- Ohm Youngmisuk, ESPN Staff Writer
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NEWARK -- More than 15,000 fans came out to witness Deron Williams' New Jersey Nets home debut.
The Nets' First Couple -- Jay-Z and Beyonce -- sat courtside to personally welcome New Jersey's newest superstar point guard.
And minutes into the game, fans even began chanting "Deron Williams."
Not far away from the Prudential Center, there's also a 65-foot mural of Williams hanging on the side of the Robert Treat Hotel.
This is red carpet treatment compared to what Jason Kidd got in his Nets' debut on Oct. 30, 2001.
"I forget who we opened up against but we might have had 3,000 people," Kidd told ESPNNewYork.com of the Nets' 103-97 victory over the Indiana Pacers a decade ago. "I think Michael Jordan and the Wizards were playing the Knicks that night and the Yankees were in the World Series, too. We were up against a lot of stuff."
Officially, 8,749 witnessed the start of the Jason Kidd era in New Jersey, but it certainly felt more like 3,000 that night when Kidd finished one assist shy of putting up the first of many Nets' triple-doubles to come.
Even though the current Nets lost 104-103 in a thrilling overtime game to the Phoenix Suns on Monday, Williams didn't disappoint as he finished with 13 points and 18 assists despite playing with an aching right wrist.
It was just the latest piece of evidence why the Williams trade feels a lot like the deal Rod Thorn pulled off in 2001 to get Kidd.
The Nets somehow landed another rare franchise point guard that had worn out his welcome, but one with an uncanny ability to not just make everyone around him better, but be able to legitimize a woeful franchise.
Both Kidd and Williams came to New Jersey with serious reservations, the two point guards less than thrilled to be sent to an organization that sits in the Knicks' shadow and feels thousands of miles away from Manhattan instead of a quick ride through the Lincoln Tunnel.
And like Kidd, Williams can leave the franchise heartbroken via free agency if he ultimately chooses so. But the Nets convinced Kidd to stay after two seasons following the trade, and they have through next season to persuade Williams to do the same.
"They get him for a year and a half and they got to find a way to sign him," Kidd said. "Because if he leaves ... oooh.
"I would say they have less than a year to make him happy because, if not, they got to move him again," added Kidd, who played with Williams on the 2008 Olympic team and who'd talked to his golfing buddy shortly after the trade. "It's about showing that they can compete. ... You always want to win a championship and put some pieces in there to help him, and they got a couple already. The big thing is for them to have a plan to get the best talent they can."
When Kidd was traded to the Nets, he had an entire summer to accept the move and began to realize he had talent to work with. Kidd joined a roster that included Kenyon Martin, Keith Van Horn, Kerry Kittles and Richard Jefferson.
Since the stunning Williams blockbuster deal before the trade deadline last week, the star point guard and the Nets haven't even had time to conduct a single practice due to the schedule.
Williams doesn't nearly have the shooters or talent surrounding him that Kidd had. But he has something Kidd always wanted and never found in New Jersey -- a young and talented 7-foot center loaded with promise. Williams has a very important building block in Brook Lopez, who may frustrate with his lack of rebounding sometimes but can only get better with Williams finding him inside the paint, as evidenced by his 28 points against the Suns.
Now if the Nets can surround Williams with more players and convince another superstar to come and compete with Amare and Carmelo by the time the team moves to Brooklyn for the 2012-2013 season, they might have something better than the Kidd-Martin-Jefferson teams that won two Eastern Conference titles.
Like Kidd, Williams can make everyone around him better, and stars find that attractive. Williams is arguably more talented offensively than Kidd was and, at 26, he's entering his prime.
If Williams has the same intangibles and desire that has fueled Kidd's Hall of Fame career, the Nets' trade for Williams could end up being greater than the Knicks' trade for Carmelo Anthony.
"He's one of the best, if not the best point guard in the league," Kidd said. "He's better than I am. He can shoot the ball better and he can find the open guy and he runs the system. He is younger and has upside. He will fill up the stat sheet."
"It is a great situation for D-Will because of that tri-state area," Kidd continued. "You have to compete with the Knicks, and the Knicks have made some big improvements and it is always going to be who is going to get that backpage [of the New York tabloids]."
As quick as Kidd could find Martin open for an alley-oop, the point guard discovered that the intoxicating spotlight of playing in the New York-New Jersey area can turn a star into a supernova.
Williams has spent his career in Salt Lake City, and now will be able to showcase his skills while several reporters cover his every move.
And unlike Kidd, Williams has an owner, Mikhail Prokhorov, who has seemingly unlimited funds and an unwavering desire to win and outdo the Knicks. Prokhorov will spend to put together a winner and he has already started a marketing turf war with the Knicks by sticking a mural of him and Jay-Z in the shadow of Madison Square Garden last year.
When Kidd was running his fastbreaks here, he didn't have any billboards with his likeness pop up until he basically made it to his second NBA Finals.
Williams already has one up in downtown Newark, and soon he will get to do something Kidd never was able to do -- throw a no-look pass in a new home arena in New York.
So already, there are many reasons for Williams to stay.
"I'm definitely curious," Williams told reporters about playing in Brooklyn at the morning shootaround. "It's interesting. It's a big part of the outlook of the team, the future of the organization."
"There's a lot of stuff that appeals to me as far as my future here. Winning trumps everything. It could be North Dakota for all I care."
Kidd felt like he was being shipped to an NBA wasteland when he and his family learned that he had been traded to New Jersey while in a Taco Bell drive-thru in Phoenix during the summer of 2001.
A decade later, Kidd has provided Williams with a blueprint for how to turn the Nets into instant title contenders. All the Nets have to do is get another superstar. But at least they now have one to call their own, one that might be better than their last.
"Is it going to be tough? Yeah, it's going to be tough [to turn things around]," Kidd said. "But he has all the abilities to bring the Nets back to where they were, when they were making the playoffs and competing."
"He is going to have to go out and find someone that he feels can help him if he decides to stay. I told him he would love the city and it is going to be a great situation."