Though it's not an official transaction and it took three years to complete, the 76ers and Nets, two of the three worst teams in the NBA's Eastern Conference last season, effectively have swapped general managers.
New Jersey on Wednesday hired Billy King, the man Ed Stefanski replaced in Philadelphia in 2007, to be its general manager.
The Nets' new owner, Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, said he and new coach Avery Johnson interviewed several candidates for the position held by Rod Thorn, who decided last month to leave the team that finished the 2009-10 season with an NBA-worst 12-70 mark.
King and ex-Cavaliers GM Danny Ferry were believed to be the two finalists.
"I am very pleased Billy King is coming on board as Nets general manager," Prokhorov said in a statement. "He has all of the qualities we've been looking for in a candidate: professionalism; good relations with the league, players and agents; and strong communications skills.
"He will be an excellent fit with head coach Avery Johnson. Most importantly, Billy is ambitious. He wants to win. This is what I felt when I met with him and why he will be a strong addition to the Nets organization."
King, 44, who played college basketball at Duke, was the 76ers' top personnel man for nearly 10 years before being fired in the 2007-08 season. He was promoted to team president in 2003, two years after his Allen Iverson-led Sixers reached the NBA Finals. Philadelphia made four other playoff appearances during his tenure.
"I am very excited about joining the Nets organization," King said in a statement. "I want to thank Mr. Prokhorov and his executive team for the opportunity to oversee a franchise that has such a vibrant owner, an outstanding coach in Avery Johnson, and possesses the combination of young talent, cap space, and draft choices that will allow us to build a squad that will be able to contend for an NBA title."
King joins a club that needs help everywhere and has been hoping to lure a big-name free agent with the $14 million it has remaining in salary-cap space. But now that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh have signed with Miami, Prokhorov has said it's time to implement Plan B.
"We have excellent financial flexibility," Prokhorov said. "We have trade-able assets, and I'm really optimistic for what is going to happen the next two or three years. We have good enough cap space for the next free agency. We have one year to train the young team and see what the progress is. So we have all the doors open. The job was great. Maybe from the PR point of view, especially fans feel a little sad. But for the future, we feel really good."
Among King's Philadelphia trades were the three-team deal that brought Kenny Thomas to the 76ers and another with Stefanski that sent Dikembe Mutombo to New Jersey for Keith Van Horn and Todd MacCulloch.
Details of King's contract were not immediately available, and he could not be reached for comment.
According to Prokhorov, Thorn, 69, a Nets executive since 2000, wanted to move on.
"I really wanted to keep him on," Prokhorov said. "He's one of the brightest personnel in the league. But he was very straightforward with me when he said, 'I was working for the Nets for 10 years and it's time.' "
During Thorn's time there, the club reached two NBA Finals and captured four Atlantic Division titles.
"I think he did a great job, especially in this transition period," Prokhorov said. "And I'm really satisfied and I will consider Rod as a Nets friend and we'll have seats for him in the new arena for all the Nets games. He did a great job."