New-look Nets could be dealing Joe Johnson
Brook Lopez, Thaddeus Young, Thomas Robinson and Shane Larkin emerged from a lengthy climb after ascending the stairs from the Barclays Center subway station following a short train ride.
With the NBA moratorium over and players officially able to sign their free-agent contracts with the Nets on Thursday, they enjoyed the special photographic moment.
Drawing applause from onlookers, they symbolically headed inside the arena -- a place some inquiring minds wonder if Joe Johnson will call home again next season.
"At this point, yes," general manager Billy King said Thursday. "Joe called me last Friday and we talked, and I said, 'Joe, you know me. I'll call you when I think something's going on. A lot of these people look at you and you're still a very good player, you have an expiring contract so people will call, and we'll entertain it.' And Joe said, 'I understand it's a business.' "
The Nets still are retooling their roster, adding shooting guard Wayne Ellington on Thursday. Forward Willie Reed agreed to a one-year deal and the Nets rescinded their one-year, $4.2-million qualifying offer to Mirza Teletovic, making him a restricted free agent. He reportedly signed a one-year, $5.5-million deal with the Suns.
Whether Ellington and Reed have Johnson as a teammate next season remains to be seen, especially given how frequently his name has surfaced in trade rumors this offseason.
He was linked to the Grizzlies, then the Cavaliers, but Memphis and Cleveland initiated the talks. They didn't go very far with either team, according to league sources.
"Did anybody make any formal offers? No," King said. "But it ends up being out there that there are serious discussions and I think people are still saying I'm talking to Cleveland. I haven't talked to Cleveland in four, five days."
King said he had one conversation with Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace. "There was never an official offer, but there was discussions with Memphis,'' he said. "But I think that's what you have to do."
"I'll call somebody and ask would you move this guy and they'll say no. It's not really a discussion. You probe. I do expect these guys to be on the roster next year. Will they be there all year? I don't know. Will all these guys be here next year? I don't know. But the goal is to try to get together, mold it, and if we've got to make moves, we'll make moves."
There also is a question about whether Deron Williams will be a Net in 2015-16. Having point guards Williams, Larkin, Jarrett Jack and Steve Blake makes for a crowded backcourt, but King said juggling them all could work.
"If you saw the Finals, I don't think there was any natural position that people played," King said. "You saw throughout the playoffs, people were putting their best players on the floor. And that's where we have to be in the position to do that. If it's putting three guards out there, two point guards out there, it's basketball.
"Last year we didn't have the ability to match up with a lot of teams when they went smaller and now we have that ability."
Adding Ellington became a priority when Alan Anderson agreed to a one-year, $4-million deal with the Wizards on Tuesday. Besides Johnson, no one on the Nets' roster scares the opposition from the perimeter.
A career 38.2 percent shooter on three-pointers, Ellington played under Nets coach Lionel Hollins for 40 games in Memphis in 2012-13 and nailed 42.3 percent from beyond the arc, so the familiarity is there. Ellington, 27, had the Nets intrigued and fits into their plan of getting younger.
"Well, obviously the youth part is a big part of it, but also the ability to shoot the basketball," King said. "When Alan left, that's something we focused on because Alan was one of our better three-point shooters. So we wanted to go find someone, and the fact that he had played for Lionel in Memphis was also a big plus because he has a comfort level with him."