Nets general manager Billy King asserted that he is not having a fire sale, which is not the same as saying he won't do business. Amid rumors that big-name players Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez are on the block, King made it clear that he never turns his cell off.
"My job is to work the phones, see what's available, and if things make sense, we make trades. If they don't, you don't do it. We're not shopping or having a fire sale here," he said before the Nets earned an 88-70 victory Friday night at Barclays Center over the 76ers, with whom King made a salary cap-friendly transaction this week.
The deal that sent Andrei Kirilenko, Jorge Gutierrez and second-round draft picks to Philadelphia for power forward Brandon Davies and some financial breathing room was seen as a possible prelude to a bigger trade or trades.
The Nets wouldn't exchange their start (9-12) with that of the 76ers (2-20), but King's team has shown little life or promise so far. So it was only natural to believe changes are coming.
Does that mean the Big Three are being shopped? "I didn't say they were. Some media people said it," King said. "My job is to talk on the phones. People call us, they make offers. You say no. When you do that, it gets out and somebody says, 'Well, they're shopping guys.' That's my job. My job is to listen when they make calls, and make calls back. I'm doing my job as well as asking players and coaches to do their jobs."
King has a history of making bold moves, some of which have left the Nets with a bloated payroll and a roster that regularly has been beaten on the boards and done in by quicker and spryer opponents. Finding takers for Williams, Johnson or Lopez (who was out Friday night with a lower back strain) and their big contracts could be a huge challenge. But anything is possible.
"I talked to the [three] guys," King said. "They're veterans. Brook's name has been mentioned since I've been here. They understand it's the business. It's not the good part of the business, but it's part of the business."
The Nets have been particularly sluggish in second halves of games, a pattern that is just the opposite of the way their previous two seasons went. Both those times, the club made dramatic improvements after New Year's Day and made the playoffs.
"We haven't played like we expected to play, but I don't think it's over. I think last year at this time, we were having the same conversation, and we turned it around," King said. "But I don't want to wait until we get to that point. We need to play better as a group.
"Right now, we're just not playing well. I guess that probably sums it up," he said. "But it's the early part of the season so . . . I don't think we're ready to throw the towel in, or we're discouraged."
In other words, they are not the 76ers, who clearly have not scoured the landscape for talent that will help right now. People around the league have accused management of tanking.
Davies, speaking for his now-former teammates, said, "One thing I can tell you, in the locker room, we were set on winning. We lost some close games against good teams. There wasn't one game that we went into thinking 'we're not going to win, this isn't winnable.' "