Brooklyn Nets point guard Deron Williams probably had Nets fans already on edge when he announced that he was organizing a celebrity dodgeball tournament for charity earlier in the offseason. Williams’ Nets career had been hamstrung by wrist issues for the first two years of his time with the franchise, on top of the ankle woes that limited him for most of 2012-13, and who wants to see the star guard diving around while trying to escape a barrage of dodgeballs?
Those same fans probably took it as a good sign when Williams announced he wouldn’t be playing in his own tournament, relieved at the thought of D-Will not having to stop and start on those recovering ankles while attempting to elude or catch dodgeballs sent right at those dodgy wrists.
Then he showed up to the tournament with a massive walking boot on his right ankle and leg. Uh-oh. Deron says not to worry, but … uh-oh. From the New York Daily News:
However, a recent MRI uncovered inflammation in the point guard’s ankle — or the same stuff that sabotaged most of last season — and he’ll undergo another test next week before shedding the boot.
“As long as I’m ready (for the season opener on Oct. 30 at Cleveland), that’s all that matters to me,” Williams said. “If it was up to me, I would be playing right now. I can walk fine. It doesn’t hurt. It’s just protecting me from myself.”
Stefan Bondy, the Nets beat writer who penned the report, also pointed out that D-Will had undergone cortisone injections in both ankles three times last season. Williams did roar back into his Utah-level top form toward the end of 2012-13, but his Nets were dismissed in the first round by the underdog Chicago Bulls, despite Williams being guarded for long stretches by diminutive point man Nate Robinson during the last three contests of that disappointing series.
No matter, Williams told Bondy and other assorted press, because the Nets’ new up-tempo offense under Jason Kidd will allow for a rejuvenated Williams, one that could average double-figure assists, while ostensibly taking wear and tear off of those ankles because of the heightened pace.
The Nets will improve significantly this year after adding Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and a host of other helpers in the offseason, and while the team may not feature the sort of isolation-heavy offense that we saw in the team’s first season in Brooklyn, those additions don’t exactly like to fly up and down the court. On top of that, Deron Williams doesn’t really seem like the sort of guy that wants to fly up and down the court – his Utah Jazz only finished in the top ten in Pace Factor twice (ranking, you guessed it, tenth and ninth), and most of his Jazz and Nets squads have typically ranked in the mid-20s in possessions per contest.
Of course, after last year’s 28th-ranked turn in terms of Pace, any little uptick could help. Jason Kidd was notorious for pushing the ball during his playing career, but few remember that his top Nets teams (as a player) saw their possession count rank anywhere between ninth and 21st in the NBA. He may have given off the impression of an end-to-end beast at times, but for the majority of the game Jason Kidd was minding the clock.
Then again, nobody will know how that translates when Kidd eventually suits up as coach, as playing history can go both ways. Some of the league’s most pell-mell guards as active players have turned into slow down artists as coaches, while the team that led the NBA in Pace Factor last year was helmed by Kevin McHale – a half-court obsessive during his time as a player.
Kidd still has high hopes for his recovering guard. As touched on by Jared Zwerling at Bleacher Report:
"It definitely excites me when they're talking about you like that," he told Bleacher Report. "I feel like if we're winning and I'm playing well, it will take care of itself. I don't get caught up too much into that stuff."
The highest Williams has placed in the MVP voting was ninth in 2009-10. That season, he averaged 18.7 points, 10.5 assists and 1.3 steals over 76 games, leading the Utah Jazz to a 53-29 record and the Western Conference Semifinals.
Deron Williams is not an MVP-level guard, we can state that even if LeBron James decided to take a season-long honeymoon away from his Miami Heat. He is a very good, All-Star level guard that is talented enough to take a team to a championship, but even as he enters year nine of his career, Williams still needs to refine his decision-making, and prove that he can stay in MVP-level shape in the offseason. Something that apparently eluded him in the summer of 2012.
That’s when those ankle problems started. To Williams’ credit, he played through the pain, but it was an up and down year that cost two coaches their jobs, and Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov (who clearly had designs on something more than four home playoff games) quite a bit of money.
Will any of this matter by Oct. 30? We’ll tell you when the boot comes off.
(All statistical references come right from Basketball-Reference.com)