What’s In A Name?

In being a fan of the Nets (both New Jersey and Brooklyn), I couldn’t help but notice that a certain surname has been very prevalent throughout the team’s history. If you’ve been following the team as long as I have, then the name Williams should ring a bell.  Just a few years ago, we witnessed four Williamses take the court at the same time – Deron, Shawne, Sheldon, and Jordan. Could an entire 12-man roster could be comprised of players with the same last name?

In the spirit of Throwback Thursday, I present to you the All-Williams Team.



williams deron



























Honorable Mention:

"Super" John Williamson

“Super” John Williamson





The Glass is Half Full

Since the season ended in disappointing fashion, there has been much discussion that the 2013-2014 Brooklyn Nets’ season was a colossal bust. After all, they did spend an unprecedented amount on payroll only to last five games into the second round. From afar, the end results were inadequate considering the star-studded lineup, but in actuality there was a much to like about the season as a whole.

Raise your hand if this image made you believe at the time that the Nets were going to win the 2014 championship.

Raise your hand if this image made you believe at the time that the Nets were going to win the 2014 championship.

Although the payroll figures were astronomical, the salaries of some players didn’t match the level of production nor expectations. Did Deron Williams produce like a max level point guard? Were Kevin Garnett’s averages of 6.5 points and 6.6 rebounds worthy of 12 million dollars? Was the 14.6 million allocated for 17 games of Brook Lopez the way Billy King envisioned it?

Yes the final bill was expensive, but in reality the Nets were paying more for what they were actually getting. To assume that spending top dollar for talent is a guarantee for success is foolish. In a bizarre way, the Nets were perhaps the most high-priced, unlikeliest underdog that the game has ever seen. Even though it ended with a bad taste in our mouths, the season could be deemed a success considering how it started.

So what was there to like about it?

The biggest success of this season was that the Nets have found their head coach in Jason Kidd. Of course things didn’t look too promising prior to New Year’s Day, but patience did pay off. How many other head coaches, especially a rookie, could right the ship when the season appeared on the brink of disaster? Ten games under .500, tension in the locker room, and losing your best offensive player would have been the kiss of death for most teams. Just like what he was able to do as a player,  Kidd’s innovative personality was able to figure out a winning formula.

In the process, the Nets developed toughness and resiliency, which we all know was sorely lacking from the season prior. Ask yourself, would this team recover from the poor start and Lopez’s injury had Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries been on the roster? Yes, having Pierce and Garnett helped in this department, but don’t discount the impact Kidd had as well.

Some were upset with Kidd’s rotations in the postseason, but from his body of work as a both a player and coach, I expect him to improve from this experience. From his leadership, the team was able to rally to force and win a Game 7 on the road in front of a hostile Toronto crowd. I don’t think last year’s squad would have been up for the challenge. Do you?

Make no mistake, this is now Joe's team.

Make no mistake, this is now Joe’s team.

Another thing to like about the season was that the Nets have finally appeared to have found their identity. This has been a constant issue dating back to last year, but now it is apparent that this is Joe Johnson’s team. He may not be the vocal leader that people want, but his cool demeanor on the court perfectly aligns with Kidd’s from the sidelines. Even with Lopez’s return next year, the offense should continue to operate through the talented, versatile Johnson.

There’s no denying that player development was certainly a positive that came out of this season. This was most notably seen in Mirza Teletovic, Shaun Livingston, and Mason Plumlee.

Prior to this season Teletovic barely had a role and was viewed as nothing more than a three-point shooter. Unable to crack Avery Johnson and PJ Carlesimo’s rotations, Teletovic was usually inserted into the first minutes of the fourth quarter only to be promptly yanked off the court following a missed shot or two.

Under Kidd’s leadership, Teletovic was given an opportunity and showed the type of impact he could have on a game. Aside from his outstanding shooting, he also proved that there are other facets to his repertoire. Teletovic showed that he can score by putting the ball on the floor and improved his rebounding skills as well. What was most impressive was that he demonstrated a lack of fear of the big stage and relished the opportunity to challenge LeBron James.

