When NBA free agency officially begins on July 1, the most coveted player available will be Deron Williams, a 28-year-old three-time All-Star at the league's most demanding position, fresh off averaging 21 points and 8.7 assists per game for a dreadful New Jersey Nets team. The Nets are hoping the combination of a move to Brooklyn, a new lease on life, a giant birthday billboard and the fact that they can offer Williams the most money (right around $20 million per season for five years) will entice him to stick around the Tri-State area.
But there's another suitor for Williams' services — the Dallas Mavericks. And while Mark Cuban's team can't offer D-Will more money than the Nets, the Mavs have something that the Nets don't: a Hall of Famer who's won a title and an MVP. And Dirk Nowitzki wants Deron Williams. Badly.
On NBA free agency:
"I'm anxious. We'd love to get D-Will (Deron Williams) in here. That's no secret. If you look at the league now, if you look at those top teams, they all have two or three playmakers you can hand the ball to and they do their thing."
And Dirk wants Deron to be one of those playmakers for Dallas so badly that he pulled out a pretty hilarious full-court press of a sales pitch:
"[...] We'd love to have him run the show here. We'll see what he decides. I hope we have a good shot. He's from here. His mom lives here. He likes it here. He loves golf, and we have great golf courses. We have a great organization, great fans, and a great owner that makes stuff happen all the time. I really think we have as good a shot as Brooklyn has."
That sound you just heard was the Brooklyn Nets' front office scrambling to put together a detailed portfolio highlighting all the beautiful golf courses in Long Island, in the Hudson Valley and elsewhere within a short drive of the Barclays Center. Step your Shinnecock up, Nets.
Whether Williams' love for duffing will sway him one way or the other remains an open question, but a quick look through this year's NBA Final Four confirms Dirk's analysis — to compete at the highest level in today's league (and, really, in just about every era since the dawn of pro ball), you absolutely need multiple playmakers.
The world champion Miami Heat can consistently create quality offensive looks when running the offense through LeBron James or Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh is a very capable initiator from the elbows in Miami's half-court sets. The Oklahoma City Thunder got to the NBA Finals because nobody out west had three guys who could prevent Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden from taking games over.
The Boston Celtics have become Rajon Rondo's team, but a healthy Paul Pierce is still one of the league's best one-on-one creators and a more gifted facilitator for others than many realize, and as he showed by averaging 19 points and 10 rebounds per game on 50 percent shooting this postseason, Kevin Garnett's still very capable of "doing his thing," as Nowitzki might put it. The fact that both Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili can work capably as primary ball-handlers in the San Antonio Spurs' spread pick-and-roll attack helps continually activate the great Tim Duncan and creates a rising tide that lifts all those seemingly fungible wing shooters; it's what makes Gregg Popovich's squad so all-fire brilliant when everything's clicking.
No one doubts that Dirk can still get his; with no NBA title hangover this summer, a full offseason of workouts, a full training camp and preseason, you can bet that he'll be right back among the league's toughest covers next season. But as we saw in the Mavs' first-round flameout against the Thunder, he just can't do it alone. He needs someone else to be able to score when he doesn't have it going, but more than that, he needs someone to be able to get him easier looks than the ones he has to fight 40-plus minutes a night to get for himself, and someone who can regularly put Dallas' other players in positions to contribute.
It's not just about having more than one guy who can fill it up; if it was, we'd all be lauding the New York Knicks for how beautifully that Amar'e Stoudemire-Carmelo Anthony partnership is working out. It's about being able to extract maximum value from all the other non-stars on the roster. Dirk knows that, and he knows exactly what he needs. It's just a little surprising that — before the official start of free agency on July 1, with Williams technically still under the Nets' flag — he's calling it by its name. Because isn't that technically tampering?
Tampering is when a player or team directly or indirectly entices, induces or persuades anybody (player, general manager, etc.) who is under contract with another team in order to negotiate for their services. The NBA may impose suspensions and/or fines up to $50,000 if tampering is discovered, however the league's practice has been to wait until a team lodges a complaint before investigating (but that's not to say they don't continue to monitor the league and won't take action independently if they discover that tampering has occurred). [...]
• After Will Perdue left San Antonio in the 1999 offseason to sign with Chicago, he commented to the press about the possibility of the Bulls signing Tim Duncan and/or Grant Hill in 2000. The league considered this to be tampering, and issued Perdue a warning.
You may have noticed that when general managers and other team personnel talk to the press, they are careful to avoid talking about specific players who play for other teams. They do this in order to avoid tampering.
Of course, stuff like this gets said all the time, and as Coon notes, the league likely wouldn't open a tampering investigation unless specifically requested to do so by a team, so if Deron winds up in Dallas, the Nets would have to ring up the commissioner's office and cry foul before these or other comments got further scrutinized. (Which would be kind of funny, considering all the static between New Jersey and the Orlando Magic over those alleged secret meetings with Dwight Howard back before the start of last season.)
Still, Dirk's exuberance could open the door to things getting more complicated down the line. So long as that line ends with Williams wearing a Mavs uni, though, my guess is that nobody in Big D would mind too much.
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