Sasha Vujacic has had his last meaningful fist bump with the great Kobe Bryant unless the two re-unite in free agency. Unfortunately for Masha’s man, the versatile guard was shipped to the Nets in a complicated three team trade this evening in which the Nets were able to dump the chronically late Terrence Williams on Houston in exchange for Joe Smith, with 2 first rounders coming back to New Jersey.
Under the deal, the Nets acquire a 2011 pick from the Lakers and a 2012 pick from the Rockets and Williams goes to Houston. The Nets also send veteran Joe Smith to the Lakers, who give up Vujacic and his expiring contract. There could be other parts to the deal, including an exchange of cash.
Although the deal has been agreed upon by all parties, it cannot be announced until Wednesday, when Smith becomes trade-eligible. Free agents acquired over the summer cannot be traded until Wednesday. Williams confirmed his departure in a tweet Tuesday night: “To all my Jersey fans and people, it’s been real. I love y’all and thanks. To Houston, what up. Go Rockets.”
While also getting valuable rebuilding pieces, the Nets are ridding themselves of a player who clashed with coach Avery Johnson and appeared stifled under the team’s system.
The 11th overall pick in the 2009 draft, who was touted as a premier talent by then-Nets GM Rod Thorn, Williams was deactivated before Tuesday night’s game against the 76ers. He was not at the arena. The last time that happened, Williams had been repeatedly late to team gatherings, including games and practices.
Williams, who shows tremendous promise from a standpoint of talent, was recently demoted to the d-league for his inability to conform to team rules. Former Knick and current Celtic fireplug Nate Robinson, a close friend of Williams, had blasted the Nets in the press for their failure to make sure that Williams had the support he needed to make meetings and practices, and implied that Nets’ new coach Avery Johnson, is not much of a people person. The little big man wouldn’t be the first to put that knock on Johnson, who has always been inflexible, to a fault.
Though the move seems to bode well for the Nets’ chances at acquiring Melo, chiefly because the oh so cheap Nuggets are intent on scoring a bushel of 1st rounders for their disgruntled star, it in no way means that Anthony would be happy in Newark for the next 2 seasons playing Johnson’s version of down tempo basketball, while hearing his annoying scratchy bark all the time. It also doesn’t mean that Nets’ owner Mikhail Prokhorov is willing to ante up the big dollars for Melo. Last week, Dallas owner Mark Cuban suggeted that Prokhorov was cheap and lacked the balls to make big acquisitions, even calling the Nets’ billionaire owner a “pussy.”
Vujacic’s nearly $5M salary slot will opne up for the Nets at season’s end, meaning the Nets will have additional money to lavish on questionable talent like the Troy Murphy’s of the world. But even though the Nets seemed poised to deal for Melo and seem best matched to meet Denver’s demands, Anthony must be unimpressed with NJ’s set up and lack of talent, and the fact that they are 2 years away from Brooklyn bodes poorly. In fact, we can not see Anthony signing any extension this year, despite the uncertainty over the next labor agreement.
It’s possible that Anthony, under a new agreement, may max out well below the 3 yrs/$65M that is on the table. Still, with all the pomp and ceremony surrounding the top free agents last summer, and with Anthony being, far and away, the top free agent prize this sumer, one would think that he would cherish the opportunity to be wooed and coveted the way Bosh, Wade, and James were. Though commissioner Stern drives a hard bargain, let’s face it: the league is not exactly in the poor house. Anthony would rate the absolute max under whatever agreement the league and players come to, and something about playing with Dwight Howard in Orlando, or Amar’e Stoudemire for that matter, in his home town where his wife has lobbied for him to land, has got to appeal to Anthony, especially considering the Knicks’ resurgence and their surprising success this season.
And if the Nets can land 2 #1’s for old man Joe Smith and late man Williams, Donnie Walsh should be in good shape when he does the inevitable and officially places Anthony Randolph on the block. Right now, word out of Denver is that the Nuggets feel the Knicks don’t have the picks to offer in a deal that they’d be looking for, but it’s only December, and this thing isn’t going to play ou for a couple of months yet. We’re also hearing the Nuggets are smitten with Knicks’ rookie Landry Fields, who has shocked us with his cool play and machine like rebounding at the two guard position.