It's the old adage: Sometimes, the best trades are the ones you don't make. And sometimes, it's best to be patient, not go for the quick fix. That's the lesson from the deal the Nets almost made last February ... and one the Nets should remember if they're thinking about going for that quick fix this season.
Bottom line: this is how we got into this mess.
In the hours leading up the trade deadline, the Nets and Thunder were talking about a blockbuster that would have (once again) remade the Nets franchise, a four-team deal that would have brought Reggie Jackson to Brooklyn and sent Brook Lopez to Oklahoma City and Jarrett Jack to Washington.. Ownership and management were excited about the possibilities.
Pieced together from various accounts, NetsDaily has learned the the Nets, Thunder, Wizards and 76ers were ready to do a six- player, four-team deal until Thunder GM Sam Presti backed out at the last minute and worked a three-way deal that got him Enes Kanter instead of Lopez and sent Jackson to Detroit instead of Brooklyn. Although some of the details have leaked out before, the comprehensive picture, with details, has never been confirmed until now.
Essentially, the deal was broken down into three trades.
Nets send Brook Lopez to Oklahoma City for Reggie Jackson, Perry Jones III and Kendrick Perkins.
Nets send Kendrick Perkins and a second round pick, most likely the 2018 pick, to the 76ers for the draft rights to a international player. The 76ers at the time had two, a Nigerian big man and a Serbian point guard, neither of which were NBA quality players. The Nets presumably would have picked up a large trade exception as part of the deal.
Nets send Jarrett Jack to the Wizards for Martell Webster and the right to swap first round picks in the 2015 draft (ultimately the #29 pick for the #19 pick).
The trade was also a prelude to a Nets plan to sign Jackson to a max deal, as the Pistons did, this summer, a five year contract worth $80 million. The Nets would then have bought out Deron Williams. Total cost? More than $100 million.
What would the consequences have been?
--The Nets wouldn't have made the playoffs last season. Lopez led the Nets to the post-season, putting the team on his back, working with Thaddeus Young, obtained in the other deadline trade that did go down that day. Meanwhile, Jackson had a hard time getting untracked in Detroit and the Pistons lost 10 straight.
--Brooklyn would have committed their future to a mercurial talent who many pundits believe is the poster boy for inflated contracts, partly because he's got some issues, on and off the court. Typical of Jackson's play and personality issues: a stretch of recent games, only one of which his team won. A week ago Friday, as he went to the bench in OKC, he invited a Thunder fan to perform oral sex on him ... in so many words. The moment was captured on video and he was fined $25,000. Two days later, against the Nets Sunday, he had a triple single (while Lopez came within a steal of the elusive 5x5 club) and the Pistons lost. Then, on Wednesday, he scored 34 points and dished out 16 assists vs. Phoenix in a big Detroit win. Talented? Yes. Volatile? Yes. Wildly inconsistent? Oh Yes! A leader? Uh, next question.
--If the team had signed Jackson and bought out D-WIll, they would have been in essentially the same place as they are now financially, just below the luxury tax threshold, but they might have had less of a chance at re-signing Young. He's talked about how much he's enjoyed his time playing with his pal, Lopez.
--In place of Lopez, Mason Plumlee would have been the team's starting center going forward, working with Jackson and, and, and Joe Johnson and, and, and... maybe Young. The team's offense would have been stripped clean. Young and Jackson might have worked out, but would Plumlee and Young, Jackson and Johnson? Their most striking deficiency this season, three point shooting, wouldn't have been helped. Jackson is a career 30 percent shooter from deep. And just the Nets would have had to pay Jackson this summer, they would have had to pay Plumlee next summer. At what level?
--Mikhail Prokhorov would have wound up paying Webster more than $8 million not to play basketball over the next two years. More dead money heaped on top of the dead money being paid D-WIll. The oft-injured Webster, who's owed $5.7 million this year and $2.5 million in partial guarantees next year, didn't play at all this season after missing 50 games last season. He was waived by the Wizards this week following his latest hip surgery. It's highly unlikely the soon-to-be 30-year-old will ever play again.
--Jones, who the Nets would have gotten from OKC, is also out of the league after the Thunder later sent him to Boston in a salary dump, then the Celtics cut him and ate his $2 million salary for this year. He's now in the D-League. Might he have been cut by the Nets as well? If so, it would have been more dead money.
--The Nets draft picture would have improved somewhat but only for 2015, not in the future where the real issue lie. They wouldn't have obtained any future first rounders, but would have moved up last June, from No. 29 to No. 19. Picking at No. 19, they might very well gone with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who went at No. 23 but who they thought was a lottery pick. To get Chris McCullough or anyone else lower in the first, they would have had to find a way to trade for their rights. Couldn't use Plumlee, as they did with Portalnd. And that second round pick that was headed to Philly to help convince the 76ers to take on Perkins? It was used to acquire Juan Pablo Vaulet, who many in the organization are high on. .
This Nets say they did due diligence on Jackson's "issues." The Nets came away from their investigation believing Jackson's widely reported spats with teammates in Oklahoma City, particularly Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, were exaggerated. In fact, a Jackson-for-Lopez deal had been offered the Nets earlier in the season but the Nets had turned it down until they could do investigate Jackson. Billy King and others in the organization spoke to coaches who had worked with Jackson and came away feeling comfortable.
They talked to people in Durant's "circle" to get a sense of how the two got along in case they made a pitch to KD this summer. They felt comfortable there as well.
And it was close. Lopez thought he'd be on a plane to Oklahoma City, Jackson thought he'd be on a plane to a press conference in Brooklyn. Jack has stated he was aware. Nets officials have quietly said they began to hear rumblings in the early afternoon that day of a possible rival deal for Jackson, but their deal wasn't officially dead until close to the 3 p.m. deadline.
In fact, Chris Mannix, who has excellent front office sources in Brooklyn, said after the deadline that there might have been a bit of a payback involved in the last minute change-of-heart by OKC.
"There’s a sense in Brooklyn that this is kind of payback on the part of the Thunder. Remember a couple weeks back – or even a month back – there was a deal that the Thunder thought they had forthat would involve Kendrick Perkins and some spare parts?" he mentioned to Doug Gottlieb two days after the deadline. "Brooklyn eventually pulled out of that – kind of at the last minute. They were the last remaining piece there in that puzzle. They pulled out."
Whatever. It didn't go down and that's probably a good thing. The deal that DID go down was a good thing: dumping Kevin Garnett for Thaddeus Young was also a nail-biter, with crucial trade waiver papers arriving at the NBA offices six minutes before the deadline ... problems with the KG fax machine.
The lesson learned of course is this: be careful of panic moves, moves that seem assured of changing the culture, changing the franchise in one fell swoop. That's how the Nets got into this mess.