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Nets dangle Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson as trade bait

Brook Lopez celebrates a fourth-quarter basket against the

Brook Lopez celebrates a fourth-quarter basket against the Boston Celtics with teammates Deron Williams and Joe Johnson during a game at Barclays Center. (Nov. 15, 2012) Credit: Jim McIsaac

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Things haven't started off as well as the Nets would like and that could mean it's time to think about moving some of their big pieces.

As in Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez.

Spurred by a disappointing start, the Nets (8-11) have initiated exploratory trade talks with teams to let them know Williams, Lopez and Johnson are available in separate trades, according to reports. Nothing appears imminent for them, although that might not be the case in regard to Andrei Kirilenko.

Yahoo! reported the Nets are working to complete a trade to ship Kirilenko to the 76ers in what essentially would be a salary dump. According to the report, the Nets also would include a second-round pick in the proposed deal.

If acquired, Philadelphia would waive Kirilenko, making him a free agent and allowing him to sign with another team or head to Europe to play and perhaps finish off his career.

Either way, the Nets will be shorthanded again Wednesday when they take on the Bulls (12-8). Johnson is battling the flu and didn't travel with the team to Chicago and Lopez remains out with a strained lower back. Mirza Teletovic, who suffered a right hip pointer and needed four stitches to close a face laceration, is listed as questionable.

Recently, Billy King was noncommittal when asked if the Nets can win with their Big Three of Williams, Johnson and Lopez. The general manager only offered a "we'll see." Williams and Lopez each has battled an assortment of ailments since the team's move to Brooklyn in 2012, but Williams finally is healthy this season courtesy of having offseason surgery on both ankles, averaging 17.1 points and 6.5 assists.

Lopez, on the other hand, already has missed three of the Nets' 19 games and isn't expected to return until next week at the earliest, putting him on track to sit out the team's next three contests. After beginning the season sluggishly with uneven performances, and being challenged by Nets coach Lionel Hollins to be a better rebounder and more of a defensive force, it seemed he was just rounding into form, averaging 19.7 points, 10.3 points and 1.7 blocks in his last three games.

Lopez, who's had multiple foot surgeries dating to the lockout-shortened season in 2011-12, is in the third year of a four-year, $60-million contract.

Should they be able to shed Kirilenko's $3.3-million salary, the Nets reportedly would save about $12 million in luxury taxes.

Kirilenko hasn't spent much time with the team since falling out of Lionel Hollins' rotation early last month, participating in just a couple of practices. He's logged only 36 total minutes in the seven games he's played. That signals a dramatic drop-off for a player whose celebrated signing with the Nets on a two-year, $6.6 million deal had some around the league crying foul because he opted out of the final year of his deal with the Timberwolves that would have paid him $10 million.

Now, his days with the Nets continue to be numbered.

New York Sports