Minus draft picks, host Nets focus on free agents

Nets general manager Billy King appears during a Nets general manager Billy King appears during a news conference at the PNY Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey on Thursday, May 15, 2014. Photo Credit: Brian Branch Price

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - They're the hosts in a sense, the team that rolls out the red carpet for the NBA draft at the Barclays Center tonight, the place where new commissioner Adam Silver will welcome some of the game's top young talent.

But it may seem weird to the Nets, almost as if they're peering at their own house through a locked, chain-linked fence given they don't hold any draft picks, having traded both away in separate deals. This isn't the norm for general manager Billy King, who thoroughly enjoys the accentuated madness heading into this annual event.

"It's been interesting. It's been different," King said yesterday after a predraft workout at the team's facility. "But it's allowed us to maybe focus more on guys maybe not drafted, focus more on free agents as we plan out our roster a little more. You still talk on the phone, but without a pick, it's different."

Duplicating the euphoria King created at last year's draft is going to be awfully tough without one. King shipped off three first-round picks in the blockbuster deal that landed Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, sending shock waves throughout the billion-dollar arena and league. That trade can't truly be evaluated for at least another year or two, not unless Pierce and Garnett suddenly both decide one season in Brooklyn was good enough for them.

King said he's "had some conversations" with Garnett regarding the 19-year veteran's intentions for next season, reiterating he remains optimistic Garnett will return for the final season of his contract, which is scheduled to pay him $12 million. "OK, let me say it again: He's under contract," King said, "and I expect him to be back next year."

Garnett averaged career lows in every major statistical category in 2013-14, missing 19 games with back spasms. But even at 38, King believes Garnett can play at a top level.

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"Yes," King said. "I think he's preparing earlier this year than he did last summer."

Unless King suddenly finds himself wheeling and dealing with other decision-makers around the league, the Nets won't be prepping for one thing Thursday night: introducing a first-round pick like they did with Mason Plumlee this time last year when they selected the Duke product No. 22 overall.

"I doubt we'll get into the first round," King said. "There's a chance we can get a second-round pick, but we're going to be patient."

Notes & quotes: King confirmed Alan Anderson will opt out of the final year of his two-year deal, indicating it was a move he expected since Anderson is making the veteran's minimum. King said they want to re-sign Anderson, who was at the facility working out Wednesday . . . The Nets will hold a news conference in Industry City in Brooklyn Thursday to unveil their plans for a new $45 million practice facility.

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