Billy King is hoping for what may very well be impossible: another NBA job. In an interview with Chris Mannix, now the president of ReachMe TV Sports, King knows his past —particularly the Boston trade, but indeed other deals— may prevent that, but he’s hoping.
“I sensed that it was going to linger,” King told The Crossover. “It was going to be something that I have to overcome. I think a lot of people within the business that I talk to, they know what was going on. But the outside noise sometimes overshadows the inside noise.”
The “noise” of course was sending three unprotected first round picks —plus a swap that turned into Jayson Tatum— for three aging players: Paul Pierce, then 36; Kevin Garnett, then 37; and Jason Terry, then 36. It ruined the Nets future. They have still not recovered. No less an NBA expert than Steve Kerr said that King’s successor, Sean Marks, had inherited “the worst hand to play with as a GM of anybody in the history of this league.”
King is trying to resurrect his reputation. His interview with Mannix appears to be just one aspect. He has shown up on NBA TV and has been commenting more about NBA matters —as opposed to general issues— on his Twitter feed.
As he has before, King has tried to “own” the trade. “I was the GM,” King said. “I’m responsible.”
But he has also argues there was pressure —and indeed there was— from ownership to get the deal done, to go for broke.
“It was a big part but it wasn’t the only part,” King said. “I won’t say that they were sitting there hammering me, but it was a big part.” Asked by Mannix if he would have made the trade if he were the GM of the Magic, King says, “No.”
Indeed the Boston trade was just the culmination of a series of big, failed moves by the Nes as they first prepared their move to Brooklyn and real competition with the Knicks. They tried to get Carmelo Anthony and failed; tried multiple times to get Dwight Howard and failed. They did succeed in getting Deron Williams and Joe Johnson.
But Boston was indeed different. All those players were either at the height of their career or approaching it. Pierce, Garnett and Terry was on the far side of their peaks.
And of course, while King talks in general terms about the Boston trade, he ignores a lot of other moves that failed almost as miserably, failing to adequately protect the pick the Nets gave up for Gerald Wallace; signing Wallace to a four-year, $40 million deal at age 30; quietly adding pick swaps in the Joe Johnson trade; not prioritizing player development ... although he now calls it “the biggest thing in the NBA.”
There’s also been new revelations about how the Celtics ownership snookered King into additional picks, believing he had “deal fever” and how King so wanted to do the Gerald Wallace deal (after failing earlier in the day with Howard) he was “not too concerned with protecting the pick” that turned into Damian Lillard. One Nets insider who was around then and is still around called the Wallace deal a “panic move.”
Even Bobby Marks, King’s No. 2 and the executive in charge of the Boston trade, said he didn’t think that the pick swap that became Tatum “had to be included in the deal and eventually, it was.” Similarly, Dmitry Razumov, who admits to pushing the Celtics trade, told Zach Lowe that the swap was a last minute decision.
In retrospect, it all adds up to a sense that King —and ownership— were too quick on the draw, too impatient, indeed too desperate ... and everyone knew it! Stefan Bondy, in his history of the “worst trade ever,” cited an opposing executive as saying, “Billy’s literally like an addicted gambler when he’s close to doing those trades. He’ll do anything when it reaches a certain point.”
King now says he should have waited a day before he agreed to the deal, but he fails to say how he would have restructured it ... or whether he thinks Danny Ainge would have agreed.
“I should have said, ‘Give me a day to think about it, let’s talk in the morning,” King told Mannix. “I should have regrouped everyone, and gone through it again. I should have told Danny, ‘Give me a day.’ I probably would have revamped it. I should have said, ‘Look, Danny, everything looks good. Let’s finish the draft and let’s talk in the morning.’ That’s one thing I would have done differently, for sure.”
In general terms, he seems to suggest his staff with the Nets were too young, too experienced, that he should have added more seasoned voices. Of course, a number of those young staffers are now working well under Marks without complaint.
As for how he could help an NBA team, King talks about his experiences in Philly where he did engineer a Finals run in 2001 and drafted Andre Iguodala and using a Nets pick, Kyle Korver.
“There is no ego here,” King said of what he could bring to another team. “I’d just like to help. I look at a lot of teams, I think I could help just giving advice. About the lessons I’ve learned over the years, the mistakes that I have made. The GM role in the NBA changed drastically from when I came in. So many teams forget it’s about managing the personalities. Managing the locker room. Managing the coaching staff. If you don’t, it will fall apart.”
Will he get a chance, Mannix asks. “
“I don’t know,” King said. “I would hope to believe yes, but you never know.”
- Billy King Still Wears ‘The Trade’ Like a Scarlet Letter - Chris Mannix - Sports Illustrated