Brooklyn Nets general manager Billy King reached his goal of reducing the payroll and getting younger players in the NBA off-season.
He did not talk of a championship on Tuesday for the first time in several years during his annual media day before training camp.
“We have a chance to make the playoffs,” King said. “We’re going to build and develop our young guys. The goal in the off-season was to get under the [luxury] tax line [of US$84.7 million] and we did that. We wanted to reduce payroll, get under the luxury tax and get more athletic and younger.”
It is a far different message than when Russian owner Mikhail Prokhorov bought a majority share of the team in 2010 and proclaimed the Nets would win a championship within five years or Prokhorov, one of Russia’s most eligible billionaire bachelors, would get married.
Well, Prokhorov is still single.
“We didn’t win the championship with the team we had,” King said. “That was the goal. We didn’t do that. When we traded to get Paul [Pierce], Joe [Johnson] and KG [Kevin Garnett], we thought we had a two-year window to win a championship. I don’t know why it didn’t work. I honestly don’t. We went as far as we could with those guys.”
Three of the Nets’ veterans ended up with different teams: Pierce (Los Angeles Clippers), Garnett (Minnesota) and former All-Star point guard Deron Williams (Dallas). To rid the team of Williams’ lofty salary, he was released in June and signed with his hometown Mavericks, ending a tumultuous, three-year tenure with the Nets, both in New Jersey and Brooklyn.
“We explored the possibility of trading Deron,” King said. “No question, this was the last option.”
King denied that he actively tried to trade the Nets other high-priced former All-Star, Joe Johnson, who slumped in 2014-2015.
He averaged just 14.4 points, his lowest scoring average in more than 10 years.
“People did call about Joe and I did listen, but it wasn’t like we were shopping Joe Johnson or that he was close to going,” he said. “We were able to get younger and keep Joe, getting pieces to help Joe.”
Johnson is 34 years old and will turn 35 next June. He will make US$24.5 million this season.
King said the Nets will build around center Brook Lopez, who averaged 17.4 points and 7.2 rebounds last season. Lopez had a chance to explore the free-agent market, but instead re-signed with the Nets, as did forward Thaddeus Young (13.8 points in 28 games with Brooklyn after the trade with the Timberwolves for Garnett).
Jarrett Jack (12.8 points per game, 4.7 assists per game) will inherit the starting point guard position with the departure of Williams. Croatian shooting guard Bojan Bogdanovic (9 points per game as a rookie) also returns and former top NBA draft pick Andrea Bargnani of Italy was added to the roster.
The Nets finished 38-44 last year and reached the Eastern Conference playoffs as the No. 8 seed, losing to the Atlanta Hawks in the opening round.
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