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Woj and Bobby Marks talk ‘perilous decision’ facing Nets on Jimmy Butler

Minnesota Timberwolves v Chicago Bulls Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

In a podcast Adrian Wojnarowski and Bobby Marks recorded Friday morning, the two ESPN experts left little doubt that the Nets (as well as the Clippers) would face what Woj described as “a perilous decision” if they made anything but a lopsided deal for Jimmy Butler.

The asking price is so high, the possibility of getting a second star so uncertain and the risk of Butler deciding not to stay so sobering that they seemed to suggest neither Brooklyn nor the Clippers are likely to go for a deal now, and more than will likely wait until the summer and free agency.

“The Nets and Clippers have talked with Minnesota but Minnesota’s asking price has been so high,” noted Woj. “And I think the question for both the Clippers and the Nets is this: 1) does getting Jimmy Butler help you get a second star, a bigger star? and 2) I think is a question more --a little bit more -- for the Clippers, does he lead to Kawhi Leonard? Does he lead to Kevin Durant? Now those are big players.

“But at the same time, how many assets do you give up for a player,” Woj added. “I think your belief is, ‘well, if we get him now and we secure him, and sign him this summer.”

Bobby Marks agreed, citing how the Nets had made progress under Sean Marks and this deal could be “jumping the shark.”

“I look at Brooklyn and what Sean has been able to do to grow it from the bottom and now are you willing to jump the shark here and maybe get Jimmy Butler. Does that get you another player? Possibly. It’s a lot of money you’re going to have to invest in --$190 million possibly-- for a player whose minutes consistently ranks in the top 10. He’s average 37 minutes the last five or six years.”

Bobby Marks also noted that “handshake agreements,” while appealing at the beginning of the process are not binding ... and the Nets would be giving up a lot to just get a leg up on the opposition rather than a guarantee he’s re-sign.

“My question is what if Jimmy Butler doesn’t like it there for the remaining six or seven months, because yes, you can have a handshake agreement with the agent and the player there, but there is nothing binding. So now, you’re recruiting him for another six or seven months and there is no sure shot that another player is going to come. So now, you’re Brooklyn and he’s the face of your franchise, you’ve invested a lot of money in him and you’re possibly a playoff team --maybe the back end, six to eight range-- that’s who you’re married to.”

The former Nets assistant GM pointed to the Deron Williams situation and how he and Billy King did everything to get keep DWill happy, dumping picks for veteran players, what ultimately became a fool’s errand.

“What I learned is that when you make these types of trades, you’re always chasing that trade and trying to acquire other pieces to make that player happy,” said Marks, recalling the Nets attempts to satisfy DWill.

“You’re really hurting your roster to do so. The Deron Williams trade in 2011 and you follow it up in 2012 with the Gerald Wallace trade because you’re trying to convince Williams to stay or you’re trading multiple draft picks to try to convince that player to stay in free agency.”

Woj summed things up by noting that Sean Marks and Lawrence Frank, the Clippers GM, now know that Butler would be willing to play for either team —he named both as preferred destinations. Why not wait?

“The question for the Clippers and Nets is how much do I give up for a guy who I can sign in free agency and do I make myself LESS attractive to a guy like a Kawhi Leonard --hypothetically, if I’m the Clippers, If I’ve given up too much of my infrastructure to get Jimmy Butler. I think it’s such a fine line and maybe a perilous decision. How far are we willing to go to get this guy in the door right now....

“Hey if this player really wants to come to Los Angeles or Brooklyn, we can fit him in with room and not do much to our roster and draft picks to keep on building this thing.

And Woj noted, Butler’s situation —not getting along with players in Minnesota and before that Chicago— has to have an effect on the other teams’ GM’s.

“This isn’t breaking up in Minnesota because he doesn’t like Tom Thibodeau. Hes’ always had a good relationship with Thibodeau. Now, it’s strained because as this process plays out and he doesn’t get the trade. Then, you’ll see it more at odds and I think you’re starting to see that happen, but the fact is that he credits Tom Thibodeau with his development as a player...

“And if you’re another team and you’re looking at him and saying, ‘he’s walking away from Thibs, walking away from this team? Could he do that to us after seven months?’ And I think that factors into your thinking about what you give up.”

Later in the podcast, Bobby Marks noted that ownership can indeed force management’s hand or alternatively, kill a deal. He called that in 2001, Nets owners Lewis Katz, Ray Chambers and Finn Wentworth initially did not like the idea of trading Stephon Marbury for Jason Kidd because they believed Marbury could fill up “the empty areas in the Meadowlands.”

He said Lou Lamoriello, then the CEO of the Nets, told the owners that they had to let Rod Thorn do his job and the deal went through.