State of the Nets from GM Billy King

In the equivalent of a State of the Union address, Brooklyn Nets General Manager Billy King gave an assessment of the Nets before theyopened the preseason on Tuesday night against Maccabi Tel Aviv. He spoke on a variety of topics, including whether owner Mikhail Prokhorov is interested in selling the team, trimming the payroll, and the departure of Paul Pierce.

King started off by talking about what he saw from new Head Coach Lionel Hollins’ stewardship of training camp, and he said, “Well, I think the big thing is how hard they played in practice every day, no matter how long the day, they competed. When you give them a day off sometimes, teams will come back and are sharp, they came back and competed hard, so for me, it’s the effort they’ve given every day.”

Paul Pierce, who left the Nets for the Washington Wizards, said early last week that the Nets did not offer him a contract, were cutting costs, and were not interested in being a contender. King said of those comments, “When the negotiations started, we thought we were going to bring him back. They were at a number we weren’t ready to go to, and then they were pretty confident that he was going to get that number, so we moved in different directions. When they came back, we already proceeded in different directions.”

Pierce also said that it was King who informed him that the Nets did not want to be a contender. King said of that, “What he was told and what I said is not the truth. And, but the great thing is I respect Paul, I’m happy that he’s still playing. I’m happy that he played and did well for us last year, but he’s with the Wizards now, and we’re here, so I can’t…Our goal is still to try and win a championship, you know, we’re not taking steps back or anything like that. We’re trying to build a team that we feel can win.”

On the Nets’ trip to China and how it benefits the team in terms of exposure and impacts the preparation for the season, King said, “Now, it’s different than going to China regularly, we’re on a chartered plane, so we’re doing our customs and stuff at our practice facility. I think the way it’s worked out, the trip is tough because you’re changing time zones, but it’s long enough where I think guys will be able to adjust, we have enough time before the season starts so…a lot of our guys nowadays are in great shape, so I’m looking forward to it. I think it will be a great time to be together, we’ll play a couple of games, then we’ll come back. I think it’s evident by the fan base there that the NBA is a big market there and so it’s a good thing that we can go over. We’ve been there, the Nets went over there when I first got the job and now I think it’s good to go back because it is one of our largest fan bases.”

On how the new, more lucrative television contact will affect how he plans for the next few years, King said, “You add these numbers in so you project out where the cap is going to be, and we’ll find out more information at the Board of Governors meetings. If you had cap space planned out, you’ll have a lot more so you may look at things differently in by guys that you want to target. Free agents at that point, you may be able to accommodate more guys, but I think if we have more space, other teams will have more space, so it makes marketing tougher.”

Bojan Bogdanovic was one of King’s biggest acquisitions in the offseason, and King said of what they expect from the Croatian in his first year in Brooklyn, “I think he’s done a great job in camp, as all our guys have. He’s worked extremely hard and he’s fit in well with the group that he’s been playing with. I’m anxious to for him to play, and I think he’s anxious. The one thing he said out there, he said he’s staring at the court because he’s happy to be here.”

There have been reports recently that Nets Principal Owner Mikhail Prokhorov might consider selling the team. King said of that speculation, “We put it to rest, I think it’s been said, he’s not selling.”

On how confident King is in Prokhorov wanting to continue to spend money on the team, he said, “I think we’re spending pretty good right now. Just because it’s less than last year, I mean, last year, the storyline was that it was at record levels. So, now we’re less, we’re still…so I don’t think anything has changed in his mindset. As I said before, we made some decisions, but I think we have some younger guys now that are on rookie contracts, and that helps your payroll because they’re on smaller deals. He hasn’t wavered in pursuit of what he wants.”

I asked if there was concern over geopolitical issues between Russia and the United States and if, at some point, Prokhorov could be informed by Russian President Vladimir Putin that his assets will either be there or here. King said of that, “You should ask the guy that’s in Manhattan today (President Barack Obama) because he knows more about that, the President has a better handle on that than I do. I just am a basketball coach, I did major in Political Science, but that’s way above my pay grade.”

On if he feels the Nets are not getting the respect they deserve heading into this season, King said, “I don’t think you can worry about it. Maybe last year, we got too much respect, the year before, maybe we didn’t, I think you just have to play the games. I remember this time last year, everybody was writing Phoenix off, they were going to be one of the worst teams, battle for the ping pong balls (referring to the lottery), and they came out of the gate playing great. At the end of the day, it’s five guys going against five guys on the court, we just have to play.”

On if King feels that Deron Williams and Brook Lopez have the looks of players with something to prove this year, he said, “What I noticed is they came back with the more of a, you know, where the injuries aren’t affecting you so you can just focus on playing basketball, so I think that’s what they’ve been enjoying, just playing basketball. I think it was frustrating for both of them the last couple of years what they were going through. I think now, to see the joy of both of them back, to me that’s what’s the most important thing, they’re just happy to be back and play and play at the level they want to play at.”

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