- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 23, 2011

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - The New Jersey Nets finally landed a big-name All-Star in a blockbuster trade that gives them point guard Deron Williams and sends rookie Derrick Favors and point guard Devin Harris to the Utah Jazz.

The Jazz also will receive the Nets’ first-round pick in 2011, which could be a lottery pick, along with cash and Golden State’s 2012 first-round draft pick.

“I feel Deron Williams is the best point guard in the NBA,” Nets general manager Billy King said in announcing the deal Wednesday. “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 Nets hope Williams will sign a contract extension, which they can offer this summer. If so, he would become the face of their franchise when they move to Brooklyn in 2012.

“Everything happens for a reason. I take everything in stride,” Williams told the Jazz team broadcasters from his hotel room in Dallas. “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.”

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 asissts and 1.2 steals.

The deal came two days after the Nets failed to land Carmelo Anthony, who was acquired by the New York Knicks as part of a blockbuster deal with the Denver Nuggets.

Jazz CEO Greg Miller said he made the move because of a “gut feeling” that he wouldn’t be able to sign Williams to a long-term deal after next season.

“If you look at what happened with Phoenix, Toronto and Cleveland … they all lost their marquee player and had very little if anything to show for it,” Miller said. “This trade allows us to be competitive now and beyond the 2012 season.”

Asked how he would be able to market a team in Salt Lake City without a star, Miller said with “classic Jazz basketball.”

“It’s lunchpail, work boots,” he said. “And who knows? We may have a star player before any of us realizes it.”

Harris, a former All-Star point guard, and Favors, the No. 3 pick in the draft, were part of the package the Nets had been offering the Nuggets for Anthony.

“Everybody was talking about getting longer and athletic and when are you going to get one of these guys,” said Jazz GM Kevin O’Connor, who hinted that he may not be done dealing before Thursday’s trade deadline. “We got one now (in Favors) and we’ll see how he progresses. He’s not a finished product but at least it’s somebody we can build on.”

Both GMs said they discussed a deal several weeks ago, but it only came to fruition after the Nets lost out on Anthony. O’Connor acknowledged cash was part of the deal and the maximum that can change hands is $3 million.

The Jazz were a perennial contender with Williams, but his reputation took a hit when Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan retired one day after clashing with him during a game.

Sloan, reached Wednesday morning at his second home in Illinois, was aware of the trade but didn’t want to say much.

“I have no reaction to what the Jazz are doing,” Sloan said. “Good luck to Deron.”

Miller insisted Sloan’s retirement and Williams’ trade were not connected, and reiterated that the Jazz have always been about structure, order, discipline and respect.

“One of the things that will always be the case as long as our family has anything to say about it is we will support our coach first and players second,” he said.

That doesn’t mean new Jazz coach Ty Corbin isn’t in a tough spot.

Just two weeks ago he was second assistant to Sloan, who saw longtime assistant Phil Johnson follow him into retirement on Feb. 10. Now, Corbin is 0-3 as head coach and has lost his All-Star guard and team leader.

“First I receive the job, then the injuries and now the trade,” said Corgin, who learned of the deal as he left for a shootaround in Dallas, where the Jazz faced the Mavericks on Wednesday night. “If you’re not ready for this, you’re not ready for the business.”

Al Jefferson, who was acquired in a trade with Minnesota last summer, said he hadn’t gotten over Sloan leaving and now has to deal with a new leader at the point.

“When they hit me with this, it was like, ‘Wow.’ I was surprised, but it’s a business,” he said. “I got to play for a legend and play with a great point guard. I got another great point guard coming here. We still have a chance to make the playoffs and make a run.”

Williams was expected to be one of the headliners of the 2012 free-agent class, along with 2008 Olympic teammates Dwight Howard and Chris Paul.

New Jersey has been desperate to make its first score under new owner Mikhail Prokhorov. The Nets talked with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh last summer, then turned their attention to Anthony, before bouncing back and finally landing Williams.

“Utah traded DWill??” Paul wrote on his Twitter page, adding hashtags with “EpicFail” and “notagoodlook.”

Williams joins an exodus of players heading to the East, following Amare Stoudemire’s move from Phoenix to New York and Anthony’s deal to the Knicks. The Jazz are only a half-game ahead of Memphis for the final playoff spot in the West.

“Very rarely are you able to trade for someone who is arguably the best at his position,” Nets coach Avery Johnson said. “We had to give up a lot, but when you get a chance to get him, you go for it. It wasn’t a planned trade. This wasn’t a plan B. He’s a plan A guy.

“We eventually had to do something like this to get a player of this skill level,” Johnson said. “We felt we needed to get someone who was going to give us a little swagger. He’s someone we will have for the long run. Sometimes, you have to try things to get better.”


AP Basketball Writer Brian Mahoney in New York contributed to this report.

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