Nets guard Deron Williams in a 2011 game. (Mar. 4,...

Nets guard Deron Williams in a 2011 game. (Mar. 4, 2011) Credit: AP

As it turns out, Deron Williams was meant to be the consolation prize.

When the Knicks were on the verge of acquiring Carmelo Anthony, Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor was in touch with Nets GM Billy King and the two discussed trade scenarios. According to King, when he mentioned Williams - almost in jest - O'Connor didn't shoot down the idea. In fact, he made it clear that what the Nets had on the table for Anthony would suffice for Williams.

So as the Knicks were celebrating the exhausting end to their Carmelo chase, the Nets appeared to pull a fast one that stole some of the juice from the Knicks' big acquisition.

According to a person with knowledge of the situation, the Jazz had planned to approach whichever team came away from the Carmelo sweepstakes empty-handed and begin talks about Williams. So if the Knicks had decided to pass on Anthony and the Nets had completed their deal, it's quite possible that the Knicks could have had Williams instead. The Knicks also came away with point guard Chauncey Billups.

The Knicks had plans to target Williams in 2012, when he can opt out of his contract to become a free agent. The Nets will look to sign him to an extension before then - they can begin negotiating in July - to keep him off the market.

No rushing Billups

Billups missed his fourth straight game because of his deep left thigh bruise. It is improving but is not at the point that he can play without pain.

"Until it goes away,'' Mike D'Antoni said, "he won't play . . . It's just going to take a while.''

The Knicks are in the midst of four games in a five-day stretch, with a back-to-back coming up at Memphis (Wednesday) and at Dallas (Thursday) . . . Ronny Turiaf and Bill Walker remain out with the same injury, a sore knee. D'Antoni said both have improved, but they were kept out of the lineup.

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