Despite heading to the 2012 All-Star Game, star point guard Deron Williams has underachieved in his tenure with the Brooklyn Nets. Along with his struggles have come a plethora of excuses, from the bizarre to the mundane.
Williams’ frustrations reached a boiling point following an ugly 104-73 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on New Year’s Eve. The Nets hung relatively tight in the first half but came out in the third quarter and laid an egg. Williams’ Nets managed only five points in that third quarter en route to an embarrassing loss to one of the league’s class franchises.
Coming off arguably the worst loss the team has suffered with Williams in the fold, the franchise player is poised to turn around his season and career.
While Williams has spent two and a half seasons finding every excuse imaginable, he is finally taking some much needed instrospection. Following recent games, Williams admitted his struggles and detailed his search for answers.
He did not look for an excuse this time, although they have been many.
Williams walked onto the Prudential Center floor with a bum wrist in 2011 and has not been the same player that he was in Utah.
The wrist injury only tipped the iceberg, though. He blamed The Rock’s poor sight lines for his shooting struggles in his New Jersey days. Those same sight lines never stopped the opponents, however, who amassed a 31-13 record against the Nets in the Prudential Center with Williams on the roster.
He subsequently criticized the team’s casual attitude following losses, Avery Johnson’s offensive system, a rigorous offseason schedule, his own injuries, and Brook Lopez’s absence as reasons why he has struggled. Of the preceding excuses, only Lopez seems like a plausible one. The Nets have only gone 14-10 with Lopez active on the roster in 2012-13, though. Certainly a better record with Lopez than without, but still not enough to save Johnson’s job as head coach.
As far as his own injuries, Williams has had something plaguing him since the day he landed in Newark Airport. If injuries are a long-term excuse, then maybe “injury-prone” should become a long-term label.
His career with the Nets came full circle, though.
He played his first game with the Nets on Feb. 25, 2011, against the same Spurs the embarrassed themselves against on Monday night.
No more excuses from Williams, though. He’s categorized his demise and waning confidence during a difficult year in Brooklyn.
“I'm definitely frustrated with how I'm playing and disappointed with how I'm playing,” Williams told reporters in San Antonio. “I've had stretches [before] where one or two games, I had off-games. Never like this. I've never been consistently playing this bad.
“I don't think I'm playing like (a star player),” Williams added. “I think I can be. I just have to figure this thing out... It’s a big problem right now.”
The first step in fixing Williams’ game starts with him. No longer can hockey sight lines and a fractured locker room take the blame for Williams’ inability to hit a mid-range jumper on a consistent basis.
“It’s overthinking,” Williams conceded to reporters. “I've never been a player that's gone out there and play and think, I just react. Now, it's just I come off and think should I shoot this or not. I'm just not playing the way I should be. It's all on me. It's not the injuries. It's just in my head and I’ve got to figure it out.”
Having that proverbial “Come to Jesus” moment may signal a shift in maturity for Williams. He may face the fact that the problems have been internal as opposed to external.
His revelation may signal a shift in his play.
Williams, in an attempt to resurrect his Utah days, has gone back to his old game-film from his days with the Jazz. The guard is searching for answers, but at least he’s looking in the right places.
“I'm getting good shots here,” Williams said. “It’s not like I'm not getting goods shots here. People are doubling Joe, giving me open shots. I'm just not making them.”
Williams is rightly concerned but interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo does not see reasons to panic. According to Carlesimo, Williams’ struggles are down the line after pick-and-roll defenses and getting other role players involved in the offense.
Carlesimo should be concerned, though. Williams is the most vital piece to the Nets’ success mainly because he dominates the ball. The play may end with Lopez or Joe Johnson, but it originates in Williams’ hands.
And Williams’ confidence is palpable.
Carlesimo believes the pressure is getting to Williams.
“He is Deron Williams. He was Deron Williams (against the Spurs), and that’s fine,” Carlesimo told the Daily News’ Stefan Bondy. “Honestly, I don’t want him thinking, ‘I’ve got to get 25 points, I’ve got to get 11 assists, I’ve got to get this, or I have to get this.’
But the fact remains, Williams garnered a $98 million max contract to put up those numbers. The team will flounder if $20 million per season is going down the drain and not translating into certain numbers.
Williams should feel the pressure. It’s the pressure he wanted when the Jazz traded him to the Nets. He wanted a bigger market, bigger endorsements, a bigger contract, a national stage, and a winning atmosphere.
As the saying goes, “pressure either busts pipes or makes diamonds.”
He received what he wanted, and now he has to start living up to his end of the deal.
Fortunately, his attitude and introspective nature is a positive sign that he may very well turn his season around sooner than later.