GM Billy King thrilled to be leading Nets
The man responsible for constructing the Nets' roster in their inaugural season in Brooklyn thinks back to his time running the Sixers, pondering some of the lessons he's learned along the way.
Billy King was cut loose by Philadelphia in 2007, fired after spending a decade serving as the general manager. He looks back at that December day and says he feels grateful in a sense, all because he can now put things in perspective every day when he hops on the train, riding the rails from New Jersey back down to that same suburban Philadelphia home he's lived in for years now.
"It was a blessing in disguise, like God has a plan for me," said King, who is in his third season as the Nets' general manager. "My wife was eight months pregnant with my son when I got fired. My daughter was 13 months old at the time. So when I got fired, a month later, she had my son."
King, 46, spent two years at home changing diapers, time he used to take a step back before coming to the Nets in July 2010. "It gave me a chance to sort of breathe," he said.
And do a little reflecting.
"After 10 1/2 years in Philadelphia, the one thing was, I always felt like I did my job there," King said, "and at the end, I was just trying to keep my job. Once you start trying to keep your job and not do it, it's not going to work."
Heeding that premise, King has been aggressive with the Nets, pulling moves many would consider risky. Like trading for Deron Williams in 2011 after his attempt to acquire Carmelo Anthony from the Nuggets fell through. Or getting forward Gerald Wallace at the deadline in March, sending what turned out to be the sixth overall pick in June's draft to Portland.
King also turned a simple call in June congratulating Danny Ferry -- his good friend, old Duke teammate and very person he beat out for the Nets gig -- on being named the Hawks' general manager into a deal for All-Star shooting guard Joe Johnson.
Overall, the Nets spent roughly $330 million this offseason and King essentially executed every step of his plan once he knew the Magic really didn't want to deal Dwight Howard to Brooklyn.
"I think he did good job of sticking to what he was trying to do the whole time," said Pacers president Donnie Walsh, the person who inspired King to become a GM back in the '90s when they both were with the Pacers. "It was similar to what I tried to do in New York , and that was to get the flexibility to go into the free-agent market and go get some players. And he did that.
"I think if they continue with what they are doing, it's going to be a very good franchise. I don't think there's any doubt about that."
Mike Krzyzewski, who coached King at Duke in the late '80s, said that "he's as close to our family as any player that has played for me," and said he can't help but applaud King's role in the Nets' makeover.
"There's been an incredible amount of pressure on the Nets franchise with the move to Brooklyn," Krzyzewski said. "I mean, their arena will be one of the great arenas in our country. The Nets have not had the success that they would have liked, and to create that after a condensed season, free agency . . . it's remarkable, the job they did.
"I know he had his team work really hard to make sure that they create a team that would be an amazing product for Brooklyn, for that area. And I think they've done that."
King likens an organization's composition to that on a Hollywood set. He considers himself the producer. Owner Mikhail Prokhorov is the executive producer and the players are actors.
If the product is subpar, the paying customers are surely going to let the producer hear it loud and clear.
"You take this job because that's what you want to do," King said. "That's the pressure. You don't become a GM just to have a great seat at the game, and ride on the plane and hang with the guys. You come because there are good days, there are bad days. There are trades that fall through. That's what the job is about.
"When the movie is done, you put it out there for the fans to watch. Some of them are Oscar-worthy and some are duds. But I think we did all our work to, hopefully, produce a blockbuster."