Bernucca: At $100 million, Deron Williams may be damaged goods

TWO MINUTES: During their 17-game winning streak, the Clippers have won 15 of those games by an average margin of 17.0 points. The other two games were at Utah, where they won by one and two points, respectively. In the first one on Dec. 3, LA trailed by as many as 14 points in the second half, when they led for just 81 seconds. In the second one Friday, LA trailed by 19 points in the second half, when the led for just 3:09. The Clips did handle the Jazz by 11 on their home floor Sunday. … Which impersonation of a seven-foot donut Saturday night was better – Cole Adrich’s zero shots, three fouls and four turnovers in eight minutes, or Roy Hibbert’s two missed shots, one rebound and three fouls in 21 minutes? … Just call him Deke Nowitzki. The main man of the Mavs made his return from knee surgery – and declared himself a decoy because his conditioning isn’t where it should be. After playing 26 minutes – but sitting a portion of overtime – in Wednesday’s loss at Oklahoma City, Nowitzki said, “I didn’t really want the ball that much. I don’t really feel like I’ve got the stamina, the lift to do something out there with the ball, make a 1-on-1 move. I think that I’m a week or two away of really dominating the ball down the stretch and making some stuff happen.” Where have we heard that before? Oh, yeah, last season, when Nowitzki needed to sit out a week in the middle of the campaign to strengthen his knee. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has seen him twice since his return and flatly said, “He’s not Dirk Nowitzki, basically.” If Dallas has to wait “a week of two” for Dirk to be Dirk, it might be too late. The Mavs have lost six in a row and are six games in the loss column out of the final playoff spot in the West. They have not missed the playoffs since 1999, Nowitzki’s rookie season. … When Miami lost Friday at Detroit despite shooting 51 percent, it ended a streak of 31 straight wins in games in which the Heat made at least half their shots. … The Wizards cut Shelvin Mack in preseason, even though they were down a point guard with John Wall sidelined. After A.J. Price broke his hand, they brought in journeymen Jannero Pargo and Shaun Livingston to try their hand but ultimately waived both. They tried giving the handle to shooting guards Bradley Beal and Jordan Crawford with predictable results. Finally, they brought back Mack, who was in the D-League. Prior to his first game, Mack was thrust into the starting lineup because Crawford reportedly was late to shootaround. He is now sharing the point with Garrett Temple, another D-League signee who has played for more teams (six) than he has career starts (five). … In Wednesday’s loss at San Antonio that ended a five-game winning streak, Toronto’s starters combined for just 27 points on 10-of-30 shooting with nine turnovers. No one was in double figures. … When you start listing the NBA’s most indispensable players, you probably rattle off at least two or three dozen before getting to Magic forward Glen Davis. But Orlando appears lost without “Big Baby,” who is out until at least mid-January with a sprained left shoulder. Davis is averaging 16.0 points and 7.9 rebounds – second on the team in both categories – and the Magic are 6-1 when he scores at least 20 points. But in five games without him, Orlando has lost at Toronto, which was without Andrea Bargnani and Kyle Lowry; at home to Utah without Mo Williams; at home to New Orleans, which had lost 11 in a row; at Washington, which had lost eight straight; and at home to Toronto by a staggering 35 points. “We miss him a lot – both ends of the court,” said second-year center Nikola Vucevic, who must feel like he’s on an island right now. “People think it’s probably just on the offensive end because he’s one of our leading scorers. But he played well on both ends of the court.” … Good shooting requires hand-eye coordination, which may explain why Wolves star Kevin Love is at 35.8 percent overall and 23.3 percent from the arc. Love returned early from a broken hand, subsequently injured a thumb and currently is dealing with an eye injury. “Some days it feels good and some days it’s not so good,” Love said. … When Clippers guard Jamal Crawford was nice enough to join us on Sheridan Hoops Radio earlier this season, he flashed a little of his underrated knowledge of NBA minutiae by answering a trivia question. But he may have some company in that area in former Knicks teammate and Warriors forward David Lee, another radio guest. When told that Golden State had reached 20 wins before New Year’s Day for the first time in three decades, Lee responded, “Before the ‘We Believe’ team (in 2006-07)? Wow. We’re getting back into the Run-TMC stuff, huh? Was this back in Cazzie Russell in ’72?” It actually was the 1980-81 season – two years before Lee was born – when the Warriors of Bernard King, World B. Free and Joe Barry Carroll won their 20th game on Dec. 27. However, they finished 39-43 and missed the playoffs. … How bad was Boston’s three-game trek through California? You have to go back to Dec. 22-26, 1977 – when Tommy Heinsohn was still the coach and six months before Larry Bird was drafted as a junior eligible – for the last time the Celtics lost three straight games by at least 18 points. … In the second quarter of Friday’s Sixers-Warriors game, Philly forward Dorell Wright lost his shoe, which Golden State guard Jarrett Jack chucked into the seats behind the baseline. While Wright unsuccessfully tried to retrieve his sneaker, Jack played on and drilled a 3-pointer at the other end. Throwing any object constitutes an ejection, which was not lost on Sixers coach Doug Collins. “I know the rule is that’s not a penalty, but I think as a league we need to revisit that,” said Collins, who had to call a timeout for Wright to get back his shoe. “There shouldn’t be anything thrown in the stands. If you throw a ball in the stands, you’re thrown out of the game.” Jack’s explanation sounded like the cat who just ate the canary. “I didn’t want anybody to step on it and get hurt,” he said. “I should get a sportsmanship award. I was trying to help.”

