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Nets take first step in global domination

LONDON -- One city conquered ... several thousand more to go.

History has taught us that global domination is a slow process fraught with pitfalls, but, for now at least, Deron Williams and the New Jersey Nets have London in their pocket and the point guard has his first victory with his new team.

The 116-103 win over the Toronto Raptors on Friday at the O2 Arena will be little more than a footnote in the history of the 2010-11 NBA season, but it was historic in that the Nets, owned by Russian Mikhail Prokhorov, now can claim to be the first team to win a regular-season game on European soil.

And, while the London crowd clearly still struggles with the finer points of the game despite four straight years of NBA exhibition games at the O2, it obviously warmed to Williams above all others.

A small point, perhaps, but with Prokhorov this weekend launching a charm offensive while in London, attempting to convince Williams to make a long-term commitment to the Nets and their owner's vision of global domination, the fact that Williams made such an impression so far from home cannot be ignored.

"Definitely," Williams said when asked whether the prospect of a role in Prokhorov's vision appeals. "Billy King, the general manager, talked to me a lot about the future of the Nets, the direction they want to go, the move to Brooklyn.

"Mr. Prokhorov met me in San Antonio, and we talked for a couple of minutes. Those short couple of minutes got me excited about the move, the future of the franchise. I'm sure we will have more chances to sit down and talk."

Nobody -- least of all a Russian oligarch who made $13 billion-plus from the metal industry -- will read anything more into those words than a player keeping open his options, but Williams' second-half performance, and in particular his blossoming partnership with center Brook Lopez, surely gave a hint of what the future might hold.

Williams finished with 16 points and 11 assists in 35 minutes after recovering from hand and wrist injuries, while Lopez led the Nets in scoring with 25 points.

"Deron didn't shoot the ball well in the first half," coach Avery Johnson said. "But he came out strong for us and had a really nice third quarter, made some big shots for us.

"He's been passing the ball real well since he's been here, had double figures [assists] in every game, and he has a good two-man game going with [Kris] Humphries and, also, Brook. He's basically a triple-double type of threat, and once he continues to get comfortable, you will see him score more than he has been doing."

Williams' assimilation into the Nets' lineup is still clearly a work in progress. "He's put a couple of plays in," Williams said of his coach's work with him. "Some similar plays to what we did in Utah, to help me get accustomed to playing with the guys; one of those is a post-up play."

Not that the vast majority of the London crowd would know a post-up from a goalpost on a football pitch.

But what they do now know is that the Nets always will lay claim to being the NBA's first regular-season winners in Europe.

"It's going to go down in history," Johnson said, beaming. "The first of everything is always good, and I'm glad to be a part of it.

"We understand the whole globalization of the game. We know we're a little bit different kind of team, especially with the influence of our owner. It seems like we've been all over the world this year. But it's something we embrace. The guys have had a good attitude towards events in the community. They have been a part of it, had a good spirit and done a good job with children, here in London this week. I'm proud of our guys."

Global domination can certainly be exhausting. But if Williams wants to be part of the Nets, he had better get used to the travel.