Although last season’s offseason was highlighted by the blockbuster trade with Boston and the signing of Andrei Kirilenko, the additions of Livingston and Plumlee proved to be just as valuable. Some will remember Plumlee’s disappointing showing in the postseason; however, he did show tremendous growth during the regular season and should improve with more experience. Both he and Livingston (assuming he resigns) would provide the Nets with quality role players to complement their core.

Mirza's shooting and passion at times conjures up memories of another beloved Net.

Mirza’s shooting and passion at times conjures up memories of another beloved Net.

To judge the entire playoffs as a bust is not a fair assessment. After all, Brooklyn won a playoff series without the home court advantage against a team that was evenly matched up against them. To the casual fan, the Toronto Raptors may lack the cachet, but an educated fan would recognize their capabilities.

After sweeping the season series only to lose in five games, many fans were left disappointed with the outcome against the Heat. To me, the experience was frustrating in that the Nets were competitive and in a position to possibly win each game with the exception of the series opener.

If you consider that they were able to go toe-to-toe with the two time champions while getting inconsistent, sub-par production from Williams and Garnett, being competitive was quite an accomplishment. To beat a team like Miami, you need to be firing on all cylinders and unfortunately the Nets weren’t. Perhaps a steadier performance from Williams would have extended the series further.

In the end, the Nets and their fans got the opportunity they wanted all along. One would have to assume that playing close, competitive games against the NBA’s best would be a quality learning experience as well as a good measuring stick for where they currently stand as a team. Yes it was humbling, but maybe a healthy comeback from Lopez, a return from Pierce, and improved play from Williams can be the difference if these teams meet again next year.

It took a little time, but Kidd is once again their confident leader.

There’s no one else who should be leading the Nets.

Was it a bummer that the season had to end? Of course it was, but think about how unsatisfying it would have been had the Nets lost against Indiana and they never got the opportunity to face the team we were supposedly built to dethrone. A championship wasn’t won, but hopefully this experience was a stepping stone for next year and beyond.

At least now they have the right guy leading them into the future.


Zero Tolerance Policy

I promised I wouldn’t do it, but I just can’t help myself. After last night’s disappearing act, how can I ignore the latest in the Deron Williams saga?

What made last night so frustrating was that the Nets had a legitimate chance to steal the game and even the series. Had Williams scored a basket or two, the landscape and outcome of the game probably would’ve been completely different.   Obviously, players have off nights shooting, but to not score a single point is unfathomable. I thought we had seen it all with our once prized point guard, but clearly I was wrong.

Fans are sick of watching as well.

Fans are sick of watching as well.

I am not even labeling Deron a great player anymore, because he isn’t. To say that he is slightly above average is a more accurate classification, because every good performance is matched by a lackluster one. What infuriates me is that even average or below average players will compete and battle. If your jumper isn’t falling, then find a way to get to the free throw line. Drive on your opponent and draw some contact. The bottom line – be aggressive!

What’s ironic is that the man currently coaching the Nets was a player who could get away with not scoring because he knew how to make his teammates better. Think about it! Could the New Jersey Nets compete and win with Jason Kidd scoring only 5 points on 2-6 shooting? They did because he still impacted the game in other areas. Can these Brooklyn Nets win if Deron is 4-13 from the field for 10 points? From what we’ve seen over the past two seasons, you can’t say “yes” with any conviction. Now how are we supposed to defeat the two-time defending champions when our max-contract player puts up a donut in the scoring column?

I am fully aware that I tend to speak in hyperbole at times, but I have to ask the following question: Can Deron Williams return to this team if he is a complete no-show and the Nets are swept out of this round? I realize that his contract is practically impossible to move, but figuratively speaking, how can he return to Brooklyn? His reputation seems to be on the brink of irreversible damage with the collective Net fan base. Even his most loyal supporters have begun to sour on him. I can only imagine what Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Kidd truly think of him.

