Utah Jazz GM: Deron Williams deal with Nets was 'our best option'
Laura Seitz, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — As far as Jazz CEO Greg Miller and general manager Kevin O'Connor are concerned, the time was right to trade their best player, all-star point guard Deron Williams.
Williams was traded Wednesday, the day before the NBA trade deadline, to New Jersey for guard Devin Harris, rookie forward Derrick Favors, a pair of draft choices and money.
The trade came days after a report that Williams told associates he wanted to play for New York after his current contract was up and two weeks after Utah coach Jerry Sloan resigned, reportedly in part because of conflicts with Williams.
"Nobody likes to lose a marquee player, but given all of the uncertainty about our ability to get a deal done with Deron Williams' contract beyond the existing one, I felt the deal with the New Jersey Nets was by far our best option," Miller said. "This trade will allow the Utah Jazz to preserve our assets and to control our destiny."
Miller pointed to Cleveland, Phoenix and Toronto as examples of teams that got little if anything when their star players, LeBron James, Amar'e Stoudemire and Chris Bosh, left via free agency.
"What it boiled down for me was my gut sense of whether we'd be able to sign Deron," Miller said. "While I never saw any indication that he wouldn't sign with us, I never saw any indication that he would sign with us."
The Jazz were also influenced by what has transpired this year with Carmelo Anthony, who was traded to New York on Tuesday after rumors about his impending free agency all season while he played for Denver.
O'Connor said there were "three time breaks" that the Jazz had to make a deal for Williams — this coming summer, next season, or now, before the trade deadline.
"I think the issue is, were we willing to take that risk and go through what Denver went through this year," he said. "We just felt we got an offer we pushed for and that we liked."
O'Connor bristled at the suggestion that the trade had anything to do with the apparent dust-up between Sloan and Williams the night of the Chicago game, the night before Sloan resigned.
"We did not make this trade because of what happened two weeks ago," O'Connor said. "Jerry did not leave because of one incident that happened two weeks ago. A lot of people are barking up the wrong tree as far as Jerry's decision. He would not leave on that note."
O'Connor said although he has hundreds of conversations about possible trades, this trade came about rather quickly, after the Nets' attempt to get Anthony fell through. He talked with Nets' GM Billy King, whom he used to work with in Philadelphia, and they worked out a deal.
"When that fell through, we both had the same idea and said 'let's at least explore it and see if there's an option we can get to that might make some sense,' " O'Connor said.
Miller said he called Williams with news Wednesday about 9 a.m. and said, "I wished him luck and he said, 'all right, I appreciate it. The whole thing lasted maybe 30 seconds."
Miller also said he hopes Williams won't be made the bad guy in the whole thing.
"There's no need to make him a villain out of this," he said. "I would like to thank Deron for five and a half seasons with the Jazz. I'd like to wish him well for the balance of his NBA career. I consider Deron a friend, and I have no hard feelings toward him."
With Favors joining Paul Millsap, Andrei Kirilenko on the frontline along with centers Al Jefferson, Kyrklo Fesenko and Francisco Elson, O'Connor was asked if the Jazz were finished with any trade moves before the deadline.
He hesitated for a few seconds before saying, "Um, I would say I wouldn't be doing my job if I said this was the end of the moves. I think the direction we have is to remain competitive and for some of the younger kids to grow and improve within the system. If we can improve our team we will."
O'Connor was excited to have the 19-year-old Favors, who was a No. 3 draft choice last year and called Harris "a good player who gave us fits when he played for Dallas."
"We're excited about these guys we're picking up and feel they have the opportunity to make us great as well as the draft picks we have in 11 and 12," O'Connor said. "I'm very excited about the future of the franchise and I think we're going to be competitive for the next several years until we see how this trade pans out."
He said he wasn't allowed to talk about the draft picks and whether they are "protected," meaning the Jazz can't take them if they are too high. However he did say, "I think I can say that probably with the Nets pick, we're pretty sure we'll get it this year."
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