D-Will, D-12 dream still alive

Nets point guard Deron Williams has joked all season that he’s “the assistant to the assistant GM.”

But on Wednesday night, he wasn’t willing to discuss the impending 3 p.m. Thursday trade deadline.

“You guys know more than me,” said Williams after the Nets won their first game of the season without him -- they had been 0-3 -- beating the Raptors, 98-84, at Prudential Center.

Probably not. But one thing is certain: Williams, who has missed the last three games with a strained right calf and remains day to day, won’t be moved. A league source told ESPN NewYork.com that there’s “no chance” D-Will is dealt by the deadline.

Earlier Wednesday that seemed uncertain. Everything did.

Reports said that Orlando center Dwight Howard -- the Nets’ top target -- told Magic management he’d be willing to waive his early termination option and stay with the organization through 2012-13.

At that point, Nets’ fans were panicking. No D-12. D-Will was certain to bolt. Was small forward Gerald Green really going to be the team’s best player heading to Brooklyn?

But later on ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reported that Howard had done another 180: in a Wednesday night conference call with Magic officials, the game-changing big man told them he was not prepared to surrender the option to become a free agent at season’s end.

Just like that, hope returned. The dream of pairing D-Will and D-12 is very-much alive.

And it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Orlando and New Jersey consummate a blockbuster trade by the deadline. The Nets would prefer to hold on to all their assets like center Brook Lopez, shooting guard MarShon Brooks and their two 2012 first-round picks. But if they have a chance to land Howard without having to compete for his services when’s he’s almost certain to opt out and become a free agent, they just may pull the trigger. Sources told Stein that the Nets have had the most serious D-12 discussions with the Magic this week and that the two teams were discussing trade scenarios late Wednesday night.

One of the many reasons Howard would like to play for the Nets would be the opportunity to make hundreds of millions in endorsements, and ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard reports that he could receive an adidas shoe deal similar to the $260 million one Bulls point guard Derrick Rose recently signed.

Since coming to the Nets, Williams has inked endorsement deals with Red Bull, Metro PCS, Audi and suit-maker Bonobos.

“It’s a lot different than it is in Utah,” Williams said. “It’s a better market. A lot of companies that I’m dealing with are excited about Brooklyn.

“They see the buzz surrounding [Barclays Center], and the fans are excited about a team coming to the borough. Everybody is trying to get a head-start on it.”

Williams praised his relationship with the Nets’ organization.

“The first month I was here I probably had more conversations with management and the coach than I did for a while in Utah so it’s a big difference,” D-Will said.

The Nets are slated to take off for Orlando at 2 p.m. Thursday. And it’s possible their team could look different.

How much different? We’ll have to wait and see.