If all of this is attributed to his ankle, then the problem needs to finally be addressed once and for all this offseason with the surgery that seems to be put off constantly. I would be willing to give him the benefit of the doubt if he showed better body language and a competitive spirit. Even if his level of play has dropped off, he could still inspire and lead his teammates. Although these are intangible qualities, they are quite visible to anyone watching.

To Met fans, his strikeouts were only entertaining in the movie, Rookie of the Year.

To Met fans, his strikeouts were only entertaining in the movie, Rookie of the Year.

Although it is a different sport, there’s a player who comes to mind when I think of Deron Williams now – Bobby Bonilla. If you recall, there was much excitement when the New York Mets were able to sign him away from Pittsburgh, where he was a major part of the Pirates’ success. Once he arrived in New York, his production fell off dramatically making him unworthy of the lucrative contract that he signed. Aside from being a colossal disappointment on the field, Bonilla’s brief tenure was marred with antics that made him unlikeable to virtually every Met fan. Finally, the organization had enough and after three years, they shipped their overpaid, underwhelming, and unpleasant “star” to the Baltimore Orioles.

Although Deron is not overtly obnoxious with fans and media the way Bonilla was, there is no denying that his aloofness rubs people the wrong way. He just seems to give off the “asshole vibe” and considering his track record with coaches, it makes you wonder if his teammates think highly of him.

If these are the final days of the Nets’ 2013-14 season, I can only imagine what Mikhail Prokhorov is thinking. Considering the owner’s willingness to spend and eagerness to win a championship, this two year experiment by Billy King has produced unsatisfying results. Prokhorov demands results, and when they aren’t delivered sweeping changes are made.

With the negativity surrounding his play, it wouldn’t surprise me if Prokhorov insists that King (or whoever the next general manager is) do whatever it takes to eventually move Williams’s contract. It certainly won’t be an easy task, but if Gerald Wallace was dealt, so can Deron. The Nets would obviously have to take back a bad contract and/or include a future pick, but nothing is impossible. Perhaps there is a general manager out there who believes a change of scenery may right the ship.

Remember when this was supposed to be the beginning of D-Will's resurgence?

Remember when this was supposed to be the beginning of D-Will’s resurgence?

After three and a half seasons, disappointment is an understatement. When we acquired him, I was ecstatic that the Nets were getting an elite playmaker that would pump excitement and positive energy back into the franchise. Who could have predicted that this would end up as more of a soap opera than the entire “Melo-Drama”?

What’s most alarming is that the perfect mentors (Kidd, Pierce, and Garnett) seemed to have failed in their efforts to transform Deron into the player he needs to be. If these three future Hall of Famers with championship pedigrees couldn’t do it, then who can?

Assuming this ends as bad as it feels right now, then maybe it’s time for a breakup.  This relationship is no longer healthy for anyone involved.

It’s Time to Remember the Forgotten Man

December 20, 2013

Does that date bring back any memories? Well, it should. It was the night the Brooklyn Nets lost an embarrassing game to the lowly Philadelphia 76ers, 121-120 in overtime. The loss dropped the Nets to a 9-17 record and to add to the misery, All-Star center Brook Lopez suffered a broken foot which would end his season. The Nets season appeared to be officially over with their best offensive player on the shelf for the remaining 56 games.

brook lopez foot

Arguably, the lowest point in the early going of the season.

It’s always darkest before the light, and when the morale among the organization and fan base was at a low, Jason Kidd found a way for the Nets to overcome this devastating setback. With the insertion of Shaun Livingston into the starting lineup and shifting Paul Pierce to power forward, the Nets changed the composition of their team. In doing so, they were able to salvage a once hopeless situation and achieve a 35-21 record without Lopez.

Many in the sports world claimed that the Nets decision to play “small ball” was the solution to their early season struggles. The term “small ball” is misleading because in actuality the Nets don’t play a quicker brand of basketball. Make no mistake; this isn’t 2002 all over again where Kidd is leading a fast break alongside Kerry Kittles, Kenyon Martin, and Richard Jefferson.

