On Friday night, Deron Williams was the point guard of old.
He was the superstar the Nets traded for, one of the top two guards in the league, the guy who could get whatever he wanted on the floor. The Nets needed that Deron Williams.
Williams finished with 42 points, the most for any Net this season. He went 15-of-24 from the field, including 11-of-16 from behind the arc. He went 7-of-7 for 23 points in the first quarter alone.
“I just got hot,” Williams said. “It’s just one of those games where you come out and hit a couple of shots and you start feeling good and you just keep doing it.”
His shooting did not surprise his coach, though.
“He’s been that good for that long (in his career),” P.J. Carlesimo said. “Him playing the way he’s playing now is just a normal outcome for him, the way he’s played since the All-Star break. I didn’t doubt he was going to (play at this level).”
He poured in 33 points in the first half, matching the entire Wizards team. His scoring onslaught came courtesy of nine three-pointers, an NBA record for threes in a half. The full-game record of 12 three-pointers is split between Kobe Bryant and Donyell Marshall.
Williams’ 11 three-pointers is the new Nets record.
“He put on a shooting show,” Washington coach Randy Wittman said. “Deron got hot. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything quite like that before, what he did in the first half.”
Granted the records came against the Wizards, but the performance speaks more to Williams’ health than his playing ability. He has always been a better player than what he’s showcased with the Nets.
Williams’ health did not go unnoticed by his coach.
“He’s been excellent and again I think most of it relates to feeling better,” Carlesimo said. “He’s not pain-free but he would seem to be in a better place physically than he was before the break.”
He virtually stepped off the plane from Utah with a nagging wrist injury and has been hurt ever since. Whether it was the juice cleanse or some rest for nagging injuries or the stars aligning, Williams was the player the Nets thought they were getting in 2010-11.
It’s also not just enough for the Nets to make the playoffs. They are basically in the dance, simply needing to clinch is a formality. Seeding and how far they can go are the two unknowns on March 8.
A healthy Williams changes their outlook, though.
He won’t bury 11 three-pointers every night, but if he’s a threat to shoot, drive, or dish, he’s a dangerous player new to this Brooklyn team. Williams has delivered flashes of brilliance, but he spent the better part of Avery Johnson’s tenure this season wallowing about how poor he had played.
December seems like a long time ago.
The Nets will not face another team in the Eastern Conference with a point guard as capable as Williams. The potential exists for Derrick Rose to come back and make an impact with the Chicago Bulls, but he has not played in close to a year while rehabbing his ACL injury.
But for now, the Nets will need to continue to exploit their advantage at the point guard spot. It could come in handy in April.