As superstar players have taken more control over the teams they join, the free-agent or trade wish list has become one of the NBA's newest trends. It's a rite of passage for any star — if he doesn't have a wish list, he's probably not so great. And if he creates one without having earned it, he's likely to embarrass himself.
The popularity of the wish list also means that it can sometimes mean very little. For instance, Deron Williams currently resides in a bizarre place between staying committed to the Nets for this season and testing the free-agent market this offseason. Given the Nets' struggles, it stands to reason that he'll find a better fit elsewhere. Yet he also doesn't want to be a jerk about it.
Deron Williams' first choice is to stay with the Nets and to build something special in Brooklyn, but if it doesn't work out with his current team, his short list of desirable destinations includes the Mavericks, the Knicks and the Lakers, according to sources close to the situation. [...]
Williams has publicly stated his desire to re-sign with the Nets, and New Jersey, which views him as a building block for next season's move to Brooklyn, has refused to entertain potential trades involving Williams. Yet both sides know their future together is tied to Howard.
If the Nets are able to obtain Howard, either through a trade before the March 15 deadline or in free agency this summer, Williams will re-sign. If Howard goes elsewhere, Williams is likely to leave New Jersey, according to the sources.
Broussard's sources also said that Williams has several seasons of "Frasier" on his Amazon.com Wish List, but that didn't make it into the final story. Don't ask me how I found that out — you don't want to know.
Williams's wish list is both an act of professional courtesy and a bit of covering his own butt. The courtesy comes in telling teams with cap space if it's worth their time to woo him — for now, it appears only a few have that chance.
As noted above, the butt-covering is a little more interesting. In truth, what Williams is doing here isn't terribly different from what we've seen from many more forceful superstars who wanted to change teams. The difference, really, is that he's being kinder to his current team and making it abundantly clear to everyone why he would leave town over the summer. If Howard is the only guy who can keep him with the Nets, then the Nets know what they have to do. If they don't, they can't really complain to anyone but themselves.
Still, Williams is controlling his destiny to the same degree as LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Paul. What he's proving is that it can be done in a way that doesn't alienate anyone. With that method, he's also providing an example for future stars. He's setting the rules of his free agency while keeping everything friendly. It's a business arrangement built on mutual respect.