Trivia Answer: Elton Brand, Shawn Marion and Dirk Nowitzki of Dallas. … Happy 25th Birthday, Javaris Crittenton. … Warning Tony Parker for flopping is like warning a cloud for raining.

Chris Bernucca is the deputy editor of His columns appear Monday during the season. You can follow him on Twitter.


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  7. Kevin says

    The clear line of demarcation is the return from his second aggravation of the wrist, not the trade, which was 1/4/11. Below there’s some data compiled through a couple of weeks ago that outlines just how blatant the falloff is from that specific point. The guy simply couldn’t shoot after he missed time with the wrist injury. Everyone keeps pointing to his movement to the Nets being the change, but you should have run the numbers from the return from missed time in January of 2011 – it was like a light switch got turned off from that day forward.

    • Chris says

      Understood. The point I thought I made was that the injury and trade were only a month apart so the line is generally in the same time frame. I think lesser teammates are a factor (he has to do more and most guys drop off when the workload is heavier) but the injury is the biggest factor and doesn’t seem to be changing. Thanks for reading.

      • Kevin says

        Yeah, you definitely made that point, I guess I just get tired of seeing everyone reference the trade as a turning point (even if it’s just for the purposes of simplicity) when there is clear data showing that the return from missed time after the wrist injury is the drop-off.

        I think using the words “damaged goods” in the title was note-perfect, because that is the perfect description of what it appears to have gone on a here. A defective commodity was passed/sold/traded, and the defect was already present at the time of the transaction. It is absolutely amazing to me how many writers either miss this data completely, or simply brush it off as “one of the factors” in Williams’ decline and then go on to list the system, his conditioning, etc. etc. etc.

        Williams was special because he was a top playmaker, but also because he could shoot/score at an elite level. Being able to operate at the lofty shooting efficiency that he did prior to the injury not only made him a great scorer, but also opened up options for his playmaking skills as defenses had to respect his scoring ability. When you suddenly take away his ability to shoot, it changes everything. I don’t care if Deron is fat, unhappy, gout-stircken, or even a double-foot amputee; if the guy can shoot everything else can still fall into place. Instead we have to read more articles like the one in the Daily News today talking about how Williams is “burnt out” from all of the summer basketball he’s been playing over the past 2 years.

        To show such a massive drop in shooting percentages following a major wrist injury to his shooting wrist, over a period that encompasses parts of three seasons now should be the only major talking point on the guy now. Somehow you’re one of the only people writing who is even entertaining the idea that he’s quite simply a different player at this point. Until they solve the shooting woes he has had since taking time off to deal with the wrist in Utah, this guy is not going to be who everyone is waiting for…and If his wrist has truly changed him bio-mechanically, then the “Deron Williams” of the pre-injury days simply doesn’t exist anymore.

        Have a great 2013, Chris.

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