Even without Lopez, the Nets still play at a slower pace offensively. Deron Williams rarely pushes the ball and there is still a heavy usage of half court sets in which Joe Johnson or Pierce operate on the low block or elbow. It seems like the only time when the Nets get out and run is when Livingston or Andrei Kirilenko create a turnover leading to a fast break opportunity.

With the team’s success since the New Year, many pundits and fans have insinuated that perhaps Lopez was part of the problem and the team would be better off without him. These are the people who state that if he can recover from his surgically repaired broken foot, Billy King should look to deal him in an effort to accumulate future assets. At the end of the day, if trading Lopez or any player for a lucrative package of future draft picks and young players presents itself, then you have to consider what’s best for the future of the team. However, to dump a former All-Star player with tremendous offensive ability for fifty cents on the dollar is foolish.

How many centers can score as effectively from near or far?

How many centers can score as effectively from near or far?

Now I know what you’re all thinking – he slows down our pace, he’s a black hole, and our offense lacks creativity with him playing. As I mentioned earlier, this group doesn’t play with a torrid pace, and who says that all five players need to run the floor? Was Todd MacCulloch or Jason Collins a part of those Kidd-led fast breaks?

Perhaps the reason why our offense lacked cohesiveness earlier this season was because an inexperienced coach wasn’t sure what the team’s identity was and throwing it down low to an effective, efficient scoring seven-footer was the easy thing to do. Now that Kidd has gained a season’s worth of experience, he should know how to properly integrate Lopez into this lineup.

If you’ve been watching these playoffs, it is apparent that we’ve sorely lacked a presence in the post for offense and defense. I am not saying Lopez is an elite rim protector, but there’s no denying that he has improved drastically over the past few years and has become a respectable shot blocker. Does his rebounding still need to improve? Yes, but we already knew that!

Many in the sports media have declared that the NBA has changed and that you don’t build around a center anymore. Although this is true, these playoffs are once again proving that the pace does slow down and scoring in the half-court is still essential. The Nets showed in Game 1 against Miami and in the Toronto series that they miss Lopez’s offensive prowess. When the outside shooting isn’t falling, efficient inside scoring is the perfect remedy. Unfortunately Andray Blatche isn’t consistent, Mason Plumlee is too limited, and Kevin Garnett seems more comfortable away from the rim.

Moving ahead, Lopez shouldn’t be the focal point on offense but his skill set still complements players like Johnson well. Think about how he can dominate in the paint but also stretch the floor with his outside shooting. The key for him is to not hold onto to the ball too long and become better/quicker at passing out of the post.  I trust that with his offensive creativity, Kidd will be able to devise a system that will maximize everyone’s strengths, including Lopez’s.

Wouldn't this be a welcome addition to the Nets' defense in this postseason?

Wouldn’t this be a welcome addition to the Nets’ defense in this postseason?

At the end of the day, an accomplished 26 year old center who can score 20 points consistently is still a valuable asset. Actually, it is a luxury. He has always been a team guy, and even if the coaching staff designs fewer touches for him offensively, I don’t expect his ego to get in the way. It’s a shame that his injury occurred because I think playing alongside Garnett for an entire season would have improved many elements of his game.

Lopez has become a forgotten man when the Nets turned around their season, but now that he is visible on the bench during these playoffs, we are reminded of what he can bring to this team. He is our homegrown player who suffered through the losing and finally got to taste success last year. He deserves to be a part of a winner.

Just remember – you can’t spell Brooklyn without Brook.

How Will the Day be Remembered?

February 24, 2011.

This date was the moment that the New Jersey Nets reentered the basketball conversation in the New York Metropolitan area. After swinging for the fences to acquire Carmelo Anthony and missing, Billy King came through for the organization when he traded for Utah Jazz point guard, Deron Williams.

This year especially, there hasn't been much to smile about.

This year especially, there hasn’t been much to smile about.

