- Last Updated: 12:12 PM, July 14, 2012
- Posted: 1:51 AM, July 14, 2012
Two weeks ago, the Nets prepared to enter free agency wondering if they would be able to hang onto superstar point guard Deron Williams.
But after convincing Williams to re-sign with the team and acquiring six-time All-Star Joe Johnson in a trade with the Hawks, the Nets unveiled their brand-new backcourt yesterday at Brooklyn’s Borough Hall.
“This is a great day because we’re able to put together what I call the best backcourt in the NBA right now,” Nets general manager Billy King said. “It’s a backcourt that can defend anybody in the league, can score on anybody in the league and can lead us.
“I’m pleased for them. I’m pleased for the organization. ... I think it’s a new beginning.”
It’s certainly a new look for the Nets, who after spending the final two years of their tenure in New Jersey piecing together a roster, now have two bona fide stars to put on the marquee when the team opens play at the brand-new Barclays Center this fall.
Johnson is known for his quiet, laid-back demeanor, but didn’t miss a chance to take a shot at the Knicks when he was asked who is the city’s best team.
“The Nets,” he said. “Definitely the Nets.”
As for Williams, who entered the month as the only true franchise free agent on the market, he said a large part in his decision stemmed from what King and his front office team did in the opening days of free agency, when the Nets acquired Johnson, Gerald Wallace, Reggie Evans and Mirza Teletovic all before Williams agreed to return.
“I was happy with how aggressive and active they were in free agency,” Williams said. “Going and getting Joe, I’ve never played with a player of his caliber on the wing, where he can get his own shot and also create for others.
“I’m going to take pressure off him, and it’s going to be fun to play with him.”
After making a name for himself in Phoenix playing alongside Steve Nash and under former Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni, Johnson has spent the past several seasons being the go-to player for the Hawks, and developing into one of the league’s elite perimeter scorers.
But after carrying the offensive burden for Atlanta during that stretch, he’s happy to get a chance to once again play alongside one of the league’s elite floor generals in Williams.
“We’re definitely going to take a lot of pressure off each other,” Johnson said. “To get a chance to play with a great point guard, a playmaker, a guy who can create for not only himself but his teammates. ... It’s going to be fun.
“I probably haven’t had this much excitement since probably back in my Phoenix days.”
Johnson wasn’t the only one to go after the Nets’ cross-city rivals, though, as boisterous Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz took Johnson’s lead and ran while speaking to a raucous crowd of about 2,000 fans in front of the Borough Hall steps as part of a celebration for the two guards.
“Now that the Barclays Center is in town, the national basketball spotlight is focused on Brooklyn’s big stage, and Madison Square Garden just doesn’t have that same sparkle anymore,” Markowitz bellowed, much to the delight of the crowd.
“For any Brooklynites still rooting for the Manhattan Knicks, as of November I’m giving you fair warning ... it’s treason to support the outer borough’s team over our Brooklyn Nets. Besides, when it comes down to it, we all know the Brooklyn Nets will shut down the Manhattan Knicks when they play for the first time.”