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New deal means 'rejuvenation' for Deron Williams

Published July 8, 2012 11:24 am

Olympics • After re-signing with Nets for $98M, point guard ready to dig for gold.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Las Vegas •Â At first, it was just an order. A command, barked out to create more space amid the reporters crowding the corner of the basketball court where he was shooting 3-pointers, one after the other.

"Get that boom mic out my face!"

But soon, as he found his rhythm and the shots kept falling, it became a kind of playful trigger phrase for guard Deron Williams, shouted every time he rose to fire off another shot in a shooting contest against teammate James Harden after the first day of practice with the U.S. men's national team, as it prepares for the London Olympics.

"Get that boom mic out my face!"

Swish.

"Get that boom mic out my face!"

Swish.

"Get that boom mic out my face!"

On his last shot, Williams released the ball, jumped and spun around theatrically, so his back was to the basket when the ball snapped through the net.

It was his 10th straight bucket from the corner, and a pretty good indication that if the former Jazz point guard — the man whose departure last year transformed the franchise — had been stressed out about deciding whether to re-sign with the NBA's Brooklyn Nets or join his hometown Dallas Mavericks, he wasn't worried anymore.

"I'm glad it's over," Williams said after taking a chair along the sideline. "Everybody talks about how fun it is, and this and that. But I don't think it's fun."

Not until the checks start coming, anyway.

Two days before reporting to training camp for the London Olympics, the 28-year-old Williams made some of the biggest news of the NBA offseason by agreeing to a five-year contract worth nearly $100 million to stay with the Nets, rather than jump to the Mavericks.

The decision validated the daring trade the Nets made to acquire him last year in the wake of his clash with former Jazz coach Jerry Sloan — sending promising forward Derrick Favors, point guard Devin Harris, two first-round draft picks and cash to the Jazz, without knowing for sure whether they could keep him beyond the end of last season.

Since then, Favors has developed nicely — he's playing here on the "Select Team" that opposes Team USA in practice — Harris has been traded for forward Marvin Williams, and one of the draft picks has turned into center Enes Kanter, with the other yet to be used.

All things considered, Williams believes the deal worked out for everybody.

"Yeah, it did," he said. "I didn't give them any inclination I was going to sign there. I always said I wanted to be a free agent and explore my options. So Kevin [O'Connor] did a smart thing. … He got some assets for me. Got some good players. He's a good GM, and he did a great job."

O'Connor and members of his staff watched the workouts at the new Mendenhall Center practice facility at UNLV, and Williams chatted with them afterward.

"There's no hard feelings, man," he said. "It's a business."

Williams is not allowed to sign his new deal until Wednesday, which also means he won't take part in any full-scale contact drills with the national team until then, but clearly he was relieved to finally have made a difficult choice.

"I just wanted to get it over with, so people could stop talking about it," he said. "I don't like being a topic of discussion. That way, everybody else can worry about their free agency, too. I guess a lot of people had to wait for me to make a move before they could do something, so I wanted to try to get out of the way as soon as possible."

"It was a really tough decision," he added. "But I think it ultimately came down to who I thought had a better chance to win, especially for a long period of time."

Williams said he "flip-flopped" several times in his head, and left a meeting with the Mavs on Monday thinking he would sign with them and make all of his friends and family members happy by coming home with his wife and four children.

But then the Nets traded to acquire fellow All-Star Joe Johnson from the Atlanta Hawks just hours before Williams met with them, and that "got me over the hump," Williams said.

"I've never played with anybody like him," he said, "a guy on the wing that can get his own shot and also get me involved and is a great defender. We could have one of the top backcourts in the NBA, for sure."

The Nets will be moving into the glittering new Barclays Arena next season, and are believed to be pursuing Orlando's Dwight Howard, who also would be with the national team if not for back surgery. The All-Star 7-foot center could really elevate a team that has not made the playoffs since 2007 and endured a 70-loss season just two years ago — though Williams refused to guess whether that will happen.

"I'm just worried about winning a gold medal right now," Williams said.

That's something Williams did four years ago at the Beijing Olympics while still a member of the Jazz, and he figures to play a similar role for the Americans this time.

While veteran Jason Kidd is gone from the Beijing team, Williams and Chris Paul are back, along with new point guard Russell Westbrook. The trio figures to share the playing time, though coach Mike Krzyzewski said he aspires to assemble a team whose players are almost interchangeable, positionally.

"We're trying to put in a system where guys can play multiple spots on the floor," he said.

Either way, the Olympics will be something of a tunnel for Williams, leading from the first chapter of his pro career into the second one — loaded with all of that money, a team with a chance to make some noise and the promise of a future as the face of a rising franchise.

"It's one of the reasons I stayed," he said. "The buzz in Brooklyn is big. The arena is going to be amazing. I think it's going to be an exciting time. I think we're going to have a pretty good team this year so we have a chance to become better. A lot of our guys are a little underrated. … It will kind of be like a rejuvenation for all of us."