Toronto Raptors May Have Poked The Bear
In three games against the Toronto Raptors, Deron Williams has been employing a wide repertoire of moves, and featuring a particularly strong cross-over. There is a burst to his first step again. And, why not? He's only 29-years old - the middle of his prime.
Since his arrival in New Jersey, then Flatbush, his critics have only grown in number. And, truth be told, Deron Williams has been somewhat of a potential local superstar in suspended animation.
At the moment, knock on wood, ankle problems that caused him to miss 18 games early this season now seem like a distant memory. But, the overall damage his ankles have caused him over recent years, have certainly taken their toll on the way Williams is perceived throughout the league, and most importantly, in greater NYC, and Brooklyn specifically.
Heading into the post season, no one was necessarily doubting Deron Williams' determination, or commitment to playing at a high level. The debate raged instead, over how far he had fallen below elite point guard status.
At the moment, he finally appears to have health on his side again. And, thanks largely to Billy King's maneuverings, Deron Williams also has veteran experience, floor leadership, scoring options, and bench depth all at his disposal.
It seems then, the conditions appear perfectly set for him to finally silence his many naysayers, and once and for all, endear himself to the borough.
Albeit hampered by said ankles, he averaged 14 points and 6.1 assists this past season. But, according to his Per 36-minute averages, he posted 16 points and 7 assists.
On March 15th, the Nets visited the Washington Wizards, and were soundly beaten. The Wizards overcame a 10 point deficit in upending the Nets. Washington was led by PG John Wall, who scored 33 points, issued 6 assists, and also secured 4 rebounds. Wall was 10/15 from the field, 4/6 from 3-point range, and 9/10 from the line. Quite simply, he outplayed Deron Williams, by more than doubling his point output.
Deron Williams played 35 minutes that game, and was limited to just 14 points, with 7 assists and 7 rebounds. He was just 4/14 from the field, 3/7 from beyond the arch, and 4/4 from the stripe. Afterward, Deron became incensed with his performance, and admitted as much numerous times.
He played his next game with fury, taking out his frustrations in Phoenix, where he torched the Suns for 28 points, on 11/13 shooting from the field. Still upset, he followed by dropping another 25 points on the Bobcats, with 11 points coming in the 4th quarter. He additionally led the floor with 8 assists.
In Deron Williams' final 23 games of the regular season, he averaged 16 points and 7 assists. Over that span, Deron scored 20+ points 6 times - significant because, over his first 40 games of the season spanning October through February, he had only done that 7 times. However, a significant level of anger dissipated from his game sometime between Washington and the final game of the season.
When Friday's game against Toronto started getting physical, Deron Williams took exception to one push too many, and eyeballed a Raptor player or two. It was that moment when the look came back - his anger returned. From it, I believe, evolves a killer instinct - something that has generally lacked in Deron's game, and from last year's entire team for that matter.
In three games against the Raptors, he is averaging 36.6 minutes, 20.3 points, and 5.3 assists. He scored 24 points in Game One, on 8/20 from the field, and 6/6 from the line. In Game Two, he scored 15 points, and issued 5 assists. In Friday's game at Barclays Center, Deron scored 22 points on 7/14 from the field, and issued a game high 8 assists. All this, while effectively outplaying Kyle Lowry.
Statistics aside, in the closing minutes and moments of the first three games, the ball has been placed in the sure hands of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, who won't panic under duress. In Game Three, the ball was placed in Joe Johnson's hands late in the game, and has otherwise carried the team.
But, it is Deron Williams, not the others, who will ultimately define this initial era of Brooklyn basketball. He will be the measure. As he goes, so will the tale. But, without the ball, that may prove difficult.
Last year's playoffs ended quickly for the Nets, not to mention in very disappointing fashion. This time around, and three games into the post-season, he has yet to really seize an endearing moment.
Hopefully, there are many more games to come. At some point, he'll need to make the closing minutes his showcase if he truly wants to make this era his. Deron Williams made the decision to sign and stay in Brooklyn. The time has now come for him to seize the moment.