In an interview with CBS Sports Radio on the eve of the Draft, the first of three that the Nets are likely to give up a good pick to Boston, the architect of the Nets first four years in Brooklyn defended his tenure as a "win now" effort driven by Mikhail Prokhorov. In fact, Billy King seemed to be subtly shifting responsibility to ownership for the mistakes that led to the Nets into their current predicament.
"We took a calculated gamble and it didn’t work. So when you work for owners in any sport, it’s their team and you try to go with their guidance and what they want to do, and then you try to educate them and you try to advise them. But at the end of the day, it’s their call."
King, who said he's still friends with ownership, told Gio and Jojnes that in this 2010 job interview, he told ownership that he wanted a partnership, adding, "I think we did that. It didn’t work, they went in a different direction," meaning dumping him in January and hiring Sean Marks a month later.
The relationship between King and ownership was always a bit murky as to who had ultimate responsibility, but Prokhorov did give his CEO, Dmitry Razumov, much of the control in basketball operations and he worked directly with King. In some instances, Razumov pushed King, in others it was the reverse, according to multiple team insiders. In any event, the process was driven by a small group ethos, with few outside the inner circle having a say in the biggest decisions.
Razumov may have wanted, as King said, to "win now," but there was certainly instances where King would not go along. Razumov --and Brett Yormark-- for example wanted the Nets to acquire Brooklyn's Lance Stephenson last year, but King steadfastly refused, seeing Stephenson as a bad fit for the team culture. Also, King reportedly hired Lionel Hollins without a face-to-face meeting with Prokhorov or Razumov. It was essentially King's call.
King also joked to season ticket-holders at a March 2015 dinner in Brooklyn that Razumov "had an ESPN trade machine account" and would call him with proposed trades which he would gently reject. He said Razumov would also suggest names of free agents the Nets could pursue but would not press it when King would say No.
On the other hand, ownership did push the Boston trade on Draft Day three years ago, pressing King to get it done that day. And of course, it did. There was, however, no disagreement between management and owenrship on the idea behind trade. Few inside beyond King, Razumov and a small group of insiders were familiar with all the details until the deal was done, according to various sources. King has said there was.
"We went for it with the Boston trade," King said. "That year, Brook Lopez got hurt at the beginning of the season. If you add him, I think we would have been a better (team). Deron Williams didn’t start out because he was hurt."
"I don’t begrudge them. If I’m going to spend $400 million or $500 million to buy a team, I’m going to want to try to do it my way," King said. "It didn’t work, but they’ve got some young pieces there. I don’t think it’s as bleak as this year it may be, but the next couple years, I think they have a chance to run. I think Sean (Marks) will do a great job."
According to various insiders, King and Marks have no relationship.