The time has arrived and the pressure is on.
Set to play in the new $1-billion Barclays Center in the fall and needing to keep the buzz of their move to Brooklyn going, the Nets are about to make moves that will have a huge impact on franchise history. General manager Billy King has been hounded for months with inquiries about the product the Nets are going to put on the floor, and their grand plan centers around one man: Deron Williams.
The All-Star point guard elected not to opt into the final year of his deal, making him a free agent. So once free agency tips off at 12:01 a.m. Sunday, King's first order of business is to find a way to re-sign Williams, something that has been a priority since the Nets acquired him in a surprising February 2011 trade after their failed effort to land Carmelo Anthony before the Knicks got him.
"It is big," said King, whose team has only four players under contract. "I won't downplay it. It's important for Deron. It's important for the franchise. But when the decision is made, I think it'll be a decision that's best for his family, and we'll act accordingly."
Williams, who spent time at the Nets' practice facility in East Rutherford, N.J., this week, has maintained he doesn't want to drag this out. With practice for the U.S. Olympic team set to start in mere days, Williams has said he'd prefer to have a contract in place before he starts preparations for the London Games.
"Mark Cuban will call him," King said. "At the end of the day, he's going to play here or someplace else. I think we've done everything, prepared everything, we've got a great building. So everything is mapped out. He sees what we have, he sees what they have and he's got to make a decision."
King also would like to re-sign swingman Gerald Wallace, given that King surrendered a first-round pick to get him in March. But the focus is squarely on Williams, although King said he has other options if Williams takes his talents elsewhere.
"You go on to the next play," he said. "I'll be prepared. Just like when Carmelo went to the Knicks, I went on to the next play. So we're prepared to go to the next play. I'd like that play to be a positive one, but we're prepared. We have scenarios, contingency plans, so we'll be OK."