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Complicating matters was the prospect of an NBA lockout next season, which could have left Williams as a free agent outright heading into the 2012-2013 season.

While Williams‘ trade caught many by surprise, including Williams, who heard it as he watched TV before a shootaround Wednesday morning in Dallas, the Nets have been trying to wheel-and-deal since last year.

They couldn’t get James as a free agent, and then saw Anthony go to the Knicks.

The Nets and Jazz had talked weeks earlier, Utah general manager Kevin O’Connor acknowledged. But the timing was right to pull the trigger on the best deal the Jazz could secure.

“Nobody likes to lose their star player, a marquee player,” Miller said. “This deal allows the Utah Jazz to preserve our assets and control our destiny.”

The Nets, meanwhile, got the All-Star they have so coveted _ one they hope signs an extension this summer to become the face of their franchise when they move to Brooklyn in 2012.

“I feel Deron Williams is the best point guard in the NBA,” Nets General Manager Billy King said. “I spoke with Deron and he’s excited about it. He understands where we are and where we want to go. In this league, you win with point guards.”

The 6-foot-3 Williams was selected third overall in 2005 out of Illinois, and he’s averaged 17.3 points, 9.1 assists and 3.2 rebounds for the Jazz. Williams has been even better in 44 postseason games, with averages of 21.1 points, 9.6 assists and 1.2 steals.

Jazz teammates said Williams was disappointed at first upon hearing the news, especially with a pregnant wife and a home in Utah.

“Everything happens for a reason,” Williams later told Jazz team broadcasters. “I had a great five-and-a-half years in Salt Lake. The fans have always been great for me. I’m going to miss them.”

He also said he’d miss his teammates.

“I wish I could have (done) a little more, win a championship, brought that to Utah,” Williams said. “I still hope they get a championship.”

If the Jazz are to win one, they’ll have to blend together even more new faces while mired in a horrid losing streak.

The Jazz have lost 14 of their last 18 and are 0-4 under new coach Ty Corbin following Wednesday night’s loss in Dallas.

“We’re going to keep the faith, stay positive and try to fight,” said Jazz forward Paul Millsap, who has to take on more of a leadership role now with Williams gone.

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