Deron Williams, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard have early-termination options as of July 1, 2012. Nothing changes about that if there’s no 2011-12 season. So my apologies to Mikhail Prokhorov for believing a source who told me he was one of the hard-line owners of this fiasco. Prokhorov, having traded Derrick Favors, Devin Harris and two first-round picks for Williams, who may only play 12 games in a Nets uniform, would have to be the dove of all doves. A season-long lockout would cripple his franchise if Williams exercised his opt-out and left.
It’s such a grim and unthinkable prospect that Prokhorov should not only be throwing his weight around among the other owners, he should be listed among the plaintiffs in the antitrust lawsuit the players filed Tuesday in California.
I’ve heard this position a few times, from a few smart folks: Mikhail Prokhorov is praying for a season, because without one, he’ll lose Deron Williams. But that’s not necessarily true.
Firstly, it would cripple the franchise if Williams exercised his opt-out and left no matter what happens with this season. Barring something completely unexpected — good or bad — Deron’s decision isn’t impacted by this season’s results. It’s impacted both by what the Nets can build for 2012 on and what kind of money he stands to make in the new CBA — which assuredly would favor him staying put.
It doesn’t matter if Prokhorov has Deron for 12 games, or 12-plus-whatever-number-comes-from-a-shortened-season games. The only thing that matters is signing him long-term. Playing 25 home games (at best) in front of 10-12,000 fans mildly interested (again, at best) in Newark isn’t going to change that.
I truthfully don’t know if Prokhorov is a hawk or dove — my guess is that he’s a hawk, since getting out of New Jersey and into the next (profitable) stage of Nets history is a priority, and the Nets stand to lose more money by playing a season than sitting one out. But the idea that Prokhorov’s doveishness or hawkishness is predicated on the idea that Deron Williams is getting the hell out without a season seems fishy, since this season isn’t a major factor in his decision.
If the Nets can put together a competitive team for 2012 in Brooklyn, Deron will re-sign. If not, he’s gone. The meaning of the word “competitive” is complex (though not so much if the Nets get… well, you know), but the terms are simple. In the end, that’s what it comes down to.