The Jordan Williams trade: Why it happened and what lies ahead
It's a business.
Often you hear athletes and team executives utter that phrase when discussing a trade, free agency signing or even the release of a player.
For Torrington's Jordan Williams, in one year he's learned the hard way that professional sports is more than just what happens on the playing surface.
First, it was the NBA lockout last year only two weeks after Williams was drafted by the New Jersey Nets. Then, after waiting months for the lockout to end, Williams signed with a team in Poland to ensure he wouldn't go a whole year without playing basketball. Only one week into his stint there, the lockout was resolved, and Williams began his career with the Nets.
This week, a trade was finalized sending Williams amongst a sea of Nets to the Atlanta Hawks for Joe Johnson.
On the surface, it doesn't look good for Williams. Being traded one year after getting drafted gives the impression you did not perform up to that team's expectations and, frankly, were not wanted.
But there's more to the story here.
The first half of Williams' rookie season was documented to death. The dehydration issue in training camp, the trip to the D-League, a slow start with minimal minutes and no place in the Nets' rotation.
That's not why Williams was traded. His strong play over the final month of the season was.
Finally a part of the Nets' rotation, Williams played double-digit minutes in each of the team's last 13 games, and scored at least 10 points on four occasions. He scored a career-high 14 points on April 6 against the Wizards and notched his first career double-double with a 12-point and 14-rebound performance on April 14 versus the Celtics.
Over that month, Williams went from a regular D-League candidate to a wanted commodity throughout the league.
Of the five players from last season's Nets roster sent in the trade, Williams was the lone player of that group that was not acquired just for salary cap purposes. With just a $762,000 salary on slate for next year, this trade would have been completed with or without Williams.
Clearly, the Hawks, about to begin a rebuilding period, see Williams as a valuable asset they can use going forward, whether on the floor or in a trade.
The Nets, meanwhile, have officially moved to Brooklyn and were desperate to put pieces on their roster to convince star free agent Deron Williams to stay. Johnson, a talented but obscenely overpaid guard who received a $126-million dollar contract two summers ago, was a big enough piece to do that. It was a move the Nets had to make. Simply, they could not afford to start their new beginnings in Brooklyn without any stars.
Right now, the plan is for Williams to join the Hawks summer league team in Las Vegas immediately. If you remember, Williams did not have the opportunity to play summer league ball last year because of the lockout and it hurt him. This will allow Williams to see a good number of minutes in organized games, allowing him to stay in shape and improve his skills.
The Hawks, a team in the current Dwight Howard trade rumors, do not have a lot of depth on their frontline. Josh Smith will start at power forward and Al Horford will start at center. Zaza Pachulia and Johan Petro will see time off the bench, and Williams, given that roster and success he had at the end of last season, will be given every chance to earn significant playing time.
If the Hawks are somehow able to pull off a trade for Howard (unlikely, but you never know), you can bet Orlando will ask for Williams in the trade.
And if that does happen, you can bet the Torrington High alum, at this point, would understand.
Remember, it's a business.