EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Sitting on a makeshift stage with his new coach and general manager, Deron Williams said Thursday that he had been blindsided by the news that he had been traded to the Nets.
"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous that the team was 17-40," Williams said at his introductory news conference at the Nets' practice facility, adding that the Nets' dismal record was the first thing that went through his mind when he heard about the trade.
The former Utah Jazz point guard said he found out he was going to the Nets on Wednesday while watching ESPN's SportsCenter. He said his initial uneasiness subsided after a phone conversation with general manager Billy King, who gave him a blueprint for how the Nets planned to use him to build a team around him that could eventually win a NBA title.
In exchange for the two-time All Star, the Nets sent guard Devin Harris, forward Derrick Favors, two first-round draft picks and cash to Utah. Considering that Williams can become a free agent after next season if he opts out of a final year of the $70 million contract he signed in July of 2008, many think that the Nets paid a hefty price to rent a player for a year and a half. Williams said he would not sign a contract extension this summer, and gave no guarantees about what he would do after that.
"I want to see what happens as next season unfolds," Williams said Thursday at his introductory news conference at the Nets' training facility in East Rutherford, New Jersey. "I can't really give any assurances or say that I'll be here, when I don't know what the future holds."
The Nets are gambling that Williams will be impressed enough with their organization and the state-of-the-art arena they are building in Brooklyn that will convince him to stay and become the cornerstone of their team along with center Brook Lopez.
"This is a first-class organization," coach Avery Johnson said. "We stay in the best hotels, and have an owner who is committed to the very best and to doing everything in the right way."
Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, who had been an active participant in the team's unsuccessful bid to deal for Carmelo Anthony, was helicopter skiing in Western Canada on Thursday and did not attend the news conference.
Nets general manager Billy King said he talked to Kevin O'Connor, the vice president of basketball operations for the Jazz, the day after missing out on Anthony. Discussions for Williams began then and by the following morning the teams had agreed to terms.
The Nets are hoping to build a team around Williams just like they did around point guard Jason Kidd after trading for him in 2001. Williams is averaging 21.3 points and 9.7 assists this season, ranking him third behind the Celtics' Rajon Rondo and the Suns' Steve Nash.
In Utah, Williams clashed with long-time coach Jerry Sloan, and was thought to have played a role in Sloan's recent retirement announcement. Williams said Thursday that he respected Sloan, but admitted they had had their differences.
King said he did not feel pressure to make a bold move as the Nets try to develop a new fan base as the team prepares to move to Brooklyn. He did, however, call the trade a defining moment for the organization.
Said King: "You have moments where you think this is the right thing. This is one of those moments. We think Deron is a special player and that he's going to want to stay."