Deron Williams suggests Lakers could acquire him only via trade
Deron Williams entered the L.A. Convention Center on Wednesday appearing eager to perform a basketball video game demo.
The Lakers would be equally eager to see Williams across the street next season, walking to Staples Center and performing in a Lakers uniform. And with a little less than a month before he becomes an unrestricted free agent, the New Jersey Nets point guard told The Times he hasn’t “closed any windows” on where he’d play for in the 2011-12 season.
As far as the Lakers are concerned, Williams appeared well aware that the Lakers’ payroll is limited.
“I know they don’t have any money to just go out and sign me,” said Williams, who has a player option for $17.8 million next season with New Jersey. “It’ll have to be some kind of deal.”
Williams spoke Wednesday at the E3 Expo, where he was promoting the video game “NBA Baller Beats,” which features him on the cover and will be released in September. Who knows if Williams’ interaction with people at E3, many presumably who root for the Lakers, would play a part in any courtship. But the Lakers could use any help they can get.
Even though the Lakers bolstered their backcourt by acquiring Ramon Sessions before the March 15 deadline, he averaged only 6.8 points on 35.3% shooting in the team’s Western Conference semifinals loss to Oklahoma City. The Times’ Mike Bresnahan reported Sessions is expected to opt out of his $4.55-million player option in hopes of getting a long-term contract. Meanwhile, Williams’ skill set vastly exceeds Sessions. Williams’ 21 points per game ranked third among the NBA’s guards and his 8.8 assists per game ranked sixth among guards.
“I used to hate them. They pushed us out of the playoffs three years in a row,” Williams said of the Lakers, referring to when they beat Williams’ Utah Jazz each postseason from 2008 through 2010. “We’ll see.”
The Lakers have already committed $78.4 million to only seven players next season. It appears likely they will shop forward Pau Gasol, whom they owe $38.3 million over the next two years -- a contract that appears extra-hefty considering his reduced role and 12.5-point in the 2012 playoffs. But numerous reports have indicated a Gasol-for-Williams swap would be unrealistic.
Meanwhile, the Lakers also officially exercised a $16.1-million option on center Andrew Bynum, though it remains unclear if they would trade him or soon sign him to a long-term deal. And don’t even think about what the Lakers would do with Kobe Bryant. He’s not going anywhere.
The Dallas Mavericks cleared cap space this past season, presumably to give themselves a better chance to secure Williams or even Dwight Howard. But the Lakers don’t have such a luxury. They still have the $8.9-million trade exception stemming from the Lamar Odom trade. They also can sign a player at the mini mid-level exception, worth around $3 million. Would Williams be open to joining any team via sign-and-trade?
“I don’t know,” Williams said with a smile.
Even if he didn’t tip his hand on future options, Williams clearly outlined what variables he’ll weigh next month. He sounded impatient that his seven-year career has amounted to one Western Conference Finals appearance (2007), three shorter playoff runs and three seasons in which his team didn’t make the playoffs. Williams was traded to the New Jersey Nets in the middle of the 2010-11 season after spending his first 5 1/2 seasons with the Jazz.
“I want to go to a place where I feel like they will have a chance to build and build fast,” Williams said. “I’m not really in the mood for being part of a rebuilding process. I’m getting older. I’m about to be 28. I want to win. I want to win now. Also, I want to live in a place where I want to live and my kids will enjoy living. That’s pretty much it.”
The Nets finished 22-44 this season. They traded a first-round pick for forward Gerald Wallace. They missed out on winning the NBA draft lottery. Yet Williams gave the organization a vote of confidence.
“The move to Brooklyn is definitely going to be huge,” he said. “That’s first and foremost. I’m very confident in management there. I like Coach Avery Johnson and I like playing for him. Like I said, the move to Brooklyn could be huge. It’ll be a fun thing to be a part of.”
Yahoo! Sports Adrian Wojnarowski recently quoted a league source who reported that Williams’ willingness to stay with New Jersey hinged on whether the Nets secured Orlando center Dwight Howard, a revelation Williams immediately shot down via Twitter. He did the same thing on Wednesday.
“I didn’t say that. It’s not how I feel,” Williams said. “I don’t think I’m going to base my decision, my family’s decision on somebody else coming to a team or not. I have to make a decision that’s best for me and my family. That’s what I’m going to do.”
What that decision would be, Williams says he doesn’t know yet. The only thing he knew Wednesday was that he was simply in Los Angeles to promote a video game. Laker fans can only hope his next appearance in L.A. involves him holding up a purple and gold uniform.
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