Originally featured in the July 2012 issue of AVIDGOLFER Magazine. Story by Mike Fisher
Deron Williams is a sportsman. He loves his Texas Rangers so much that he recently attended church services in New York while wearing his Sunday best – a Josh Hamilton jersey. He’s so addicted to golf that one of his first post-NBA-season calls was to buddy/mentor Jason Kidd so the two of them could arrange a get-together on the links in San Diego, where Williams owns a home. And yes, there’s even boxing.
“Boxing is now the worst sport in the history of the world,” Williams tweeted following the controversial June 10 Manny Pacquiao split-decision loss to Timothy Bradley. “I’m never buying a fight again.”
What Deron Williams did have to deal with, starting when the NBA free-agent window opened on July 1, was a “split-decision” of his own.
Should he remain with his previous employer, the Brooklyn Nets, serving as the centerpiece of a bad franchise in a new city and new arena that does come with some promise due to Russian owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s unlimited funds?
Or should he make the move to another team – like the Dallas Mavericks, his hometown franchise, where the 2011 champs aren’t so much “rebuilding” as they would be “reloading” if they are able to add Williams to a team already featuring Dirk Nowitzki?
Or would there be a wild-card team that would make room for one of the game’s brightest stars?
At press time, we didn’t know the answer. Nor did Williams – though he did an eloquent job of describing the place that would serve as the answer.
“I want to go to a place where I feel like they will have a chance to build and build fast,” said Williams, who planned to finalize his decision in early July as he and Team USA prepped for the Summer Olympics. “I’m not really in the mood for being part of a rebuilding process. I’m getting older. I’m about to be 28. I want to win. I want to win now. Also, I want to live in a place where I want to live and my kids will enjoy living. That’s pretty much it.”
If it wasn’t ever going to be about the size of his first contract, it was going to be a positive for the Mavericks in their attempt to lure the native of The Colony back to North Texas. NBA rules try to tip the scales toward players remaining with their present employers by allowing that team to offer their own free agent a max-contract, which in this case would be worth $98.77 million. What the Mavs (and anyone else) could offer is four years and $73.35 million.
But what the Mavericks endeavored to explain to him is that it’s more complex than that (as multi-million-dollar deals often are). Williams could get his “extra” year in Dallas by extending before the first contract is up. Furthermore, New York’s state income tax is 8.6 percent (Texas’ is zero). And the cost of living anywhere near the Nets’ new neighborhood is estimated to be 44 percent higher than the cost of living in DFW.
I’ve also been told that the Mavericks busied themselves lining up corporate support for their potential “big fish” signee (they made sure to tell Williams that the Mavs have the second-strongest corporate sponsorship muscle in the NBA). Oh, and it is my understanding that “World Wide Wes” (basketball powerbroker William Wesley) was pitching in to advise Williams, too. Wesley happens to have a connection with new SMU assistant basketball coach Jerrence Howard, who happens to be one of Williams’ best friends, and as Williams was seeking a comfort zone and his buddies, his mom, his little brother and his uncle and aunt all reside in Big D.
Well, you can see how the Mavs would attempt to align all the dominoes.
There are ways to squeeze the salary cap to allow it to house a trio of stars. What I’ve termed “The 3D Blueprint” could conceivably let the Mavs employ Dirk Nowitzki, somebody like Williams and somebody like Dwight Howard, too. Sure, it’s pipedreamy. But the Mavs’ big-thinking creativity has helped them to 12 straight playoff berths, two NBA Finals and, finally, a title. How was that championship roster built? Nowitzki was acquired in a draft-day trade for Robert “Tractor” Traylor. Shawn Marion was acquired for the retiring Jerry Stackhouse’s expiring contract. And Tyson Chandler was stolen in a trade for the semi-retired Erick Dampier’s expiring contract.
This summer, the Mavs’ primary focus was on pulling another rabbit out of another hat.
I don’t believe Williams’ decision is simply about the largest contract; if that was the case, he could’ve re-upped with the Nets long ago and cashed his checks while the Nets perennially won half as many games as the Mavericks perennially win. Certainly it is in part about the team around him – though Williams vehemently denied a Yahoo! report quoting a league source as saying his willingness to stay with the Nets hinged on whether they acquire Howard.
“I didn’t say that,” Williams said. “That’s not how I feel. I don’t think I’m going to base my decision or my family’s decision on somebody else coming to a team or not. I have to make a decision that’s best for my family and me. That’s what I’m going to do.”
Ah, there’s that “family” issue again.
Williams has a lovely bride (who seems to favor wearing Texas Rangers caps, too) and four children. Can you raise a family in Brooklyn, in Manhattan or in northern New Jersey? Certainly. Traffic can be a nightmare, but the schools are some of the best in the world. And a $17-million-a-year salary can buy a guy a large estate, if that is what he wishes. A Nets player could easily get to the Barclays Center while living in nearby Brooklyn Heights (a lovely area, but one devoid of the mansions or even McMansions usually favored by athletes earning millions). Or some Nets players might continue to live in New Jersey, on the other side of the Holland Tunnel … a bit of inconvenience in exchange for whatever benefits they find in being Nets.
Meanwhile, Williams’ mom lives in a $229,000 house her son purchased for her in 2007. It is the sort of handsome home that would cost four times that amount if located in New York City. Last month, one of Deron’s children celebrated a birthday. Williams didn’t bring Grandma to Brooklyn for the party; he brought his family to The Colony for the gathering … to Grandma’s house, which is located in a community near The Colony High School, where Williams attended, and where there are neighborhoods about 22 minutes from the American Airlines Center.
