NEW YORK -- Brook Lopez has gone from being The Man to not being the man … to being The Man again.
One minute, he’s a franchise player. The next, he’s on the trade block.
But despite nearly being dealt for Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Lance Stephenson and Reggie Jackson over the years, Lopez remains a Net. And given that he just officially inked a three-year contract with the only franchise he’s ever known worth nearly $64 million, the 27-year-old center intends to stay in Brooklyn for long time.
“I was pretty confident on my end that I wanted to be here,” Lopez said Thursday. “There weren’t really other serious destinations, I suppose. We obviously worked something out. I think we’re committed to each other.”
Lopez then looked at Nets GM Billy King, who was sitting next to him, and laughed. With Trader Billy at the helm, you just never know. Still, Lopez has been a loyal soldier throughout all the trade talks. He’s currently the longest-tenured Net, having played eight seasons between New Jersey and Brooklyn.
Milwaukee Bucks coach Jason Kidd reached out to Lopez at the start of free agency, but just hours after the window opened July 1 at midnight, the Nets and Lopez had an agreement in principle.
“I heard from J-Kidd,” Lopez said. “We talked a little bit, but at the end of the day, I’m here right now, and this is where I want to be.”
Lopez could’ve gotten the full five-year maximum, but he and his agent, Darren Matsubara of Wasserman Media Group, elected to go the three-year route, which allows him to get back on the market when he is 30. His contract includes injury protections in the event that he hurts his foot again. King would not go into more detail on that front when asked.
“I just talked obviously with my agents, and we just felt this was the best course for now,” Lopez said. “We didn’t want anything too long, I suppose. We felt this was a nice medium between going very short and extending all the way out.”
Said King: “In negotiations you go back and forth, and this is what we came to. I think you see a lot more players going short because of the uncertainty of where the (salary) cap may go in the future.
“So I think a lot of players are taking the money to make them comfortable, but also looking at their possibilities in the future with the cap that may go up. The league has been great and growing revenue as everybody saw with the cap increase past the projections this year. So I think from the players’ standpoint they get comfort with the money but also get the ability to get back in the market again.”
Lopez was sitting on a stage inside the interview room at Barclays Center with fellow free-agent signees Thaddeus Young (four years, $50 million with a fourth-year player option), Thomas Robinson (two years, $2 million with a second-year player option) and Shane Larkin (two years, $3 million with a second-year player option).
Behind them was a backdrop that read “We Are: Continuity/Core/Youth/Commitment.” It was certainly a stark contrast from years past, when the team was going “all-in” and chasing superstars with boatloads of cash in an effort to win now. As King admitted, however, that didn’t work out.
Counting Wayne Ellington, (two-year, $3 million deal with a second-year player option), who agreed to a contract in principle, the Nets currently have $97 million committed to 13 players with guaranteed contracts. They also have five players with non-guaranteed deals: Markel Brown, Cory Jefferson, Earl Clark, Ryan Boatright and Willie Reed. Reed's one-year deal, which was also agreed to in principle, includes a $500,000 guarantee.
So yes, there is still work to be done.
King rescinded the team’s $4.2 million qualifying offer to Mirza Teletovic, making him an unrestricted free agent. And getting near or under the luxury tax line of $84.7 million remains a significant goal, which is part of the reason why Joe Johnson and Deron Williams are on the trade block and being shopped.
The Nets don’t just want to get younger and more athletic, they also want to create financial flexibility both now and heading into the summer of 2016.
“We still have a ways to go. I think we have some ways to get there and we’ll probably do some things to get there,” King said. “And we’ll probably do some things to get there, to get us closer to there or get under.”
When asked if Johnson and Williams would be on the roster in 2015-16, King responded, “At this point, yes,” while leaving room for the possibility that ultimately may not be the case.
The Nets have been active in trying to move both and had talks with both Memphis and Cleveland about Johnson. So far, nothing has happened, but that doesn’t mean it won’t down the road.
“I do expect these guys to be on the roster next year,” King said, referring to Johnson and Williams. “Will they be here all year? I don’t know. Will all of the guys on our team be here next year? I don’t know. But the goal is to try to get together, mold the team, and if you’ve gotta make moves, then we’ll make moves.”
Depth addition: The Nets later Thursday agreed in principle on a contract with big man Willie Reed, the team announced. Reed will join the team's summer league squad in Las Vegas.