Many believed at the time that acquiring Williams was actually the better move for the team. With the Jazz, he was an All-Star caliber player who consistently produced elite statistics while leading them to successful regular seasons and playoff runs. There was great debate as to whether he or Chris Paul was the best point guard in the NBA.

Trading for Williams seemed to be the better transaction, because it was following the same recipe for success that was used a decade prior when the team swapped Stephon Marbury for Jason Kidd. After all, a “superstar” playmaker has the ability to elevate the performances of the players surrounding him. This attribute was what made Kidd so special in leading the Nets into championship contention, and it was believed that Williams would replicate this quality.

Kidd was unique in that it was never about him on the court.

Kidd was unique in that it was never about him on the court.

With the Brooklyn Nets’ 2014 playoff existence teetering on the brink of extinction, this once prized acquisition is in danger of being labeled as a complete bust. Williams’s inconsistent, underwhelming performances coupled with his deteriorating health and aloof demeanor has held back the efficacy of this Nets team. When you’re allocating maximum money for mediocre production, the end results can be crippling to a team’s success.

There have been many theories as to why Williams has fallen off since his arrival to the Nets. I am in the belief that his health has played an issue, but his mental makeup is just as much at fault. Even when he is at his best, he doesn’t appear to inspire his teammates or fans. There seems to be that lack of connection. To me, Deron Williams is the “Anti-Kidd”.

As I have written before, Jason Kidd was such a unique superstar in that he could dominate the outcome of a game without a gaudy stat line. If you’ve been a Net fan long enough, then clearly you recall those nights when a 7-point, 6-rebound, and 9-assist performance could heavily influence a game in the Nets’ favor.

Nets' players had no choice but to follow Kidd's lead.

Nets’ players had no choice but to follow Kidd’s lead.

Why were the Nets so successful under Kidd? They played a style of basketball that got everyone involved. Over time it wasn’t shocking to see players like Todd MacCulloch, Aaron Williams, or Mikki Moore make significant contributions. Even with inferior talent at times, Kidd was able to put everyone in a position to succeed. His style of play at both ends of the court was inspiring and infectious. He was the ultimate leader who led by example. Kidd’s hustle, heart, and determination captivated and electrified the fans as well. He may not have been outspoken verbally, but Kidd let his actions do the talking on the court.

In the few years that he has been a member of the Nets (both in New Jersey and Brooklyn) has Williams provided the same impact as Kidd? How about a similar impact? I’m aware that their styles of play are different; however, the primary task for any point guard is to facilitate the teams’ offense and set the tone. They are the ones who dictate the tempo and control the flow of the game.

You could make the claim that Williams is more physically gifted than Kidd ever was, but what Kidd lacked in athleticism he made up with intangibles and court awareness. He wasn’t afraid to fight for rebounds and chase down loose balls. If the opportunity presented itself, he would attack the heart of the defense. He not only played smart but fearless, and with great natural instincts. In a sense, the point guard in this Nets-Raptors series whose personality and approach to the game resembles Kidd’s more is Kyle Lowry’s.

Kidd was the ultimate gamer. He was willing to put it all on the line and do whatever was necessary to win. Why else do you think “Soda-Gate” occurred this year? If a game presented him with lemons, he found a way to make lemonade. He just knew how to win regardless of the circumstances.

Unfortunately, these are not qualities that Deron Williams seems to possess, at least not from what we’ve witnessed the past few years. If things aren’t going his way, his negative emotions are quick to reveal themselves. Think how many times you’ve seen Deron exude passion or heart (verbally and nonverbally) on or off the court. Would it be safe to assume that you would struggle to compile such a list?

A swagger and passion Net fans aren't used to seeing.

A swagger and passion Net fans aren’t used to seeing.

At this point in time, it is very unlikely that we will ever see the consistent, stellar play from Williams that he showed in Utah. The brilliance may show up in spurts every now and then, but unless his health and confidence are fully restored, the Nets most likely have an asset that will continue to depreciate at an alarming rate.

