Deron's Home Debut Dashed in Overtime
February 28th, 2011
NEWARK, N.J.—NEWARK, N.J. (AP) Channing Frye hit a 3-pointer with 6.6 seconds to play in overtime and the Phoenix Suns spoiled Deron Williams' home debut for the Nets with a 104-103 victory over New Jersey on Monday night.
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Deron's Home Debut Dashed in Overtime
Deron Williams dished out 18 assists in his home debut for the Nets, and by the end of regulation, he had found his emergency outlet. After re-entering the game late in the fourth, following a short trip to the Prudential Center locker room, Williams connected with shooting guard Anthony Morrow on three straight possessions in the final 30 seconds of game time.
The first two found the bottom of the Net. The third hit rim … before a trip to the free-throw line earned back the missing bucket. The nine-point flurry tied the game, which entered overtime when the Suns couldn’t inbound the ball, and the Nets couldn’t take advantage of the extra possession.
Though offered five more minutes, the Nets were undermined late in overtime when Channing Frye hit an arena-crushing three-pointer with 6.6 seconds remaining. The shot proved a game-winner when Kris Humphries’ tip-in of Williams’ off-balance runner was ruled after the buzzer, leaving the Suns victorious, 104-103, upon review.
“It’s tough,” Humphries said. “We waited out on the line out there. It was a tough night.”
Said Brook Lopez (28 points, 10 rebounds): “I thought it was good. I’ll go to my grave thinking that.” Williams established his abilities early, twice in the first quarter setting up Kris Humphries for layups underneath the basket. Twice, the shots rolled off the rim.
On a third trip down, Humphries whipped a swing pass across the three-point line, finding Williams unguarded. The point guard, set and squared, swished the shot.
A few plays later, Williams again found Humphries, this time on the baseline, a few feet outside the paint. The forward caught, and released. The shot swished.
Message sent, message received.
“Man, I’m going to take him out to dinner or something,” Morrow said. “I’m telling you now! It’s great playing with him; he’s a great leader, great point guard – best point guard I’ve ever played with. He was looking for me down the stretch. I hit a couple, and he was really trying to get me the ball, get me going offensively. That’s just great. It’s a blessing to have him on the team.”
Williams racked up 13 points and 18 assists in front of a healthy crowd of 15,836. Though it wasn’t enough to earn a victory, and Williams banged his left wrist (bruised, X-rays negative), the performance marked his third straight game with a double-digit assist total, following 12 in his debut against the Spurs and 17 a day later in Houston. Each was a point/assist double-double.
Williams has been struggling with a strained right wrist tendon, an injury that has affected his shooting: he’s 13-of-39 (.333) since joining the Nets last week. Rest will eventually end the soreness, but the Nets cannot afford to go without Williams for any extended period. Johnson said the point guard’s contact will be limited in practice, because any accidental bangs cause painful, minute-reducing flare-ups.
But Williams was motivated to perform well in front of his new home crowd, prepared to help draw as many fans as he can into the arena after playing in front of rabid fan bases at Illinois (during college) and Salt Lake City (with the Jazz). With 10,000 “Williams No. 8” jersey T-shirts distributed to fans entering Prudential Center, Williams felt the love manifested in several chants playing off his name.
“It was great,” Williams said. “The fans were great tonight. Tried to get them a win, but came up a little short.”
In his first two games with the Nets, Williams totaled 29 assists – the highest total of any player joining a new team in league history, topping Kenny Anderson’s 26 for the Hornets in 1996 – even as the team connected on only .418 (74-177) of their shot attempts. Former point guard Johnson admitted that was an impressive feat, lauding Williams for firing “on-time, on-target” passes and figuring out a way to impact the games even as the wrist injury limited his scoring ability.
Monday’s shootaround was the first chance for Johnson to run anything resembling a practice since the trade, and the coach extended the session an extra hour as they worked on integrating Williams (and fellow trade additions Brandan Wright and Dan Gadzuric, along with 10-day signee Sundiata Gaines) into the system. Johnson admitted wholesale changes to his offense – claiming he tossed half the playbook – and said that he was hoping Williams could get acclimated within 7-10 days.
“I talked to coach Johnson,” Williams said. “He told me not to get frustrated. I’m not frustrated. I’m finding my way. Right now I’m just using this time to get familiar with everybody, get familiar with the system, the offense, the defense. It’s a total change. Anytime you go to a different organization it’s just a different language on the court. There’s going to be mistakes on my part. I’m just trying to get better every day.”
10-Day Signing Nets Gaines, ‘Just in Case’
With Jordan Farmar scheduled to spend the next 7-10 days rehabbing a sprained ankle, the Nets signed free-agent guard Sundiata Gaines to a 10-day contract. Coach Avery Johnson said the team made the move “just in case,” while noting that Ben Uzoh – who scored 18 points on Saturday – will remain Deron Williams’ primary backup. Farmar will travel with the team.
Gaines, a 24-year-old from the University of Georgia, has played in 14 games with the Raptors (six) and Timberwolves (eight) this season. A year ago, he made 32 appearances for the Jazz, backing up Williams and even hitting a game-winning three-pointer.
“Tough, tough kid,” Williams said. “(And a) tough, tough player. Definitely can score the basketball. I think he's a well-balanced point guard, one of the better defenders. He made practice tough on me because of how well he can defend. He picks up full court. I think he’ll be a great addition right now.”
Gaines suited up for Monday’s game, but did not play.
NETS NOTES Sasha Vujacic (5 points, 6 rebounds) tied his season-high with five assists…After a slow start, Brook Lopez outplayed twin brother Robin, posting 28 points and 10 rebounds to Robin’s 14 and 4…Former Net Vince Carter was announced first for the opposition, receiving a nice ovation…Steve Nash was called next, and the crowd went right to being boobirds.