- Marc Stein, ESPN Senior Writer
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Williams recently parted ways with longtime agent Bob McLaren, who primarily works with Major League Baseball clients.
The decision to sign with Schwartz's Excel Sports Management means that the top three free agents in the summer of 2012 will all be represented by different agents. Orlando's Dwight Howard is represented by Dan Fegan, New Orleans' Chris Paul signed with Leon Rose last summer and now Williams is aligning with Schwartz, whose client roster includes top veterans Paul Pierce, Jason Kidd, Tyson Chandler and Lamar Odom, as well as young stars Blake Griffin and Kevin Love.
That variety contrasts sharply with the NBA's last free-agent bonanza in the summer of 2010, when the agents representing LeBron James (Rose), Dwyane Wade (Henry Thomas) and Chris Bosh (Thomas) both worked under the same Creative Artists Agency banner. James, Wade and Bosh, of course, eventually joined forces in Miami in July 2010.
Even before Williams' decision to leave McClaren went public in early June, Nets officials have expressed consistent confidence that they will be able to sign the All-Star point guard to a long-term extension once a new collective bargaining agreement is struck between the NBA and the players union.
Williams has two seasons left on his current contract but has the ability to opt out of the $17.7 million he's due in the 2012-13 season to become a free agent. The Nets would have been eligible to commence discussions with Williams on a contract extension July 18 if not for the lockout that began Friday at 12:01 a.m.
New Jersey, which was unable to prevent Carmelo Anthony from ultimately forcing a trade from the Denver Nuggets to the New York Knicks after chasing an Anthony deal for five months, stunned the entire league by rebounding immediately to acquire Williams from the Utah Jazz on Feb. 23 for Derrick Favors, Devin Harris (another Schwartz client), two first-round picks and cash.
Williams has made no firm promises about staying in New Jersey but has said he likes the direction of the franchise under new owner Mikhail Prokhorov. The 27-year-old has likewise expressed optimism about the team's scheduled move to Brooklyn starting with the 2012-13 season and his potential role in luring other top players to the Nets.
The Nets, sources said, intend to make a hard push for Howard in an attempt to convince Williams to commit long term.
Marc Stein covers the NBA for ESPN.com.
10hMatt Walks, ESPN.com
11hMatt Walks, ESPN.com