Nets acquire Williams in trade

Posted Feb. 23, 2011, at 4:35 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 23, 2011, at 9:50 p.m.

SALT LAKE CITY — The New Jersey Nets finally landed a big-name All-Star in a blockbuster trade that gives them point guard Deron Williams and sends rookie Derrick Favors and point guard Devin Harris to the Utah Jazz.

The Jazz also will receive the Nets’ first-round pick in 2011, which could be a lottery pick, cash, and Golden State’s 2012 first-round draft pick.

“I feel Deron Williams is the best point guard in the NBA,” Nets general manager Billy King said in officially announcing the blockbuster deal Wednesday afternoon.

“I spoke with Deron and he’s excited about it. He understands where we are and where we want to go. In this league, you win with point guards. Jason Kidd turned this franchise around when he came and we feel Deron can do the same thing.”

The Nets now hope Williams will sign a contract extension with them, which they can offer this summer. If so, he would become the face of their franchise when they move into their new arena in Brooklyn for the 2012-13 season.

The 6-foot-3 Williams was selected third overall in the first round of the 2005 NBA draft by Utah from Illinois. He is in his sixth NBA season and holds career averages of 17.3 points, 3.2 rebounds and 9.1 assists.

In 439 career games, including 406 starts, he has shot .466 from the field, .358 from 3-point range and .808 from the free throw line. In 44 career postseason games, Williams has averaged 21.1 points, 3.7 rebounds, 9.6 assists and 1.2 steals.

The deal comes two days after the Nets failed to land Carmelo Anthony, who was acquired by the New York Knicks as part of a blockbuster deal with the Denver Nuggets.

King said he doesn’t view the trade as a gamble, even though Williams will become an unrestricted free agent after the 2011-12 season and cannot sign an extension with the Nets until July, after the current collective bargaining agreement expires June 30.

“It’s not a gamble,” King said. “We’re looking at this as someone who will be part of this franchise for a long time. ”

King said the deal was discussed weeks ago with Utah general manager Kevin O’Connor, but was brokered after the Knicks officially acquired Anthony from the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday.

O’Connor called the deal a “win-win” situation for both teams.

“We feel that we’ve addressed a current need at point guard with Deron’s departure, as well as the future with draft picks and a big man,” said O’Connor. “To do so we had to give up an All-Star, but we feel like this is a win for both sides.”

Harris, a former All-Star point guard, and Favors, the No. 3 pick in the draft, were part of the package the Nets were offering the Nuggets all season for Anthony.

The Jazz were a perennial contender with Williams, but his reputation took a hit when Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan retired one day after clashing with him during a game.

Sloan, reached Wednesday morning at his second home in Illinois, was aware of the trade but didn’t want to say much.

“I have no reaction to what the Jazz are doing. We wish him well,” Sloan said of Williams. “We wish the Jazz well. Good luck to Deron.”

New Jazz coach Ty Corbin, 0-3 since replacing Sloan, received the news as he left for a shootaround in Dallas, where the Jazz were facing the Mavericks on Wednesday night.

“My initial reaction is that I’m going to miss Deron. He was a good player for us,” Corbin said. “I’ve been with him his entire time in the NBA as an assistant coach and now as a head coach for a few games, and we’re going to miss him. I wish him well as he moves forward, and we’ll have to work our way through it.”

Williams was expected to be one of the headliners of the 2012 free agent class along with 2008 Olympic teammates Dwight Howard and Chris Paul, and the small-market Jazz could have faced losing him for nothing.

New Jersey has been desperate to make its first score under new owner Mikhail Prokhorov. The Nets talked with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh last summer and when that failed they turned their attention to Anthony. They quickly bounced back from the disappointment of missing out on him with Williams.

The trade was a stunner on the day before the NBA’s trading deadline. Williams was expecting to play with the Mavs when the deal was agreed to.

“Utah traded DWill??” Paul wrote on his Twitter page, adding hashtags with “EpicFail” and “notagoodlook.”

Williams joins the exodus of top West players heading East, following Amare Stoudemire’s move from Phoenix to New York and Anthony’s deal to the Knicks. The Jazz are only a half-game ahead of Memphis for the final playoff spot in the West and will have to try to hold on without their best player.

Nets head coach Avery Johnson was happy about acquiring Williams.

“Very rarely are you able to trade for someone who is arguably the best at his position,” Johnson said. “We had to give up a lot, but when you get a chance to get him, you go for it. It wasn’t a planned trade. This wasn’t a plan B. He’s a plan A guy. We eventually had to do something like this to get a player of this skill level. We felt we needed to get someone who was going to give us a little swagger. He’s someone we will have for the long run. Sometimes, you have to try things to get better.”

Other coaches around the league were surprised.

“My initial reaction is, ‘Wow,’” Cleveland Cavs coach Byron Scott said after his club’s morning shootaround. “That I didn’t see that coming, whatsoever. So that was a little bit of a shocker.”

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AP Basketball Writer Brian Mahoney contributed to this report.

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