If Williams decided on Dallas, he could live a bit further south, in the same general vicinity of where Nowitzki, Cuban and Carlisle live. It takes each of them about eight minutes to get from home to work. Oh, and Cuban and Carlisle’s daughters attend The Hockaday School. Would Deron’s girls like that, too?
How significant was all of that to Williams? Do all players have “Big Apple” aspirations?
Oh, and hey: Is Brooklyn really “The Big Apple,” anyway? Or is it rather off-Broadway?
If a player is interested in his marketability, the Mavs will note that in New York, the Nets will continue to (always?) play second fiddle to the Knicks. And the Giants. And the Jets. And the Yankees. And alongside the Mets, Islanders, Rangers and Devils … and the entertainment world.
But an athlete like Deron Williams? He can own the endorsement market in this region. Tie him in with the two-time American League champion Rangers, and/or with the headline-owning Dallas Cowboys, and Player X can be as beloved as Dirk … or Aikman … or Emmitt … or Staubach. In DFW, those guys are our entertainment world.
The Mavs pitched the deep involvement of their owner (Mark Cuban is as hands-on as they come, while Prokhorov makes infrequent trips to the States while involving himself in business, politics and playboying in his native Russia). And the stability of the coaching situation (Carlisle has his ring and a new four-year deal; the Nets’ Avery Johnson, formerly of Dallas, is … well, still growing into the job). And of course there is Nowitzki, the best player most any point guard will have ever passed to and the best teammate Williams could ever have.
Which franchise has the building blocks needed to contend? Which front office has a creative and championship pedigree? And then – again putting aside the chance to compete for titles, which Dallas believes it will do in the “SuperTeam Era,” and also setting aside for a moment the finances involved – there is the simple pitch that the Mavs hoped would break Deron Williams’ own “split-decision.”
Financial opportunities? Dallas pledged to do its best.
Family, comfort and competing for championships? As July comes and goes, and Williams’ decision is made, Dallas will always feel it is best.
Have Game, Will Travel
Deron Williams is a golf nut. Absolutely loves the sport.
He’s a member at the Santaluz Club in San Diego, and has made it a point during his summers to play as much golf as he can at as many golf courses as possible.
Given that, golf could play a factor in where he will sign this off-season. The list of suitors in the running for the point guard – Brooklyn/New York, Dallas, Phoenix and Los Angeles – all have outstanding golf clubs that would love to have Williams grace their fairways.
Brooklyn/New York: Not only are the Nets hoping to re-sign Williams, the Knicks also covet him even though they have Jeremy Lin.
Golfwise, there are many great private clubs not too far from Manhattan, Brooklyn or wherever Williams could decide to call home. If he wants to travel to Long Island for golf, I’m sure he’d have no problem joining Liberty National, Bayonne or Trump National-Bedminster. If he wanted to be more inland, he could go to Winged Foot or Quaker Ridge; or he could cross the state line to New Jersey and join Baltusrol or Plainfield Country Club. Now, if the Nets promise him a membership to Pine Valley that might seal the deal for Williams’ services.
Dallas: It’s a shocker that even though Williams lived in The Colony, and still has family there, he’s never played The Tribute or Old American. He could easily join both of those courses, although Old American would give him more privacy.
Of course, the playground for many athletes is Dallas National. His good buddy, Jason Kidd, is a member there, so that might help the Mavericks’ cause and Williams’ golf membership decision. He could also join Vaquero if he decides to build a mansion out in quiet Westlake. If he decides to live by Dirk, Cuban and Carlisle and call Preston Hollow home, he could join Brook Hollow or The Northwood Club.
Phoenix: The Suns have become the darkhorse in the Deron Williams sweepstakes. Steve Nash isn’t getting any younger, and the climate suits what Williams wants.
And so do the golf courses. The Phoenix area has some outstanding private club options that would love to have the newest sports celeb as a member. The best of the bunch is Whisper Rock, a dazzling golf-only club in Scottsdale that’s home to many PGA Tour players and Phoenix area movers and shakers. For a quaint country club feel, there’s Mirabel (where Bubba Watson likes to play), Silverleaf and Paradise Valley (where Charles Barkley is a member). Closer to the U.S. Airways Arena are the very worthy Phoenix Country Club and Arizona Country Club.
Los Angeles: The Clippers have Chris Paul. The Lakers have … Ramon Sessions? Clearly, if the Lakers want Williams, they will find some sort of creative way to get him. Anything to please Kobe.
While Kobe Bryant may or may not golf, Williams will have no problems rubbing elbows and sharing golf carts with celebrities on many of L.A.’s hoity-toity private clubs. There’s Los Angeles Country Club (the Playboy Mansion is just by the 13th green), Riviera Country Club (site of the PGA Tour’s Northern Trust Open) and Bel-Air Country Club (country club to the Hollywood stars).
Portland: Both Deron Williams and Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge are good friends. Could Portland start gunning for their own SuperTeam?
Most of the good courses in Oregon start with the word “Bandon” in front, and are a long journey away from the Rose City. However, Portland does have some worthy golf courses including Rock Creek Country Club, Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club or The Reserve Vineyards and Golf Club.
– Robert Rodriguez