The NBA’s best shooter, who actually threw down a dunk last night — the 16th of his NBA career but his first in two years — appeared to be heading to Brooklyn to join the Nets.
At the time, it lookd like Brooklyn was building a superteam.
But with the Hawks winning their 14th in a row last night to tie a franchise record, what could have been is taking a back seat to what is … and what the Atlanta Hawks have become — the powerhouse of the Eastern Conference.
Free agency hadn’t even completed its first full hour in the summer of 2013 when Kyle Korver’s little brother and Nets point guard Deron Williams teamed up to send the NBA community into a frenzy.
NETS RT @KalebKorver: Too excited for my (possibly) new favorite NBA team.
— Deron Williams (@DeronWilliams) July 1, 2013
NBA players constantly use social media to share photos, promote charities and thank fans for their support. Very rarely, though, had we seen an NBA star actively recruit a player from a rival team to join forces over social media. Deron Williams’ tweet wasn’t his way of casually throwing Brooklyn’s name into the hat for Korver’s consideration; Williams was telling Nets’ fans that something big was about to happen.
Brooklyn was the toast of the NBA off-season, having just acquired Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to supplement the trio of All-Star talents Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez already on the roster. Adding Korver to the mix figured to make Brooklyn the undisputed favorites in the Eastern Conference for the 2013-2014 season.
Half an hour after Williams’ tweet, the ever-reliable Marc Stein dropped this tweet:
Says one rival GM with interest in one of this summer’s most coveted shooters: “Hearing Korver to Brooklyn is in the bag”
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) July 1, 2013
For Korver, the most lethal shooter on the free agent market in 2013, Brooklyn seemed to be the logical next stop in his journeyman career.
“That was an interesting week. I had played with a bunch of the guys [in Brooklyn] and I have a great relationship with Deron,” Korver told SheridanHoops. “Billy King was the GM who drafted me. I think there were a lot of natural ties. They had just made that big trade and there was some excitement to go there.”
Korver’s agent, Jeff Schwartz, had been stirring the excitement and plotting the Brooklyn coup since draft night the previous week. After all, Schwartz also represents Williams and Pierce, and he envisioned having three of his top clients playing for the same organization in a premier market.
By the morning, Williams was confident enough in Stein’s report to share his excitement on Instagram:
There was only one problem: Korver hadn’t officially decided on anything yet.
“I think a couple of people might have jumped the gun,” Korver recalls on those hectic first days of free agency. “I definitely considered it, for sure. But in the end, this is where I wanted to be and it just came down to that.”
At the time Korver had just finished his first season with the Hawks — his fourth team in seven years — and to his own surprise, he had actually come to enjoy his time in Atlanta. When Korver was traded from Chicago to Atlanta in the summer of 2012, the Bulls were arguably the best team in the Eastern Conference and the Hawks were a team in the beginning stages of a franchise overhaul. He was initially upset:
“[They] traded for me and with what I knew about the Hawks’ culture and fan base, it wasn’t very appealing to be honest with you,” Korver admits now.
With only one year left on his contract at the time of the trade, Korver didn’t expect to stick around Atlanta long enough to see light at the end of the Hawks’ rebuilding tunnel.
But upon insertion into the Hawks’ starting lineup and learning of general manager Danny Ferry’s plans for the organization, Korver started to get excited about the Hawks’ future. More specifically, Korver started to get excited about how Ferry valued him as a cornerstone in the path toward building a winner in Atlanta.
For Korver, who had already been traded twice in his career for mere salary relief, having a general manager who understood his value was refreshing. And with Brooklyn strapped to longterm contracts and limited contract wiggle-room within the parameters of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, Brooklyn’s best offer to Korver was their taxpayer mini midlevel exception of three years and $10.1 million.
Brooklyn presented a fast-track to championship contention but also guaranteed a pay cut and uncertain minutes for Korver, who was coming off arguably his best season as a pro.
To make Korver’s decision easier, Ferry delivered the sharpshooter a four-year, $24 million contract — the longest and most lucrative commitment Korver had ever received in his career.
Less than 72 hours after Stein reported that Korver to Brooklyn was “in the bag”, news broke that the sharpshooter was staying put:
Kyle Korver is staying with Atlanta on four-year deal worth estimated $24 million, sources tell ESPN
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) July 4, 2013
To be clear, Korver’s decision did not strictly come down to financials. Korver was a top target for several teams with significant cap space. While Atlanta’s offer may have been among the richest, it certainly wasn’t alone in its own ballpark.
What proved paramount in drawing Korver back to Atlanta was his desire to finally settle down and help build a championship contender from the ground up.
“This is where I wanted to be and it just came down to that,” Korver remembers. “I felt like [my wife and I] saw the vision of what was going to happen eventually and I wanted to be a part of building something. Basketball is basketball and basketball is amazing. But it isn’t enough, right? Just playing basketball isn’t enough. We wanted to be a part of something special. I didn’t think it would happen this quickly but I did believe that this was going to happen and it’s fun to be a part of that.”
In the same week that Ferry hustled to keep Korver in Atlanta, he also matched Jeff Teague’s four-year offer sheet from Milwaukee and agreed to two-year contracts with unrestricted free agents Paul Millsap and DeMarre Carroll.
As the Hawks now stand in first place in the Eastern Conference with four All-Star candidates on their roster a year-and-a-half later, it’s safe to say that one week in July was the most successful week an NBA executive has had in years.