Exactly three years ago to the day Saturday, the Nets celebrated Deron Williams' return, trumpeting the special occasion with a picture of him signing his contract on an iPad.
Now they've officially shown him something else: the door.
Williams was waived by the Nets yesterday, putting the finishing touches on a 41/2-year stint marred by injuries and many disappointing moments. The point guard is expected to clear waivers Monday night, paving the way for him to join his hometown Mavericks.
"I wouldn't say Deron wanted to go. It was just time," general manager Billy King told reporters in Las Vegas before a summer league game against the Cavaliers. "I think we both made it work, tried to make it work. We had some great moments with him. I remember the 57 points in Charlotte, the nine threes in the first half, the first round of the playoffs against Chicago.''
"I think the injuries and things took away from what he was able to do. I don't think it was he had to go. I think it was where we are as an organization. We're not in the same place as we were before, so it was a chance to reshuffle the deck."
Williams, 31, is scheduled to receive $27.5 million of the $43 million he was owed, according to sources, and the Nets intend to use the stretch provision to spread his salary-cap number of $5.5 million through 2020. He had two years left on the five-year, $98-million max contract he signed in 2012.
King said the Nets would not have done the buyout if it didn't help get them under the $84.7-million luxury-tax apron. He broached the idea with Williams' agent, Jeff Schwartz, before the talks picked up steam and owner Mikhail Prokhorov signed off on the idea.
"You know, there's always decisions that are made that are difficult, but that's this business," coach Lionel Hollins told reporters in Las Vegas. "Deron hadn't achieved what everybody expected him to achieve in Brooklyn. And would he have? I don't know. But without the whole cloud that was around him -- fans, media, all those expectations that he hadn't achieved -- is going to probably take a load off his shoulders and allow him to go and be free and play. So maybe he'll play better in Dallas. And if he does, I wish him well."
Hollins insisted his relationship with Williams had nothing to do with the split. He had Williams come off the bench for 13 games before he was reinserted into the starting lineup after the All-Star break in February.
"I've had clashes with multiple players over the years, as has every coach in the NBA," Hollins said. "You do not coach in the NBA and not have confrontation. If you don't have confrontation, then you're not coaching. You're trying to impose your will on players to do what is best for the team. A lot of times, players have their own mindset of what's best for them. Clash is the wrong word.
"If people think Deron Williams was let go because of something that happened between us, then I should have let Zach Randolph go. I should have let Tony Allen go. I should have let Marc Gasol go. I should have let Rudy Gay go, I should have let Mike Bibby go and Big Country [Bryant Reeves] when I coached in Vancouver. I hold no grudges."
Williams' departure apparently signals that Joe Johnson is staying around for a while.
"Joe's not going anywhere," King said. "Joe will be here."
With Al Iannazzone