of the lockout ended his time with the team.
The Nets would love to do the same thing in Brooklyn one day, because it would mean their bold gamble for Williams wound up working out just as they planned by setting the foundation for a great run by the franchise as they take on their new identity. Williams, Besiktas legend though he may be, isn't going to be enough to make that happen all by himself.
Williams has the right to opt out of his contract after this season and he will almost certainly exercise it. Under the rules of the new CBA, he can make more money staying with the Nets under a new deal or he can leave if he feels the team isn't going to be competitive enough for his liking in the years to come.
So the Nets are shopping to find some running mates to help push themselves up in the standings and into the hearts (and wallets) of the Brooklynites they want to fill their new arena. The biggest name on the list is Dwight Howard, who the Nets are reportedly trying to land using Brook Lopez, two first-round picks and the willingness to take on the lockout-causing contract of Hedo Turkoglu.
Like Williams, Howard can become a free agent after this season and it is thought that he's looking to do the "team up with other superstars" thing that's all the rage in the NBA these days. The Nets, with lots of cap space and Williams in house, can offer Howard that kind of arrangement, but they can only offer him the maximum amount of money if they make a deal before this season.
That seems possible, based on the comments of Magic G.M. Otis Smith about a willingness to do a deal if they don't think they can re-sign him. The Nets need it to happen, because the alternatives aren't great.
Should they miss out on Howard, the Nets are going to be buyers on the free agent market with centers Tyson Chandler and Nene at the top of their wish list. It would certainly take a max contract to get either man to join the team and that's a sign that no matter how hard David Stern and his band of owners try to make you believe that the players are evil, there will never be a way to legislate bad ideas out of the game.
Chandler is worth a lot to the Mavericks because he's a defensive force that allows the rest of their team to happen. In three other NBA stops, he's proved that he's not able to play a larger role than that and the Nets need someone who can play more of a role for them.
Nene has tons of talent and has moments where he looks like one of the best centers in the game. He also has stretches where he resembles a player who is in his second or third season and has very little feel for the game, a bit worrisome for a player who has been in the NBA for nearly a decade.
Either one would be a nice addition to the team at a more reasonable price, but blowing all their cap space on players that aren't sure things to make the Nets a more dangerous team is the same thing they did to no effect last season. The Howard trade is going all in, but these other moves are the kind tepid toe-dipping that could easily wind up leaving the team with Lopez, Chandler and no Williams when all is said and done.
It's a big year for the Nets and it won't be long before we find out if they will be heading to Brooklyn in a parade or under the cover of the night.