Deron Williams Guides Nets' 1st Step in Brooklyn
The questions tired Deron Williams. Bone spurs in his ankle led to early-season synovitis (inflammation of the joint sheath lining) and all of it added up to a first half hobbled. After finally resting during the All-Star break, when Williams underwent platelet-rich plasma therapy treatment, received a cortisone shot in each ankle and partook in a three-day juice cleanse, the point guard returned spry for the second half.
And appreciated everyone's concern for his health.
"I think we got better as the season went on," Williams says. "Myself, personally, just because of injuries – once I got healthy, people saw a little bit of what I can do. So I look forward to building on that. As a team, I still feel like we can play a lot better. If we can find a way to be consistent, that would put us up there with anybody. When we play like we can, when we're at the top of our game for a consistent amount of time, we're tough to beat."
As Brooklyn's point guard, Williams drives the offensive engine. His motor purred throughout the post-All-Star schedule: Williams averaged 22.9 points and 8.0 assists while shooting .420 from three-point range and .481 overall. He notably set an NBA record with nine first-half three-pointers in a March 8th game against the Wizards; the overall strong finish helped the Nets total 49 victories – a 27-game improvement over last season's 22 – and rise to No. 4 in the Eastern Conference from the non-playoff finish in 2011-12.
Williams and his teammates reached Game Seven of the First Round before falling to the Chicago Bulls, 99-93 at Barclays Center, bringing their season to a close earlier than expected. The 28-year-old called that "fuel" for next season, which not only will he enter healthy, but also with a knowledge of the Nets' core (also including Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez and Gerald Wallace).
"That should help us next year in training camp," says General Manager Billy King. "Deron will think all off-season on ways he can score with Brook or Joe or Gerald. Last summer, we didn't know who we were going to have. When we had this conversation (then), I didn't know who was going to be on the roster. Now I know who's coming back. It's not that I've got to add a lot of pieces. This will be the first off-season where really we can build on our core."
After a season guiding the offense, Williams believes that the team functioned best when the ball moved. Avoiding isolation situations by pushing the ball often helped them get into a better flow; greater time differentials against the shot clock allowed for side-to-side swings that kept defenses off-balance.
Advanced statistics back up Williams' words: according to NBA.com/Stats, in victories the Nets scored more often (+11.8 points per 100 possessions) while playing faster (pace: +0.68) and more efficiently (+0.27 AST:TO; +0.7 assist ratio). Williams led by example, assisting .364 of all Nets baskets while he was on the floor, good for eighth in the league. That helped Brooklyn's offensive efficiency rise 6.1 points per 100 possessions during those minutes.
"We were kind of going in blind this year, from the arena to how we were going to play as a group," Williams says. "There's still a few things we need to figure out, but it was a step in the right direction."
For more, view the Deron Williams Season Highlights photo gallery.
BONUS: Nets Fan Poll