By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
With or without Dwight Howard, Deron Williams believes the Brooklyn Nets are poised to enjoy an historic first season in our fair borough. Though landing the 7-foot Orlando center in a rumored blockbuster deal certainly couldn't hurt.
''There's been a lot of rumors over the last year as far as [Howard's] concerned, so early on I concerned myself with it, but lately just let it play out and whatever happens, happens,'' Williams told the Associated Press on Monday in Las Vegas as he and his Team USA teammates prepared for the upcoming London Olympics. ''I think we'll have a good team without him, I think we'd have an even better team with him.''
Williams, who will officially ink a five-year, $98 million deal Wednesday to remain in Brooklyn for the franchise's inaugural campaign at the nearly complete Barclays Center, has been dealing with the ongoing Howard saga for months now. Back in February, when Howard put up 20 points and 17 rebounds in the Magic's 108-91 victory over the then-New Jersey Nets at Newark's Prudential Center, fans were clamoring for the perennial All-Star, chanting "We want Dwight" throughout the contest.
"I might not re-sign here because of that," Williams jabbed, feigning jealousy over the love Nets fans were showing to an opposing player.
All joking aside, Williams would doubtlessly like nothing better than to add Howard to Brooklyn's own version of "The Dream Team", which will already feature recently acquired All-Star shooting guard Joe Johnson and re-signed free-agent forward Gerald Wallace.
But rather than inject himself into the ongoing negotiations, which could see the Nets re-sign and trade center Brook Lopez and power forward Kris Humphries, Williams is concentraing on helping the U.S. capture gold in London and remaining loyal to his current teammates while keeping an eye open for general manager Billy King's latest, and perhaps most spectacular, offseason move.
''I think we'll be good, I think we'll one of the top teams in the East for sure, top teams in the NBA,'' Williams added. "But it just depends on how everybody jells and comes together as a team.''
With the Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Clippers reportedly in the mix with the Magic for a four-team, 14-player trade, the Nets appeared on the verge of bringing one of the greatest teams in the history of the star-crossed franchise to the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues. However, on Tuesday afternoon reports began to surface that Cleveland had pulled out of the deal, forcing the Nets to find more outside assistance.
The Williams, Wallace and Johnson moves will become official Wednesday, and the Howard swap could soon follow suit, though the Nets will likely have to surrender at least three first-round picks to acquire the league's most dominant big man.
A close friend and confidant of Howard's, Williams is hoping the deal gets done soon as he recently experienced the pressure of having the sports world waiting for his decision just prior to announcing he'd return to Brooklyn via Twitter on July 3.
'For him [I hope it gets done soon], because I'm friends with him, so I know how tough it's been on him,'' Williams said. ''So yeah, you want to see it end one way or another just so he can be happy and move on.''
The Nets and Magic were originally unable to work out a deal prior to the March 15 trade deadline, as Howard re-upped with the only team he's ever played for since making the jump from high school to the pros back in 2004. He's made it known to Orlando GM Rob Hennigan that he wants out of the Magic Kingdom, but while the Los Angeles Lakers, Atlanta Hawks and Dallas Mavericks still covet the pivotman's services, Howard is rumored to only be interested in signing a long-term deal with Brooklyn, leaving the other suitors to drool while the Nets continue to build a title contender.
"That's the way you've got to compete with MIami," noted Williams, referring to the newly crowned NBA champion Heat, who put together a triumvirate of LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade during the summer of 2010. "[Brooklyn] is a place that hasn’t had a [sports] franchise since the ’50s. This is a city that wants basketball there, and then the arena is going to be great."
The Barclays, which has already lured Jay-Z, Barbara Streisand and Justin Bieber this summer, is one 7-footer away from having its own version of the Fab Four come Opening Night.
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Hoop du Jour: While Williams readies for the Olympics and King continues his quest to land Howard, the Nets' rookies, second-year players and potential free agent signees are getting their work in during Summer League action in Orlando this week.
On Monday morning, rookie point guard Tyshawn Taylor got to strut his stuff for head coach Avery Johnson, putting up 17 points, grabbing six rebounds and dishing out three assists during the Nets' 92-88 loss to the Magic.
Taylor, selected 41st overall last month by Porland an acquired by Brooklyn in a draft-day deal, is feeling good about his first few days in a Nets practice jersey.
"It's exciting. I'm anxious to learn," said the Jersey native. "I jumped up when I heard I was going to Brooklyn."
"He's still trying to find his way," Johnson said of Taylor. "We've got a lot of bright spots."
Second-year guard MarShon Brooks, who averaged 12.6 points during a solid rookie campaign last season, had a rough summer debut, going 0-for-10 from the floor with four turnovers. Brooks' shaky start could be attributed to his name being mentioned in the ongoing Howard trade talks.