New Jersey Nets point guard Deron Williams called NBA commissioner David Stern a "bully," and said it made him "smile" when he heard Magic center Dwight Howard had requested a trade to play with him in New Jersey.
"He knows he's a bully, ain't no secret," Williams told reporters Sunday, when asked about Stern. "I think everybody knows that."
Williams was responding to a question about Stern nixing a three-way blockbuster trade that would've sent New Orleans Hornets point guard Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers for a package of players. The Hornets are owned by the NBA, and Stern said more pieces needed to be added to make the deal acceptable. The Lakers eventually pulled out of the trade and moved in a different direction.
"You're fighting a bully, man. David Stern is a bully," Williams said. "You can't really go up against him, man."
"I think every owner of every big business is a bully," Williams continued. "That's how they become successful."
Reports have surfaced, since the trade was denied by the NBA, that team owners were upset and had complained to Stern about the possibility of yet another small-market team losing an All-Star to a big market.
Williams had expressed his shock Friday after hearing that the deal had been called off.
The Hornets were to receive Luis Scola, Kevin Martin, Lamar Odom, Goran Dragic and a 2012 first-round pick from the Lakers and Houston Rockets. Houston was supposed to get Pau Gasol. The Lakers have since dealt Odom to the Dallas Mavericks for a trade exception.
"That's just a tough situation for him and I really feel for him," Williams said, who tried to contact Paul but was unable to reach him. "We're friends and I don't even know what's going on with that and what's gonna happen with it. I just hear it's off now.
"I'm sure he's probably pissed off and probably upset. It's just a bad situation for everybody, all the guys involved in the trade thinking they're gone and having to go back to their teams. It's just a weird situation, I think."
Williams has kept his mouth closed when asked about trade rumors surrounding the Nets and their possible pursuit of Howard. But this time, he didn't hide his feelings about the possibility of teaming up with Howard to form arguably the most dynamic center-point guard tandem in the league.
"It makes me smile a bit," Williams said before smiling.
Because they still have Gasol and 24-year-old center Andrew Bynum, the Lakers will be the Nets' main competition for Howard's services. That offer could trump New Jersey's package, which is built around 23-year-old center Brook Lopez and two future first-round draft picks.
The Nets are slated to move to Brooklyn in 2012-13 and play in the $1 billion Barclays Center, which makes them an attractive destination for Howard, widely viewed as the most dominant big man in the league. Plus, he and Williams are friends.
"I talk to Dwight all the time," Williams said.
Nets' executives -- including owner Mikhail Prokhorov and general manager Billy King -- allegedly met with Howard earlier this week, which could lead to possible tampering charges if it's true. King has since denied it, and Howard's agent, Dan Fegan, said he had permission to speak with New Jersey, the Dallas Mavericks and the Lakers about a possible deal.
Williams was asked if calling Howard was tampering.
"There's technically -- I don't know if there's a fine line -- tampering," he said. "But I have friends, like, Dwight's my friend, so if I want to call him and talk to him, I'm gonna call him and talk to him."
When asked if he thought a trade could be imminent, Williams replied, "I don't know. I'm not a GM. I'm a GM in training."
Mike Mazzeo is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.