Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson are integral pieces to the puzzle, but the main reason the Nets have become as relevant as they have is because of the acquisition of Williams. This team goes only as far as he can take them.
During his days as a member of the Jazz, he was consistently known as one of the top three point guards in the league. Some even considered him the very best, period. Those days are long gone now, and you wonder if he’s even the best point guard in his own division. One of the issues that has caused his downfall has been the state of his body.
Word has been – since he became a Net, really – that the once-great guard has been dealing with an assortment of injuries, from his wrist to his ankles. In fact, he has been ailing all season with ankle issues and will have them treated during the much-needed All-Star weekend, from Tim Bontemps of New York Post:
Deron Williams will miss the final two games before the All-Star break – Monday night against the Pacers and Wednesday night in Brooklyn against the Nuggets – with synovitis in both ankles. He is expected to return after the All-Star break. Williams is not in Indianapolis with the team, and instead remained in New York to get treatment on both ankles, which included receiving platelet-rich plasma in both of them. It’s not the first time Williams has had an injection in one of his ankles this season, as he received a cortisone shot in his left ankle to help deal with a bone spur that was causing inflammation in the ankle.
These problems aren’t going to magically disappear, and may prove to be the reason why the Nets will only go so far this season. The question is, will he ever be able to regain the form he once had? GM Billy King also believes in the notion that Williams cannot be great with the injuries he is dealing with, but also thinks he can regain his “true” form – the way Carmelo Anthony did this season. Stefan Bondy of Daily News has details:
“I’ve seen it,” the GM said. “He’s done it.” King ratcheted up his defense of Williams when pressed further. He admitted Williams has “not had the best year,” but attributed that mostly to injuries, exhaustion and a lack of explosiveness. He compared the circumstances to Carmelo Anthony’s last season, when the Knicks forward struggled with an elbow injury and Mike D’Antoni’s system. Amid speculation that Williams has also been slowed by weight-gain, King said the three-time All-Star is just one pound heavier than when he was dealt from Utah. “You’re digging. You’re digging. And you’re asking valid questions, but (the inflammation to Williams’ ankles) is not a concern,” King said. “Kobe’s had the blood-platelet spinning on his knees, and guys have had it. It happens. So let’s not make this a bigger issue than it is. Let’s let him get through this, have a week off and get back to playing basketball. Let’s not put the dirt on him and say his career’s over at 28. “I think the same questions were asked last year about Carmelo Anthony when they were struggling and people were writing him off, saying is he’s not the same player. I think he bounced back this year.”
So let Williams tough it out and get through this year, and allow him to put in the necessary work over the summer to come back better than ever. Prove the value and validity of his contract. Problem solved, right? Not necessarily. It has become apparent that it’s not just his level of play that has been an issue. Word around the league is that Williams has become a diva of sorts, from NBA insider Ric Bucher:
“Looking forward to watching Nets-Spurs to see if, as almost every scout/GM I talk to contends, Deron Williams has become a diva of the first order. Now, I’m told, when a teammate misses a shot or blows an easy dime far too many times Deron can be seen rolling his eyes or staring at the bench as if to say, “Can you believe that?” If so, he wasn’t always that way; at least I never heard of the Jazz having those kind of problems and other teams certainly didn’t see him in that light. If anything, they admired that while he was accepted by the CP3/LeBron/Wade/Melo group he made a point of standing on his own. I made the case that I’d take Deron over CP3 their early years in the league because of Deron’s size and better shooting range, but if all I’m hearing is true, the difference in floor generalship could be too much to ignore.”
King may think Williams still has it in him to become one of the top point guards in the league again, but it’s hard to look at someone as the true leader of a team when you’re scrutinizing and ridiculing your own teammates for missing shots or showing poor body language over missed statistical opportunities. Both mentally and physically, it seems that Williams has a long way to go to recapture his image as one of the most feared around the league.
Onto other news from the Association: