The Nets lost a squeaker to one of the league’s best Saturday night, but a few better plays from their star point guard, and maybe the dialogue shifts in the locker room.
The Indiana Pacers escaped their own arena with a 97-96 win over a a Nets team completing a back to back. With the Nets playing their second game in as many days, injuries forced them to play without Andrei Kirilenko and Andray Blatche. Unsurprisingly, Shaun Livingston picked up the slack for the shorthanded Nets.
Fair or not, fans and media members alike chalked up Livingston’s career to one fateful injury. No matter how well or poorly he plays, that will remain his legacy. It is unfair but just true.
Since starting point guard Deron Williams suffered another rash of ankle injuries, Livingston basically propped the team on his back and led a resurgence of sorts. Williams returned from injury and basically continued where he left off prior to his injury. That’s not a positive, either.
After a careless turnover late in a loss to Toronto sunk Brooklyn, Williams came off the bench to tally several quick turnovers against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Another loss ensued. On Saturday night, Williams opened the game 1-for-10 from the field. The Nets lost by a point.
At some point, a player with all-world potential needs to start earning his money. Williams This season alone, Williams ($18.5 million) garners more than all but 11 NBA players. Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge, James Harden, and Paul George all makes less money. In some cases, way less money. All those players ironically threw their names in the ring for an MVP award. While Durant and LeBron James remain the favorites, several players making less money than Williams have launched their teams into championship discussions.
The Nets, on the other hand, dwell in turmoil. Yes, they played better in January, but the Nets still sit at 20-25 on the season. With an old and injury-prone roster, Jason Kidd needs his able-bodied stars to start acting like them.
This includes Williams, who has made every excuse imaginable since coming over to the Nets from the Utah Jazz in a bizarre trade during the 2010-11 season. Injuries, a poor roster, inexperienced teammates, lousy sight lines, and faulty coaching schemes all superseded a look in the mirror.
Williams admitted to struggling with his confidence but used another list of excuses.
"It's not my highest," Williams said of his confidence. "It's been tough, being in and out of lineups, missing two weeks here and there."
The time is now, though. Williams must live up to his salary and his prior potential often exhibited with the Jazz. Many touted Williams as the league’s best guard. On Feb. 1, 2014, he barely cracks the top 10. At 13.2 ppg and 6.9 apg, Williams hovers perilously close over rock bottom. Those numbers are not terrible, but for a player raking in $18.5 million excluding endorsements, they are wretched.
They are wretched when Livingston, one of the last players on the Nets’ roster, outperforms Williams on a nightly basis. Against the Pacers, Livingston scored 24 points (10-for-18) as compared to Williams’ 13 (3-for-12).
The Nets played the Pacers tough, and one or two plays the other way might have made a difference. Start by looking at the point guard position.