Deron Williams finds his shot and confidence
While he’s been the floor general the Nets have previously experienced and expected after convincing him to stick around with a five-year, $98.7 million contract, Williams is still going through an education phase. He commands a backcourt with a new shooting guard and a team with new supplemental pieces forged together to take over the big city and the NBA. All this while playing on a left ankle that probably requires offseason surgery, a compression sleeve on his right arm and a wrist sprain many believe has altered his jump shot.
His body may aching, but Williams revealed his soul was suffering with every poor shooting performance.
“It’s not my wrist, man, it’s my confidence,” Williams said. “I just got to play better. Injuries or not, I got to play. I can’t keep having 10 points, not being aggressive. I just got to find a rhythm. It’s just tough.”
That’s when Nets head coach Avery Johnson intervened, giving Williams the next two days off from practice to regenerate. Tuesday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Williams was recharged. He became the first Brooklyn Net to score 30 points with his game-high 33 – his highest total since netting 57 on March 4, 2012 -- and added seven assists, four rebounds and five three-pointers while shooting 50 percent from the field.
Although the Nets fell 117-111, vintage D-Will returned for one evening and karma was kind to No. 8. He got off to a fast start, connecting on his first four field goal attempts -- including a 32-foot heave with 5:08 left in the first quarter.
"It was definitely good to see that one go in," said Williams, who scored 12 first-quarter points and refused to allow negative thoughts to re-enter his head. “I didn’t know I was going to get going like that. It was one of those games where you see a couple shots go in and you get your confidence up. I was looking for a game like this. It stinks it was in a loss, but I’m definitely happy that I got going.
"Like I said, shooting has been something I've been struggling with. The ball hasn't been going in the hole. It's been right there. It's been going in and out, and it just hasn't been consistently going down. But my shots fell tonight, I got my confidence up, and hopefully I can keep that going."
Williams also erupted for 13 in the third quarter – after Avery Johnson challenged his team in the locker room because he “didn’t see the Brooklyn Nets” nor “that look in their eyes” in the first half – and was the catalyst to what was almost a rally from down 16 points to the defending Western Conference champions. Unlike in Miami, where Williams and the Nets folded in the second half, Williams showed more of a comfort level with his new teammates. That was evident in crunch time when backcourt mate Joe Johnson scored eight four-quarter points as part of an overall 8-for-21 shooting night.
Despite his recent shooting issues, Williams’ 8.8 assists per game is fourth in the NBA, his playmaking ability gradually forging some chemistry. Holding his head high on Tuesday, Williams discussed the process of a team coming together, figuring out where everything fits and how everything will develop. In a nutshell, that describes Williams’ evolution through 17 games, and where Williams goes the rest of the Nets are going to follow.
"Deron was aggressive," said Nets head coach Avery Johnson. "He spent a lot of time after practice shooting the ball. We gave him that extra day off (on Monday) to try to get his body together, and it carried over to the floor. He was much more aggressive (on Tuesday) and that's what we're going to need."
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