Commentary

Do Nets have D-Will to win?

Spare me the Melo comparisons. The real question is: Will they be teammates in 2012?

Updated: February 25, 2011, 7:38 AM ET
By Stephen A. Smith | ESPNNewYork.com

Let's get this out of the way right now.

The New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets both made deals this week that will shape the complexion of their respective franchises for years to come. The Knicks are officially Eastern Conference contenders because of Carmelo Anthony's arrival. The Nets upgraded considerably with the acquisition of Deron Williams.

But for those who think New Jersey made a better deal than New York, here's some advice: Get your head examined!

Williams is an All-Star. He's incredibly gifted. Aside from Derrick Rose, he's the best point guard in the game. Combine that with playing alongside a legitimate big man in Brook Lopez, and decent things are on the horizon for the Nets.

For this season!

Next season is an entirely different matter, specifically because Williams will be in the last year of his deal and can opt out of his contract in 2012. The disaster scenario is staring Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov squarely in the face. It's a scenario that could have Williams, from a vantage point just across the Hudson River, witnessing the resurgence of a Knicks franchise inching to within an All-Star point guard of legitimate championship contention. Now imagine Williams as the missing piece, with Gotham City clamoring for his arrival.

If that happens, and the Nets continue their struggling ways, why would Williams stay?

"That's the nightmare scenario for the Nets," one Eastern Conference executive told me. "The Nets know it. What they'll do about it is the real question. Bottom line is that they need to become as attractive, if not more so, than the Knicks. How they'll do that with the Knicks elevating right now is really tough to imagine."

The Nets clearly like to dream these days, but it's the Knicks who apparently have the clout to make their dreams come true.

They have Melo and Amare Stoudemire. Two of the top 10 players in the game, along with a champion in point guard Chauncey Billups who won't let them fall by the wayside.

If the Knicks do what they're supposed to do, the Nets will find it all but impossible to exceed their rivals not just in wins, but in interest.

The Nets couldn't do that when Jason Kidd, Kenyon Martin and Richard Jefferson took them to two consecutive NBA Finals. They couldn't do it when Kidd, Jefferson and Vince Carter were there, either.

What in the world would make anyone think they can do it now, even with Williams on board?

Especially if the Knicks elect to come dialing the pending free agent's number instead of Chris Paul's in the summer of 2012.

Stephen A. Smith | email

ESPNNewYork.com columnist
Stephen A. Smith is a featured columnist for ESPNNewYork.com, a co-host on First Take" and a regular on "SportsCenter."

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