Josh Newman, SNYNets.com
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — After practice on Monday, while Deron Williams was meeting with the media, the topic of Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was brought up. The Dallas Mavericks were the Nets’ only real threat to lure Williams away when he was a free-agent last summer. But when the day came for the Mavericks to sit down and discuss their long-term plan with Williams, Cuban was absent.
When asked whether he took offense to the fact that Cuban was absent for such an important meeting, Williams put the situation into perspective and had some very interesting thoughts to share.
Back in 2001, Williams was a consensus top 10 high school player in the class of 2002 and was scouted by some of the nation’s best schools. He narrowed his college choices down to Illinois, Georgia Tech, Tennessee and Maryland.
The Maryland Terrapins were one of the elite programs in the nation at the time and had won that year’s NCAA championship. The university wanted to get Williams on campus for a visit, but Williams was told that head coach Gary Williams would not be there. Williams ended up canceling the visit and eventually signed with the University of Illinois in September, 2001.
Back then, Williams felt that a head coach being absent for an important visit wasn’t an effective recruiting technique and that’s the same way he felt when Mark Cuban—renowned for being one of the most player friendly owners in the league—was absent.
“I think he would have been able to answer some of the questions. A lot of the questions me and my agent had for him really didn’t get answered that day,” said Williams, who recalled that only Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle and general manager Donnie Nelson were present at that July meeting. “I think if he was there, he would’ve been able to answer those questions a little bit better. It maybe would’ve helped me.”
According to Williams, everything pitched to him that day was about the Mavericks’ track record, which is among the best in the NBA. Though admirable, that alone wasn’t enough to sell Williams on jumping ship.
“I can honor that because they do have a very good track record,” he said. “But it’s not enough for me to just switch organizations, especially when [Nets general manager] Billy [King] was updating me daily.”
King also traded for high-scoring six-time All-Star shooting guard Joe Johnson, a recruiting chip he was more than happy to bring to Williams. On July 3, Williams formally agreed to sign a new five-year contract worth about $100 million with the Nets. And in doing so, he agreed to be the face of the move to Brooklyn.
Because the Nets owned Williams “Bird Rights,” they were able to offer him a richer contract than the Mavericks. By rule, the Mavs could only offer Williams a four-year contract worth about $75 million.
Williams’ reminiscing on Monday came six weeks after Cuban—in an interview airing on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM’s ‘Ben & Skin Show’—said that the Mavericks were probably better off without Williams. Cuban contended that if Williams had accepted their maximum contract offer, the Mavericks would have encountered salary cap issues and would have had a more difficult time re-building a championship caliber roster around Dirk Nowitzki.
Now, six weeks later, Williams is playing with a roster many believe to be amongst the best in the Eastern Conference and he appears to have moved on.
“That’s Mark, he does that to a lot of people,” Williams said. “He’s talking about (former Mavericks point guard) Jason Kidd now. It don’t matter to me, I’m not concerning myself with that anymore. I’m a Brooklyn Net, I’m not a Dallas Maverick. I’m worried about what’s going on here, what my team’s doing.”
Williams was referring to the fact that Cuban also had choice words for Jason Kidd after Kidd decided to sign with the Knicks this past offseason. According to Cuban, he and Kidd had a tentative agreement for Kidd to return to the Mavericks, but Kidd recanted. Back in August, Cuban claimed that he wouldn’t retire Jason Kidd’s jersey, despite the fact that Kidd—regarded as one of the best point guards to ever play the game—was an integral component of the Maverick’s 2011 championship team. At the time, Cuban said “I’m sure I’ll get over it at some point, but as of right now, I wouldn’t put J-Kidd’s number in the rafters.”
In time, he’ll probably get over Williams’ defection to Brooklyn, as well.
The Dallas Mavericks will make their lone trip to Brooklyn to play the Nets at Barclays Center on Friday, March 1.
Josh Newman is SNYNets.com’s Field Reporter. Follow him on Twitter for up to the minute news and banter on all things related to the Brooklyn Nets and the NBA.