The next 24 hours might be as important as any in the Brooklyn Nets’ season.
Star point guard Deron Williams put down the pompoms today, practicing for the first time since the Nets reported for training camp on October 1.
Williams has been sidelined with a sprained right ankle and a bone bruise that he suffered in an off-season workout in Utah.
Until today he had been relegated to shooting drills, aerobic work, weight lifting and cheering from the bench – not his idea of a good time.
“It was good to get back out there,’’ said Williams. “It was 15 or 20 minutes, but to get contact, play five on five, you know, feel like you’re part of the team, stop being a member of the cheerleading squad.”
Hold the ‘2-4-6-8’ cheers. How Williams’ ankle responds to his first contact work could be a key to his season and the Nets’ fortunes.
Every Nets player starting with Kevin Garnett has acknowledged that Williams will be the engine that drives this team.
Until today that engine was stuck in neutral.
‘The next step is to see how he feels tomorrow,’’ said Nets coach Jason Kidd.
When asked what type of treatment and maintenance he would receive on the ankle over the next 24 hours, Williams gave a glimpse of how frustrating this recovery process has been.
“I was thinking about doing a five mile run and then jumping jacks,” he deadpanned.
“When I leave here it’s usually fine.” Williams added. “It was sore the last couple of days before yesterday. I took yesterday off and today it felt better. Tomorrow’s going to be a test because this is the most I’ve done.”
Assuming there is not a setback, Williams has eight days to get ready for the regular-season opener on October 30 in Cleveland.
It is a tight timeframe. He has never played with starters Garnett and Paul Pierce.
They weren’t reading from the same book today, no less being on the same page.
“I didn't feel in sync at all because I haven't played basketball,’’ said Williams. “But it felt good to be out there.”
Williams said he’s been getting a lot of input from the veterans. But Kidd and his staff have implemented entirely new systems and it will take time for Williams to grasp those concepts and gel with his new teammates.
“One, he’s still rusty, but two, I think the IQ of the first group, safe to say, is pretty high. They know how to play the game.
“With that first group it’s being able to knock down open shots because someone is creating a problem.
“So it’s good, but also they got to get some time together, because D-Will is the only one that hasn't had the time with the other four guys.”
Williams will not play Wednesday in Boston and said he doesn’t expect to play Friday night in Miami, the last preseason game.
When the regular season tips off, Williams will have to be ready for heavy minutes when it counts. He acknowledged it is not an ideal scenario.
“But it's how things are going to go,’’ he said.
Forget October 30. The next 24 hours are crucial for Williams and the Nets.