If Williams’s ankles are going to limit his athleticism for the remainder of his career, then it is up to him to reinvent himself. When Kidd had microfracture surgery to repair his knee, he found a way to change his game. It was during that time when the run-and-gun style subsided somewhat and he became a more consistent jump shooter in a half court offense.

Deron’s career is at a fork in the road. With his expensive contract, the Nets are most likely stuck with him until its expiration, like it or not. The Nets have done their part to surround him with the type of talent that trumps what Kidd ever had during his tenure with the team. It’s time now for him to adjust his game and attitude to make this work and lead them forward.

Tonight will be a big night in Brooklyn. It’s do or die for these Nets, most notably Williams. Many fans have soured on him during these past few years and failing to show up tonight and fight to keep the Nets’ season alive may inflict irreversible damage on Deron’s reputation.

Hopefully for everyone’s sake, February 24 won’t be remembered for the wrong reasons when it is all said and done.



Hoping for the Deron of Old

Here we go again…or at least that’s how it feels.

With the series deadlocked at two games apiece, tonight’s pivotal Game 5 between the Brooklyn Nets and Toronto Raptors at the Air Canada Centre could determine who will eventually advance to the next round. As noted prior to the series, the most significant matchup I felt was between the two point guards – Deron Williams and Kyle Lowry. In the games in which the Nets have won so far, Williams has asserted himself and dictated the flow of the game. Unfortunately, Nored  (the bizarro Deron) has also made an appearance in this series. [Which Passport is Williams Bringing?]

Although the statistics are virtually identical throughout the first four games, there just seems to be a difference between the type of impact Williams and Lowry bring to the court. By simply looking at the tale of the tape, you would assume that Williams would win this matchup; however, what Lowry lacks in physical attributes, he is able to make up with non-quantifiable intangibles. Lowry plays bigger than his 6-foot, 205 pound frame, as he attacks the basket and fights for rebounds. What’s more impressive is that he has been hobbled by injuries and is still producing.

Williams 17.8 5.5 39.3 2.0
Lowry 18.3 5.0 40.0 5.5

As a Net fan, I am actually jealous of what the Raptor fan base has in their point guard. Lowry’s gritty, blue-collar style emanates heart and passion to the rest of his teammates. He knows exactly how to play to and electrify the crowd.  Lowry seems to embrace the underdog role and doesn’t back down from anyone guarding him or the spotlight.  His opponent on the other side of the court appears to consistently flip-flop between being aggressive and uncertain.

deron illinois

His leadership at the collegiate level almost made him a champion.

Is Deron simply not a leader? This has appeared to be the case since the move to Brooklyn, but if you consider his track record dating back to college, his floor generalship (or lack thereof) in a Nets’ uniform contradicts what he once demonstrated.   This is what has made his tenure with the Nets so maddening.

During his junior season at the University of Illinois, Williams helped lead The Fighting Illini to the 2005 National Championship Game where they eventually lost to the University of North Carolina. His team, which also featured Dee Brown and Luther Head, began the season 29-0 and ended up with a record of 37 wins with only two defeats. Brown earned first team All-American honors, whereas Williams and Head both were named to the second team.

Some may forget that in the Elite Eight matchup with the University of Arizona, the Illini found themselves trailing by 15 points in the final four minutes. It was Williams who led the comeback to force overtime and eventually win. Against a stronger North Carolina opponent in the title game, it was Williams and Head who rallied Illinois back from a big halftime deficit before coming up short in the end.

Following the impressive tournament run, Williams entered the NBA Draft and was selected third overall by the Utah Jazz. By his second season in Utah, the Jazz had clearly found their replacement for John Stockton.

Under their new point guard’s leadership, the Jazz compiled a 206-122 regular season record from 2006-2010. In addition, they experienced great success during that four-year period in the postseason, mostly due in part to Williams’s performance. The peak for the Jazz during those postseasons was advancing to the Western Conference Finals in 2007 before losing to San Antonio.

