EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – While he cannot comment on any new contract extension due to the pending end of the NBA's collective bargaining agreement in July, Deron Williams would like to remain with the New Jersey Nets.
Williams, who had wrist surgery Monday after playing just 12 games with the Nets, said that he feels comfortable with the Nets and would like to be part of the organization in the long run.
"I like this organization a lot," said Williams, the two-time NBA All-Star who was traded by the Utah Jazz to New Jersey in February. "I like the way they're going. Everyone has made me feel comfortable here. I can definitely see myself staying here. It's something that will obviously be brought up a lot this summer and a new CBA has to happen before I can even really address it. But once they made the trade for me, they told me that they were going to make me the face of the franchise as they move forward going to Brooklyn."
The Nets finished 24-58 this season after losing 15 of their last 17 games, including a 97-92 loss to Chicago Wednesday night in the season finale. But the 24 wins showed a healthy improvement on their win total from the previous year, when they went 12-70. The team met Thursday morning to clean out their lockers and receive offseason instruction.
Williams, who said he felt fine after undergoing the wrist surgery Monday to remove three floating bone fragments and repair some scar tissue, likes the fact that the Nets are promoting him as a main part of their future. The Nets will move to a new arena, the Barclays Center, in Brooklyn, to begin the 2012-13 season.
"The new building is going up and they're using me to be a big part of it," said Williams, a point guard who averaged 15 points and 12 assists in his limited stint with the Nets. "I like the way things are going."
Williams said that he was first hesitant about having the surgery.
"I was angry and tried to tell the doctors that I didn't want to have the surgery," Williams said. "The two doctors had me outvoted, two against one. I couldn't do anything about it. They told me that there was no reason to postpone it and if I didn't have it, I would be dealing with the same pain again."
Williams' contract will expire at the end of the 2011-12 season (with an option worth $17.7 million set for 2012-13). So, he's looking for a long-term extension, but can't negotiate one with the status of the league's CBA completely up in the air.
Coach Avery Johnson believes that Williams will be part of the organization for many years to come.
"I feel Deron has totally bought into what we're doing," Johnson said. "He's a sincere guy, a man of his word. I have a lot of confidence that he will stay, and I will continue to show him how vitally important he is to the success of our team. I feel good about Deron being in a Nets uniform next season and into the future."
Two of the team's unrestricted free agents also expressed interest in returning. Forward Kris Humphries, who ended up averaging 10 points and 10.4 rebounds per game in his best NBA year, and guard Sasha Vujacic, who averaged 11.4 points in 56 games with the Nets, both said that they hoped to be back.
"I've been saying it a lot lately that I want to be here," said Humphries, who had a meeting scheduled with Johnson and general manager Billy King to discuss his future Thursday. "I like where the team is at, and I want to be a part of it when it all comes together in Brooklyn. I want to keep growing with the franchise."
Vujacic was acquired from the Lakers on Dec. 14.
"My choice would be to come back," said Vujacic, who said he planned to spend a lot of the summer months watching fiancee Maria Sharapova play tennis. "My first goal would be with the Nets. The ownership wants to win, and the Nets have become a global team. It excites me, and this franchise has a very bright future."
Center Brook Lopez, who averaged 20.4 points in his third NBA season, feels that the Nets can continue to make strides.
"I'm fairly confident we can continue to improve," Lopez said. "I want Deron to help with the improvement. We can show people a lot next year. It's definitely a better feeling leaving this year compared to last year. I'm much more optimistic that we're going in the right direction."
The Nets opened March with five straight wins, including a pair vs. Toronto in London.
"I'm just as excited as I was when I took the job last June," Johnson said. "We knew we had a lot of work to make this a competitive team. I thought it would take two to three years to make it happen. We just weren't good enough from a talent standpoint.
"But our future is bright because of the guys we have."