Ever since the Nets landed Deron Williams in that stunning February 2011 trade, the point guard's future has been a constant topic of discussion, given his expected opt-out out of the final year of his contract.
Everyone wants to know whether Williams is going to be the Nets' centerpiece when the franchise starts playing at the $1-billion Barclays Center in Brooklyn come fall. It's the proverbial 800-pound gorilla in the room, a query that likely won't stop until sometime after free agency begins July 1 -- but before the U.S. Olympic men's basketball team begins training for the 2012 London Games.
"Hopefully, the gorilla has lost weight," coach Avery Johnson cracked Friday at the team's practice facility in East Rutherford, N.J., after the Nets cleaned out their lockers. "Hopefully, it's not 800 pounds anymore. Hopefully, he's down to 200 pounds. But it's something that we've had to talk about and I think everybody has been consistent.
"We want to win a championship and we want him to lead us to a championship. He's been through a lot since he's been here, starting with just being surprised that he was even traded to New Jersey. But he's been settling in pretty nicely. We feel we have strong relationships with him across the board and hopefully, that will mean something when it's time to sign on the dotted line."
That time, according to Williams, will definitely come before late July, when the Olympics start. He doesn't plan on drawing this out for one reason in particular.
"Because," he said, "I don't want to play in the Olympics without a contract."
Williams, who was nagged by injuries this season, hinted he's really considering re-signing with the Nets and even visited the new arena site with general manager Billy King on Tuesday. He played coy when asked about the Mavericks' reported interest to bring the Dallas product home. "I don't know why everybody just throws Dallas out there like they've heard something from me," he said. "I don't know."
But he wasn't so nonchalant about pondering the possibilities next season in Brooklyn, and conceded to an allure that comes along with starting something different -- provided the team assembles the right pieces -- is intriguing.
"Yeah, definitely, it would be great to be a part of that first game, that first team there," Williams said, "kind of start our own legacy in Brooklyn. So that's definitely enticing. That's definitely something I think about on a regular basis."
Notes & quotes: Gerald Wallace, who has a player option for $9.5 million next season, hinted he plans to opt out and test the free agent market because he wants to get a new four- or -five deal. But he also said playing it Brooklyn appeals to him. “It does,” Wallace said. “I was a part of Charlotte [Bobcats] when they first got started. Just the buzz and the atmosphere from the community around that was amazing. Brooklyn has never had a team. I can just imagine how excited and all of the buzz that's going to be around that situation." ... Brook Lopez, who’ll be a restricted free agent, said his preference is to remain with the Nets. “This is really the place I want to be,” he said. “I was drafted here ... I love being a Net. It's the only thing I know. I like everyone in the organization. I have good friends here. I've enjoyed my time in this area, and would have no objections at all to continuing to be here.” ... Kris Humphries (unrestricted) said he would like to come back, but both sides might also explore other options.