The Nets are again idle in the postseason. But there are growing indications that they are actively pursuing plans to turn Deron Williams from an expensive rental into a franchise cornerstone before their move to Brooklyn.
On Thursday, Williams toured the construction site of their future home with Billy King, the team's general manager. Williams' interest in the Barclays Center site is significant. He can become a free agent after next season; the arena is scheduled to open for the 2012-13 season.
"He is certainly enjoying his time with the organization," Bob McClaren, Williams' agent, said in a telephone interview. "They've been tremendous to him and they have a great plan for the future, and Deron feels like the best is yet to come for the franchise."
"His hope is everything will work out to everyone's benefit and a great product will be put out to the fans," McClaren said.
Williams is not eligible to sign a contract extension with the Nets until July 17 — three years after his signing of a four-year, $70 million contract with the Jazz, which has a player option in the final year.
The Nets struck fast in landing Williams, one of the NBA's most dynamic point guards, in February after diverting their focus from a failed attempt to land Carmelo Anthony.
Anthony landed with the Knicks, and the Nets, in a sense, could foil them by retaining Williams. The Knicks almost certainly will try to attract a top point guard like Williams or New Orleans' Chris Paul should they test next summer's free-agent market after Chauncey Billups' expiring deal is off the ledger.
After the visit, a picture of Williams and King clad in construction hats appeared on Williams' Facebook page with the message, "This place will be a ballers' paradise."
He said on the team's website: "You hear about how it's going to look and how it's going to be finished. But it's good to come and see how the progress is. You can kind of start picturing it, what it's going to be like, see the layout of things. And it's good to see the area — I hadn't been to this area yet. It's different. This is in the heart of the city. It's kind of like the Garden. It's the same feel. It's special."
A wrist injury limited Williams to only 12 games with the Nets after his trade from Utah. Last month, Williams underwent surgery on his right wrist to have three small bone fragments and scar tissue removed.
In that cameo, Williams averaged 15 points and 12.8 assists.
The Nets gave up a great deal in the trade — Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, two first-round draft picks and cash considerations — with no assurances of keeping Williams. But Williams has issued only positive comments about the organization.
Both sides will know more about the economic structures of an extension once a new labor agreement is in place after the current model expires this summer.
"The way I look at it, I see it all the time, we're on the same page, and we're planning a future," King said.
McClaren said another possibility — one of many — would have Williams not opt out of his contract early and play his first season in Brooklyn under what would become an expiring deal. With Williams on board and a move on the horizon, the Nets could well become a landing spot for top-tier free agents.
Orlando's Dwight Howard can become a free agent next summer, and Howard and the Magic currently cannot even agree if an extension has already been offered. When Atlanta eliminated the Magic, Matt Mitnick, Williams' longtime associate, discussed on Twitter the possibility of pairing Howard and Williams. He stressed that he posted only on his own behalf.
The Nets last qualified for the playoffs in 2007 and bottomed out with 12 wins in the 2009-10 season. Mikhail Prokhorov assumed ownership of the franchise in 2010 and brought in King and coach Avery Johnson. The Nets won 24 games this season.24 comments on this story
"He relishes the opportunity to help market the team to the fans and to, hopefully, free agents," McClaren said of Williams. "There is always great hope and opportunity for success when you've got a guy that can distribute the ball and make other players better. That's what Deron Williams does so well.
"That will make the Nets organization very attractive to free agents, and that style of play will be attractive to the fans. The possibility is there to do something really special."
Williams is already the centerpiece of the Nets' move to Brooklyn and is featured, with his blessing, on a Times Square billboard with the slogan Bound for Brooklyn.
"He's told me several times how excited he is and how they're trying to reach this whole new market and trying to retain some of the past," McClaren said. "I know Deron is hopeful all this can work out like everyone is hoping and planning. I think he wants to be a part of it."