High risk taking doesn't necessarily have to be the name of the game. Often enough, slow and steady wins the race. At the same time, as much as patience is a virtue, those who don't know when to take the plunge wind up suspended in a bog of indecision, watching the courageous risk-takers catapult up on high.
And so you have current Brooklyn Nets GM Billy King. A man who, just a few months ago, was vilified for trading the team's young talent and draft picks for the short-term contracts of Deron Williams in February of 2011 and Gerald Wallace in March of 2012.
Both of these star players were to be free agents in the summer of 2012, and both expressed doubts that they would sign long-term deals to play in Brooklyn.
The initial backlash for King's impulsive "boom or bust" strategy was considerable. Even today, a Google search for King yields the suggested term "Billy King Worst GM."
Some of that continued opprobrium against King is based on his track record as former GM of the Philadelphia 76ers.
King's tenure in Philadelphia started nicely when he surrounded future NBA Hall of Famer Allen Iverson with the requisite talent to reach the NBA Finals in 2001.
However, from that point on, King's management consisted of another six years of an inordinate number of hapless transactions. The result of these was a series of tepid 76ers seasons and flat playoff runs.
Which is to say that if things aren't going well, King isn't the type of manager who likes to sit on his assets and wait for them to develop.
A case in point: while King did eventually acquire Deron Williams, before he did so, he was pining for the first big player available in the winter of 2011 NBA trade market: Carmelo Anthony.
According to a recent interview with Newsday, King reflected:
"I knew we needed an anchor and we had a great young center. I went after Carmelo. I said, 'Billy, you've got to have someone that's willing to take that big shot, that's willing to put things on his shoulders, that at the end of the game, no matter what the coach draws up, they can win the game for you.' "
That's fair enough. However, if the Nets had acquired Carmelo Anthony, would he have stayed with the Nets? Or would the mercurial small forward have voiced loud demands to get out of town?
Would Billy King have been willing to take that particular risk? Apparently so, and King should consider himself lucky that Williams—with whom King took the same risk of early departure—was willing to lend a patient ear to the Nets long-term plans
Even assuming that Anthony decided to stay with the Nets for the long-haul, while it is indisputable that he is a better scorer than Deron Williams, the Nets now have an elite point guard who can create offensive opportunities for a litany of capable teammates on the offensive end.
Questions as to who to surround Anthony with as compared to an elite point guard could have been an exceedingly difficult problem for the Nets GM.
In any event, for big risk takers, well-avoided flops are nothing but distant memories of perfect calculation. According to the Nets GM, the trade for Williams wasn't a gamble at all:
"I didn't think it was a risk," King said, "because I knew we were going to a great market and would have one of the greatest buildings. I knew we had, in my opinion, the best owner in the NBA. So I didn't look at it as a stupid move." (via Newsday)
Now that all is said and done and Williams is signed to a five-year contract, owner Mikhail Prokhorov has declared that King now resides at the pantheon of NBA management:
"I'm sure, I do believe he will be the GM of the Year." (via Newsday)
That's a distinct possibility, and in no small part due to King's flurry of activity in the Summer of 2012. Somewhere near the precipice of losing Williams to the Dallas Mavericks, King made a "midnight" trade for six-time All-Star shooting guard Joe Johnson.
More so than the rustic charm of the newly built Barclays Center, it was most likely this transaction that enticed Williams to sign a long-term contract with the Nets.
King then fortified the All-Star backcourt with a line-up of excellent specialists, including lock-down man-on-man defenders (Gerald Wallace, C.J. Watson), a rugged low-post enforcer (Reggie Evans), a three-point sniper (Mirza Teletovic) and even some well-regarded locker room mentors (Jerry Stackhouse, Keith Bogans).
This rapidly and finely constructed team should bolster the Nets from league-wide ignominy (22 wins in 2011-12) to nationally well-regarded franchise. Early prognostications have the Nets winning between 45 to 50 wins next year and perhaps making the second round of the NBA playoffs.
These will be thrilling results for the once fledgling Nets organization. However, it won't be soon after that the New York media will begin to speculate on what moves the Nets need to make to win a championship.
When these demands surface, will King jump the gun again, going after the first bait (or three) available? And if so, could he just as quickly damage the Nets title hopes as he has helped them?
To King's credit, the NBA Nets have never had to ask this question before. In Billy King, the Nets sought after a gambling GM, and his fast-paced, risky (at least to the rest of us) maneuvers paid off in spades. In the Nets inaugural season in Brooklyn, they will leap from the NBA cellar to its upper echelons.
For now, Nets fans should enjoy the high speed, high altitude ride. It's been a while.
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