EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Sitting on a makeshift stage with his new coach and general manager, Deron Williams said Thursday that he was blindsided by the news that he had been traded to the New Jersey Nets.
"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous that the team was 17-40," Williams said at his introductory news conference at the Nets' practice facility, adding that his new team's dismal record was the first thing that went through his mind when he heard about the trade.
The former Utah Jazz point guard said he found out he was going to the Nets on Wednesday while watching ESPN's SportsCenter. He said his initial uneasiness subsided after a phone conversation with general manager Billy King, who gave him a blueprint for how the Nets plan to build a team around him that eventually can win a NBA title.
In exchange for the two-time All-Star, the Nets sent guard Devin Harris, forward Derrick Favors, two first-round draft picks and cash to Utah. Considering that Williams can become a free agent after next season if he opts out of the final year of the $70-million contract he signed in July 2008, many think the Nets paid a hefty price to rent a player for a year and a half. Williams said he will not sign a contract extension this summer and gave no guarantees about what he will do after that.
"I want to see what happens as next season unfolds," he said. "I can't really give any assurances or say that I'll be here when I don't know what the future holds."
The Nets are gambling that Williams will be impressed enough with their organization and the arena they are building in Brooklyn that he'll decide to stay and become the cornerstone of their team along with center Brook Lopez.
"This is a first-class organization," coach Avery Johnson said. "We stay in the best hotels and have an owner who is committed to the very best and to doing everything in the right way."
King said he talked to Kevin O'Connor, the vice president of basketball operations for the Jazz, the day after missing out on Anthony. By the next morning, the teams had agreed to terms. The Nets hope to build a team around Williams just as they did around Jason Kidd after trading for him in 2001. Williams is averaging 21.3 points and 9.7 assists this season.
In Utah, Williams clashed with coach Jerry Sloan, and was thought to have played a role in Sloan's recent retirement announcement. Williams said Thursday that he respects Sloan but admitted they had their differences.
King called the trade a defining moment for the organization. "You have moments where you think this is the right thing. This is one of those moments," he said. "We think Deron is a special player and that he's going to want to stay."