LAS VEGAS -- Billy King's best move as Nets general manager might have been getting Joe Johnson right before meeting with his own free agent, Deron Williams. It kept Williams in a Nets uniform.
He said he was leaning toward going to Dallas before the Nets acquired Johnson and his big contract from the Hawks. It was a $90-million calculated gamble that paid off for King and the Nets.
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"I was really close to going to Dallas. I actually thought that's where I was going to go," Williams said after the U.S. Olympic team opened training camp Friday.
After news broke that Johnson was Brooklyn-bound, Williams said he felt the Nets "for a longer time would be the better team.''
"Joe got me over the hump,'' he said. "I've never played with anybody like him, a guy on the wing that can get his own shot and also get me involved and is a great defender. We could be one of the top backcourts in the NBA for sure."
Williams, who agreed to a five-year, $98-million deal to return to the Nets, said he came to the decision as quickly as he could in part because he didn't enjoy "being the topic of discussion." Now he becomes the face of a franchise moving into a new building in Brooklyn and with a bigger fan base.
Williams is prepared for that and looks forward to it. But he admitted that turning his back on Dallas, where he grew up, wasn't easy.
"It was a hard decision," he said. "It was my hometown, the team that I grew up watching, would have loved to play for and my family would have loved to seen me play. I kind of felt I let the city I'm from down because they wanted me there so bad. It was a really tough decision, but I think it ultimately came down to where I felt I had a better chance to win for a longer period of time."