In assessing the failure of the Brooklyn Nets so far this season, people tend to forget how truly dope Deron Williams can be, and that the all-star point guards absence from the lineup is as much a reason for their slow start as Jason Kidd and Lawrence Frank’s sound clash, the insinuated deterioration of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett or Joe Johnson’s invisible-man act.
If there’s any doubt that Williams is still one of the game’s impact studs, such incomprehensible chatter has been squelched in the two games since his return to the Nets lineup on Tuesday night against the first-place Celtics.
Williams chipped in 25 points, lifting the Nets to victory and stopped a six-game home losing streak. In other words, it was back to business.
“I knew by watching the games, we were stagnant and needed to pick up the pace. I was just trying to get everybody going early,” Williams said on NBA TV.
He did that and then some, sparking the Nets dormant offense and streaking around the court like a multi-faceted flare gun shot into the Brooklyn sky, spreading gangster juice throughout the frenzied Barclays crowd.
Just last week the Nets were looking as feeble as their cross-town rival Knicks. Media reports suggested Kidd was on the hot seat, and he had barely gotten his ass warm on the bench. Kidd was so desperate that he resorted to intentionally spilling a drink on the court to buy time, so he could draw up a play. With the inhibiting effects of his two-game suspension for a DUI to start the season, the team’s terrible play and his power play with Frank, Kidd just really got full control of the team a few games ago.
He demoted Frank, got rid of some white noise in the background and finally asserted himself as the leader of the team. Now that the in-house squabbles are settled and Williams is back, the Nets can get to work.
Consistency has been the Nets major challenge this season. Staying consistently healthy has been D-Will’s dilemma. So when Williams’ second game back from a sprained ankle reaped the same positive fruits as the first, it became safe to say that as long as D Will is on the J.O., Brooklyn’s Atlantic Division title hopes will flow on like Cedric Ceballos and Warren G in the ‘90s.
Williams looked more confident and lethal Thursday night than he had in months, and he led the Nets to a 102-93 win over a loaded Clippers squad. The Nets improved to 8-14, stretched their season-best winning streak to three games and sit just one game behind the Celtics in the Atlantic Division.
It looks like the Nets are getting the do-over that so many teams need (but never get) as they navigate through the often turbulent early season.
There’s no timetable to achieving chemistry, but it rarely develops in just one season. The two-time defending champion Miami Heat needed training wheels to get The Big Three through that first season together. Once the trust and roles were fully established, they’ve been on a seek and destroy mission every since. To expect Brooklyn to run like a '57 Chevy in the first 20 games was never logical from jump. With D-Will back in the fray, the true assessment and official journey of this Nets squad begins now.
“You can see the energy has picked up, the pace has picked up,” Williams said after the game, “and I think I have a little bit to do with that, but I can’t take all the credit. We’re playing well right now as a team. We’re moving the ball. We’re helping each other out. We’re talking. We’re having fun.”
Sure, winning is always a blast, and not having to watch Tyshawn Taylor butcher the point is an even bigger blessing.
Just a few years ago, Williams was at the top of mad “best point guard in the game” lists and the D Will-CP3 debates caused some cats to get dragged out of the barber’s chair and stomped out.
In reality, CP3 hasn’t been much comp for Williams in head-to-head matchups. On Thursday, Williams improved his personal career record against Paul to 15-5, but the past two years, as Williams has battled nagging injuries with his new Nets team, Paul has garnered MVP talk and the ever-wavering support of public opinion as leader of a Clippers team, who some say Doc Rivers will have championship ready by season’s end.
A healthy Williams and Paul exchanged razzle-dazzle moves, executed passes with pinpoint precision and maneuvered with the speed and efficiency of a Floyd Mayweather.
Paul had a solid game with 20 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists, but he wasn’t the sledge hammer for his squad that Williams was.
Williams scored 12 of the Nets’ final 16 points in the first half. Just before the break, he turned back the clock real quick and broke Paul’s ankles on a vintage crossover, right to left, and sealed the deal with a floater at the cup.
Williams has already teased Brooklyn fans with his 57-point explosion last season, so they know what he can do. Everyone in the league knows what he’s capable of. Discount Brooklyn if you want to, but NBA landscapes change with a knee crack. Jason Terry will be back and so will Andre Kirilenko. The Brooklyn squad that looked so thin on talent and destined for disaster, and had Rivers feeling sorry for his former HOFers, looks to be a serious work in progress.
But the first chapter of an 82-game saga has ended. The Nets were bruised and battered and faced the gauntlet a few times. However, they remain standing. The championship pedigree which floods the roster of this Brooklyn squad,didn’t allow a rough start, some pessimistic fans and hating national media to bury their ambitions so prematurely.
After the game, Doc wasn’t feeling sorry for anybody but his own media-darling Clippers, who were run out of Brooklyn.
“They will be in the playoffs, and they will be very difficult by the end of the year,” Rivers said of the Nets in nytimes.com .
Considering where Brooklyn was after getting spanked by the Knicks last week, Rivers' statement is gangster and revealing.
Maybe now instead of pushing the panic button on every squad with a losing streak—which shows total ignorance to the historical culture of team building—some media pundits will let this Nets team get healthy as Kidd settles into his role as head coach. And in Williams’ case, chill out with the Armageddon announcements after every loss and watch the high-yella, court-killer as he reassumes his place among the game’s elite.