The highlight of the Brooklyn Nets’ 2015-16 season, sadly, might be the team’s Dec. 23 pairing with the Dallas Mavericks. That contest, the team’s last before the NBA’s Christmas slate that the Brooklyn Nets will not take part in for the first time in its history, will allow the home fans to boo former Nets guard Deron Williams lustily as he makes his first return to the Barclays Center since signing with Dallas as a free agent last summer.
[Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball]
That acquisition came just days after the Brooklyn Nets announced they would be paying somewhere in the neighborhood of $25-$30 million just to go away, in a buyout agreement. It’s true the move saved Brooklyn heaps of both luxury tax cash and eased them into potential cap space, while allowing Williams to sign with a team in Dallas that was set to double-up Brooklyn’s expected 2015-16 win total, but D-Will’s uneasy time with the franchise was also to blame.
Everyone from Joe Johnson to Paul Pierce pinned the team’s well-heeled failures on the former All-Star, which left Williams a little frustrated as he met with local press on Monday, as his Mavs came into town to face the Knicks.
“It just never went well,” Williams said of his time in Brooklyn. “I just felt like everybody felt I was the problem, and so now I’m gone.”
“I was injured pretty the whole time I was there,” Williams said. “Four coaches in three and 1/2 years doesn’t help as a point guard for chemistry and things like that and just constant change. It just didn’t work out.”
Before you harp on the “chicken or the egg … dude, it’s the bad egg”-take regarding those four coaches (Avery Johnson, P.J. Carlesimo, Jason Kidd, Lionel Hollins; three of whom were former NBA championship point guards) being cycled in and out, do understand that Williams was truly injured, and that the Nets were put together by a very smart man that turns into a basketball madman when he’s handed the keys to an NBA team.
Williams did work through ankle and wrist woes throughout his turn with the team. It’s a big reason why the point guard went from an All-Star in Utah to the guy that just couldn’t turn the corner in both New Jersey and Brooklyn. It’s also the reason why we’re, sadly, considering his 15-point and six-assist averages in Dallas, at 33 minutes a game, a pleasant surprise.
Those numbers are an improvement on his last two seasons in Brooklyn, but that doesn’t preclude any criticism regarding his turn with the team.
Billy King’s deals as general manager of the Nets will hamstring this franchise for years to come, but whomever the Nets would have drafted with the unprotected first round picks in the 2016 and 2018 drafts weren’t the difference between Williams’ listless Nets and inspired Brooklyn play in the years he was supposed to be leading the team.
It’s true that Williams has long been overrated to sometimes a ridiculous extent (remember the endless cable TV babble about how he was on par with Chris Paul as the league’s top point guard behind Steve Nash?) and even years after that it may have been the reason the Nets saw fit to hand Williams $20 million a year in 2012 – but had Williams been making half that in 2013, that’s no excuse for a dilapidated Chicago Bulls team to own Brooklyn in a Game 7 playoff victory in Brooklyn’s own building.
Dallas (D-Will’s hometown team), you’ll remember, also tried to sign Williams for as much as they possible could in 2012, the hoped-for payoff following the (again, understandable) semi-demolition of the aging championship-contending team in Dec. 2011. The wrist and ankle injuries would eventually heal, most thought, and a 27-year old Williams (coming of a year that saw him set a personal best in points per game) will no doubt sustain his All-Star play throughout the length of the deal.
That fell short, despite some strong stretches of play that dotted two or three-week installments in his Brooklyn career. Williams was just one of myriad factors that made the Brooklyn Nets the most expensive disaster in NBA history (one that could carry over a full decade even with all the initial participants long gone), but that doesn’t leave him immune from the expected boos.
After signing a two-year, $11 million deal with Dallas, the millions that Williams gave up have nearly been made up for once you consider the largesse of his initial buyout. The best he can do from here on out is continue to play solid enough basketball with the Mavericks, stay cozy in his Dallas hovel, and understand that Dec. 23 only comes once a year.
- - - - - - -