Is Williams still an elite point guard? Is he a winner?
Or is he the reason his coaches are sent packing and his teams don’t quite measure up?
Despite a blockbuster trade to acquire Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, who have championship rings and 25 combined All-Star selections, it is Williams who holds the key to Brooklyn’s title hopes.
Consider this: Brooklyn is 28-4 when scoring over 100 points dating to last season. The winning formula has been established. The Nets win when Williams pushes the tempo as the floor general.
“We want to get easy baskets and then give yourself time on the clock to execute,” said Williams. “A lot of that’s on me to get the ball up and push the tempo a little bit.”
In Brooklyn’s most recent win against the Utah Jazz, six players scored in double figures, and the offense appeared to click on all cylinders.
When Williams was asked if that’s what should be expected of Brooklyn’s offense throughout the season, he said, “I think so. I think that’s how we’re going to be successful, just sharing the ball and getting everyone involved. It’s an equal opportunity team.”
That hasn’t been the case in the past. In Utah, Williams butted heads with Jerry Sloan to the point where the Hall of Fame coach abruptly called it quits. With the Nets, similar disagreements arose with Avery Johnson, who was sent packing – some said to placate the point guard.
There are no excuses now. This is the most talent Williams, a three-time All-Star, has had around him, putting him in the best position to succeed during the prime of his career.
In addition to Garnett and Pierce, fellow starters Joe Johnson (6) and Brook Lopez (1) also have been All-Stars. Even sixth man Andrei Kirilenko (1) has an All-Star selection on his resume.
Furthermore, Brooklyn boasts the NBA’s only bench with four double-digit scorers and one double-digit rebounder from last season.
The collection of Kirilenko, Jason Terry, Andray Blatche, Shaun Livingston, Reggie Evans and Alan Anderson has combined to start 1,864 games over 56 years of experience.
I asked Williams if it’s a challenge to keep his star teammates happy with only one basketball to go around.
“We don’t have anybody that’s worried about scoring, that’s the beautiful thing about this team,” he said. “Nobody really cares if they score 10, they score 20, or two. We just want to win and as long as we continue with that mentality it’s easy to play on a team like this.”
The unselfishness, veteran leadership and star power this team offers Williams his best chance to return to a conference finals for the first time since 2007 with Utah.
There are no excuses among the braintrust, either. Williams now has the benefit of working with coach Jason Kidd, a future Hall of Fame point guard and the greatest player in franchise history.
Kidd was playing as recently as last season and was a teammate of Williams on the Olympic squad. He has the resume to command the respect of Williams.
With that in mind, Williams is expected to lead Brooklyn to a title. Anything less would be considered a failure.