Postseason Games Played PPG APG FG%
2007 17 19.2 8.6 45.2
2008 12 21.6 10.0 49.2
2009 10 24.3 10.2 45.0
2010 5 20.2 10.8 41.4

Interestingly, three of the four teams that defeated them went on to win the title – Spurs (2007), Lakers (2009 & 2010). The Laker team which eliminated Utah in the 2008 semifinals ultimately lost to the Celtics in the NBA Finals.

So what was the point of bringing up all of this history?

Clearly Deron Williams has proven that he can be successful and lead his teams beyond the first round. Those Utah teams featured a talented roster, but keep in mind that he was early in his career and never had the supporting cast that surrounds him now in Brooklyn.

In last year’s postseason he played admirably against the Chicago Bulls evident by the following statistics during that seven game series:

20.6 8.4 42.5

The obvious blemish was that his team failed to advance past an opponent who was decimated by injuries and reliant on inferior talent. Having the home court advantage in that decisive seventh game went for naught and the season ended in disappointment. Being the leader of the team, the onus fell mostly on Deron Williams as he was the quarterback of that Nets team and that position assumes the responsibility for both the good and the bad.

Deron once showed that he can carry an NBA team deep into the playoffs.

Deron has showed already that he can carry an NBA team deep into the playoffs.

With the exception of the first half of Game 1, most of this series against Toronto has featured the Deron who Brooklyn fans feared would show up. Whether it was the missing those two late free throws in Game 3 or failing to execute a fluid fourth quarter offense in Game 4, Williams is once again showing that he may not be fit to lead this team deep into this postseason.

When you shell out a maximum contract for a player in professional sports, there is a certain level of consistent production expected. These players are supposed to be your building blocks – your foundation – your constants. Surely everyone has an off night, but it just seems that these mishaps always seem to find Deron Williams.

For 98 million dollars, the Nets organization believed that they were buying a reliable franchise player to lead them towards a championship. As of this moment in time, Williams may just be the most expensive x-factor in all of sports. [The Little Engine That Should].

Trust me when I say that I do not take pride in writing about this topic one bit.

Even with a supremely talented roster from top to bottom, equipped with championship experience, the fate of the Brooklyn Nets still lies in the hands of the same player who once lead his collegiate team to the national title game and his former NBA team deep into the post season.

There isn’t a lot of time for Deron to figure this thing out. His team needs him to bring his A-game from here on out consistently, not intermittently. He’ll say the right things off the court about “needing to play better”, but it’s time for Deron to let his game do the talking.

After all, actions always speak louder than words.





Which Passport is Williams Bringing?

So it looks like many fans of the Brooklyn Nets got exactly what they wanted- a first round date with the Toronto Raptors.  Obviously this is a more talented group representing the borough in this year’s playoffs, as a second round meeting with the Miami Heat seems inevitable.  If you read my most recent post, [Noooooooo Canada? ] then you are well aware of my concerns of facing the Atlantic Division Champions.

There are many key matchups that will factor into how this series will play out.  The ability of Andrei Kirilenko and Shaun Livingston to defend the athletic duo of DeMar DeRozan and Terrence Ross will be as important as the Brooklyn front line being as physical as Jonas Valanciunas and Amir Johnson.  Although these matchups will be crucial, the individual battle between point guards Deron Williams and Kyle Lowry is perhaps the one that will determine which team advances to the next round.

Will this match up determine who advances?

Will this match up determine who advances?

Yes, this Nets team has shifted its leadership to Paul Pierce; however, when it all boils down to it, the success of the team still hinges upon Williams’s performance.  For that reason, a lot is at stake for him.

When he signed his maximum contract to remain with the organization, it was his decision to become the face of the franchise.  Years from now, will his name and face be remembered for the right or wrong reasons in the minds of Net fans?

