Next time, D-Will's dunking it. Maybe. (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBA/Getty Images)
This hasn't exactly been the most fun year for Deron Williams. While he's finally back to winning after two seasons in the lottery following his trade from the Utah Jazz, the 28-year-old point guard has found it difficult to live up to the $98.8 million maximum contract he inked this summer to lead the Brooklyn Nets due, in part, to injuries.
Williams said before the season that he might need surgery this summer to repair his left ankle, which he hurt while representing the United States in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, and with which he's had problems dating back to his days in Utah. He missed practices and received an injection in the ankle before the Nets' first game, also battled a persistent right wrist injury and struggled to subpar shooting marks during the season's first two months. (To hear Deron tell is, though, some of the problems might have stemmed from discomfort with then-coach Avery Johnson's system.)
His stroke sharpened considerably after P.J. Carlesimo replaced the ousted Johnson, with his accuracy increasing five percentage points overall and 11 from behind the 3-point line as the Nets ripped off a 13-5 record in Carlesimo's first 18 games. Things took a turn before the All-Star break, though, as the ankle pain returned, his accuracy dipped and he missed a pair of games. After resting through the break, though, Williams has (some missteps aside) come back looking like a new man ... thanks in part to quick health kick, according to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:
The Nets point guard revealed Tuesday that he used his extended All-Star break to go through a three-day juice diet cleanse, detoxifying his body and dropping weight at the same time his fitness was called into question. He also said the latest injections into his inflamed ankles (cortisone and platelet-rich plasma) were “finally in the right spot.”
He had two previous rounds of cortisone shots into his ankles since training camp, with less effect.
"I feel a little better," Williams said. "I can actually go up and down stairs. I can run around with my kids. I can go to the playground with them. I don't hurt every time I take a step." [...]
“He’s really made a strong move addressing diet,” interim coach P.J. Carlesimo said. “I remember we were at a dinner the other night and he was drinking that cleanse stuff. He’s lost some weight in the week off, close to a week off. I think it helped him.
While some of our readers (and this post's writer) might not have taken part in juice cleanses before, the basic idea is that you only drink vegetable and fruit juices for several days, eating no other foods, to try to rid your body of some of the kind of additive gunk that often accompanies processed foods. Some folks also believe the cleanses can help reduce pain, cure illnesses and help curb addictive behaviors; whether any of that's true or not, the general idea of not eating and drinking crap for a few days seems reasonable enough, and we need only look across the Brooklyn Bridge to Manhattan for a pair of recent examples of players streamlining their diets in search of extra focus, energy and health in the midst of a grueling 82-game NBA season.
The combination of the weight Williams lost during the cleanse — the Nets list him at 209 pounds, but Bondy cites a source as saying D-Will's down to 200 these days — and the pain relief has led to one of his sharpest stretches of the season. In seven games since the break, Williams is averaging 21.7 points and 7.1 assists per game and shooting just under 44 percent from the floor, 46 percent from deep and 90 percent from the foul line. He's pressing the interior a bit more, taking 22.3 percent of his post-All-Star field-goal attempts within the restricted area compared with 19.4 percent before the break, according to NBA.com's stat tool. And in the absence of injured backcourt partner Joe Johnson, he's taken on increased responsibility as a floor spacer, hitting 42.4 percent of his above-the-break 3s and 6 of 9 from the short corners.
Williams' uptick in form hasn't sent the Nets on a hot streak — they're 3-4 since the break, and now reside in fifth place in the East, percentage points out of a home-court advantage slot in the first round of the playoffs — but for Nets fans, seeing their floor general move more comfortably and aggressively has to be a sight for sore eyes. They'd likely sure love to see Williams throw one down during Brooklyn's Wednesday night matchup with the Charlotte Bobcats as proof that his explosiveness is all the way back, though; Brooklyn's 6-foot-3 point guard, who did stuff like this as recently as last year, hasn't registered a dunk this season, and said 2 1/2 weeks ago that he physically couldn't due to the ankle pain.
What about now, though? More from Bondy:
“I can dunk,” he said Tuesday [...]
How about in a game?
“I don’t know,” he said. “I’m nervous.”
Why would you be nervous about that, Deron?