NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Brooklyn Nets general manager Billy King is optimistic about a revamped roster that will debut in the new Barclays Center.
Two months after having only four players under contract when the free agency period began, King believes he’s assembled a team that can compete in the Eastern Conference.
“It was a long road to get to where we are,” King said at a press conference Tuesday at the team training center. “There were a lot of calls, trades, decisions. Every player we added was added for a reason. I think we have talent. I think we have a good team, a potential playoff team.”
The Nets were 22-44 in the shortened schedule because of the NBA lockout, so talking playoffs is a major step.
“I don’t think there is a position where you’ll say, ‘Geez, we didn’t win that position,’ ” said King. “If you are going against the Lakers, Kobe is Kobe. But Joe Johnson is a pretty good player, Deron is a pretty good point guard. … I think out of the (starting) five, most nights we are going to have the advantage.”
As the Nets prepare for training camp next week, they finally have players at each position. Last season, coach Avery Johnson tried fitting some players into unfamiliar positions.
“The thought was to have guys to play the traditional positions,” King said.
So the Nets re-signed All-Star point guard Deron Williams, center Brook Lopez, power forward Kris Humphries and small forward Gerald Wallace. All four were potential free agents. In addition, the Nets made a blockbuster trade to acquire shooting guard Joe Johnson from the Atlanta Hawks, practically dumping the rest of their roster on the Hawks to get him.
“Throughout the whole process, Joe Johnson was not in the equation,” King said. “When he became part of our plan, it changed my mind about where we were going to build.”
King said the Johnson trade was completed before the team re-signed Williams and he kept the news secret, first presenting the trade to Williams in an attempt to keep him with the Nets.
“I think all along Deron wanted to be here,” King said. “We just had to give him a reason to stay. I feel he’s the best point guard in the league. Once we got him, we knew we could build the team around him and Brook. He’s the big piece, the anchor. I was never really worried about him leaving.
“Once he got a chance to meet with (team owner) Mikhail Prokorov, see the new building and see where we were going, I knew it was going to be tough for him to leave this environment.”
King said the free agent frenzy calmed down for him with one phone call.
“The best thing I could get was when I got the call from Deron and he said, `I’m staying,'” King said. “That was the key.”
King said after Williams signed, the process of building a competitive roster became much easier.
“It was amazing,” King said. “Once we unveiled the new logo, the new colors, the perception changed. I received so many calls. It became more of a selection process, not a recruiting process. It became an easier process, because players had interest. Others wanted to come here. I never envisioned that.”
So King signed veterans Jerry Stackhouse, Josh Childress, Andray Blatche and C.J. Watson, acquired Reggie Evans and signed European free agent Mirza Teletovic.
“I think we have a starting five that can match up with any five in the conference,” King said. “We have guys who were starters at one point in their careers who will push the starters.”
There’s another positive sign for the Nets heading into training camp. For the last two years, camp opened with trade speculation. In 2010, it was the pursuit of Carmelo Anthony. Last year, it was the saga involving a possible trade for Dwight Howard. There’s none of that this year.
“I really feel like this is my first year with the Nets, because each camp before, there was a distraction,” King said. “That’s the greatest thing. We’re preparing for opening night. It’s not about the guys who will be here or won’t be here. The distractions are gone. All the talk of trades is gone. It is a relief and makes things easier. The guy I’m happiest for is Brook Lopez, because he doesn’t have to answer the questions about possibly being traded. He can concentrate on being the best Brook Lopez he can be.”
King feels good about the Nets’ potential.
“I like the guys,” King said. “I like their personalities and their talent. I think we’ve brought together the right mix of guys. We just have to see what happens. I just did what I was supposed to do.”
The Nets will play their first game at the Barclays Center against the Knicks in a nationally televised game on Nov. 1.
(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)