As it has already been documented, his level of performance has taken a serious dip in comparison to his playing days with the Utah Jazz.  His averages this season in scoring (14.3 ppg) and assists (6.1 apg) are his lowest since his rookie year (10.8 & 4.5).  It’s not the declining numbers that have been so frustrating, but the lack of will and fight within.  Nets’ fans are too accustomed to seeing Deron hobble around, wince in pain, hang his head, or shrug his shoulders when things don’t seem to be going his way.  For a “superstar” talent, too many underwhelming efforts are turned in.

Fans are sick of watching as well.

An early exit could doom his legacy in Brooklyn.

One has to wonder how damaging a lackluster performance will be to Williams’s legacy in Brooklyn if the team is eliminated in this opening round – especially if he doesn’t play well.  Pierce and Kevin Garnett may be the heart and soul, but Deron is still the brain and life blood of the team.  He is the one who has the ball in his hands and runs the offense.  His decisions seem to have the greatest impact on the outcome of the game.

Even though it was seven years ago, Williams has already demonstrated in his career that he can put a team on his back and carry them deep into the postseason.  During the 2007 playoffs, he helped lead Utah to the Western Conference Finals before bowing out to the eventual league champion, San Antonio Spurs.

In that postseason, Williams averaged 19.2 points and 8.6 assists per game while battling with Tony Parker and Baron Davis.  Despite the fact that his team was eliminated in five games during the conference finals, Williams did produce averages of 25.8 points and 7.8 assists per game against the eventual champs.  Would you call those numbers “superstar” quality?  I certainly would!

So where did that guy go?  Have we just been watching “Nored” the past few seasons? You know, the bizarro Deron.  How else can you explain the schizophrenic play on the court?

If there was a bizarro Superman, why can't there be one for Deron?

If there was a bizarro Superman, why can’t there be one for Deron?

Nored is the guy who avoids taking over the game and consistently gets outplayed by lesser talented point guards.  He makes little effort to defend his opponent.  Nored was the guy who missed those two free throws late against the Heat recently, which almost cost the team a victory.  He makes inexcusable decisions too frequently.  It was he who botched that inbounds pass against the Raptors, which led to that crushing defeat.  Nored is the guy who doesn’t seem to hold himself accountable for anything and finds any excuse when convenient.

Although the Nets and Raptors split the regular season series, Williams only appeared in the last two contests, both in Brooklyn.  In case you weren’t aware, both Deron and Nored were on full display during those games.

In the Raptors’ 104-103 victory, Lowry showed that in DeRozan’s absence, he could shoulder the scoring load and take over the game.  When the going got tough, Nets Nation witnessed Deron  Nored choke under the pressure by throwing away that inbounds pass in the final seconds.  A secure lead was squandered, and the hangover triggered a losing streak.

Here are the statistics from that January 27th game:
















In the Nets’ 101-97 victory, Brooklyn found themselves trailing by double digits early in the first half but rallied to defeat their divisional foes.  At first glance, it appeared that Lowry was the better point guard on that night, but Deron facilitated an offense which saw five players reach double figures in scoring.  This game also marked one of the few times during his brief tenure with the organization where he displayed a genuine passion. The Nets held off the Raptors surge and the feel good victory carried over into the next game when Brooklyn went down to South Beach and defeated a motivated Miami team.

Check out the numbers from that March 10th victory:

















In last year’s playoff series with the Chicago Bulls, the Nets saw Nate Robinson bully their backcourt.  Lowry is similar to Robinson in that he’s the type of player who plays with tremendous passion and energy.  He will most likely get under the skin of the Net players as well as the fan base.  He plays with the hunger that Net fans could only dream Deron consistently had.

A swagger and passion Net fans aren't used to seeing.

A welcoming sight for Net fans everywhere.

So when Lowry goes to take Deron’s lunch money, will the Nets’ guard stand his ground or shy away from the confrontation?   Usually your franchise player isn’t supposed to be your “x-factor” but this is the unfortunate reality that the Nets have had to live with.

Williams has a chance to fix his reputation with a strong showing in these playoffs. That opportunity begins this Saturday afternoon at the Air Canada Centre.  The question is: whose passport will be getting stamped as the Nets are passing through customs – Deron or Nored’s?