Deron Williams and the end of all that

As reported by every outlet, but none more important than the source’s Twitter account, Deron Williams has agreed to a maximum, five-year contract with the Brooklyn Nets worth roughly $98 million. Williams announced his decision in staunchly Williams-like fashion, eschewing his anathema of anonymous sources and posting a picture of the Brooklyn Nets logo from his personal Twitter account.

I’m glad, for the obvious reason that the team I’ve grown up with and love will kick off its new era in proper role-reversal fashion, leaving the franchise New Jersey deserved behind and, barring injury or shocking circumstance, build an immediate winner after three consecutive seasons of abject failure and 35 of ambivalence. Deron Williams is the core of that fantasy-turned-reality, joining three legitimate starting-quality players in a lineup that’s primed for playoff contention. Without Williams, the team would have been left reeling, forced to scramble for contingency plans and patchwork fix jobs.

But as much as I’m glad for that, I’m glad for the same reason Kevin Arnovitz was, whose post-Finals article served as a title inspiration; I’m glad that the Brooklyn Nets can finally be about basketball, and no longer the rumor mill, speculation, and sources that have made the team dominant in headlines over standings for the past three years. While some may still churn away, scraping the bottom of the barrel for a Dwight Howard story or two, I’m glad that Brooklyn will get a basketball team its fans will undoubtedly deserve, a team it can unironically, unabashedly root for and feel proud of immediately. I’m glad that Billy King’s enormous gamble paid off, and we can finally stop talking about Billy King’s enormous gamble. While extraneous parts of the story will always play a part, the core function of a basketball team — to play basketball — will become, and hopefully, remain the forefront.

Deron Williams, who will complete a starting lineup of Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, presumably Mirza Teletovic, and presumably Brook Lopez, a potentially devastating offensive tandem predicated on the careful balance of distributing the scoring load effectively. With Lopez manning the block and setting on- and off-ball screens, Johnson and Williams sharing the creative duties, Wallace looking to sneak open shots from the wings and the rim, and Teletovic spacing the floor, the Nets have the potential to be an explosive offensive team in the half-court, making up for what they lack in athleticism with deft scoring touches from four positions and a swing wing in Wallace that can put up Shawn Marionesque points-without-touches.

In a lineup with this much offensive firepower, we should grow accustomed to seeing a never-before-seen Deron Williams in Brooklyn: one that can create team opportunities both for himself and other offensive-minded players. Obviously, Williams will be the primary ballhandler and play-caller, reading the offense and firing passes with surgical precision. With Johnson and MarShon Brooks as his primary flanks, I’d also expect Williams off the ball a fair amount, curling off pin-down screens and perhaps setting some of his own. Due to his newfound toys, his efficiency should skyrocket compared to his pedestrian 67 games in New Jersey, and will likely fall somewhere similar to his days with the Utah Jazz. Much of Williams’s success will depend on coach Avery Johnson, who’s now facing his biggest challenge in his Nets tenure, spearheading a team with expectations and getting results, but Williams also has the skill to succeed in any system where he can efficiently split the scoring and creating duties with talented teammates.

The Nets do have two major problems that Deron Williams can’t fix, their general issues on the defensive end and their rebound-allergic front court, but those are hardly the first and second requirements of a floor general. What Williams’s five-year commitment represents is something far greater; an exciting team to kick off professional basketball in Brooklyn, a justification of Billy King’s wheeling and dealing, and perhaps most importantly, an opportunity to talk about Nets basketball again. After years of watching, waiting, hoping for something, anything substantial to make its way through that rumor mill, the Nets finally have a commitment from their star, and Brooklyn has a star — and a team — worth rooting for.