This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
I watched Deron Williams play twice in the past 12 days.
I was among a group of reporters who interviewed him three different times.
I've thought since the day the Jazz exiled him to New Jersey almost a year ago that he was going to end up in Dallas after the 2011-12 season.
I still feel that way.
Now more than ever.
The Jazz, of course, did the unthinkable last February, when they traded one of the game's most talented players.
Teams just don't do what Utah did, because All-Stars like Williams are too difficult to find and too valuable to a franchise. The Jazz did it anyway.
They traded Williams because management believed Williams planned to leave the moment his contract allowed him to do so.
I don't know what convinced CEO Greg Miller and general manager Kevin O'Connor that Williams wanted out. They obviously believed it, though, so they decided to get something for him unlike Cleveland in the LeBron James-to-Miami saga.
In New Jersey, Williams performs on an island, surrounded by a sea of role players.
If the Nets win 20 games this season, it's only because they play enough times against the likes of Toronto, Charlotte, Detroit and Washington.
Williams does not look happy on the court and, as he did in Utah, he talks only vaguely about his future plans.
He likes the Nets' organization, which is entirely possible. He thinks the franchise's move to Brooklyn next is a good thing, which many others also believe.
But will he be part of it?
That's where his answers sound much like the ones he once gave in Utah, when asked about his future with the Jazz.
Coincidentally, the Mavericks followed Williams into EnergySolutions Arena on Thursday night, which also reinforced my thinking that Williams will end up with them.
Dallas won Dirk Nowitzki his championship last year and is ready to move forward. Tyson Chandler, J.J. Barea, Caron Butler and DeShawn Stevenson were not brought back, primarily to begin the process of freeing salary cap space.
After this season, Dallas could add more than $30 million to its free-agent war chest by not re-signing Jason Terry ($11.4 million), Jason Kidd ($8.5 million), Lamar Odom ($8.2 million) and the threesome of Brian Cardinal, Delonte West and Brandan Wright ($3.3 million).
Basically, everything the Mavs have done since last year seems designed to make them a major player in free agency next summer.
Dallas might even have enough to sign two stars Dwight Howard and Williams.
Such a move would cement the Mavs' place in the Western Conference pecking order for the next decade.
Last week, owner Mark Cuban told ESPN, "You've got to recognize who you are, what you need to accomplish and where you're trying to go. We've got a plan, and we're sticking to it."
I don't know what Cuban's plan entails, but I'd wager Williams is included.