The Brooklyn Nets have continued their trend of exciting winning streaks followed by subsequent lulls in play. This time, it's starting to wear on Deron Williams, who is shining the negative spotlight on himself whether he's trying to or not.
After winning five games in a row, including big wins over the Los Angeles Clippers, New York Knicks and Boston Celtics, they've dropped three in a row to very good teams in the Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder and Golden State Warriors.
It's easy to reason out their first two losses, but if they want to be considered among the best teams in the Eastern Conference, they should be able to beat the Warriors, especially in their own building.
The problem really hasn't been that they've been losing games, but rather the fashion in which they've lost them.
Instead of playing surprisingly good defense, as was their nature for most of the first month of the season, they've given up an average of 109 points per game. That's a bit shocking when you realize that they gave up over 100 points in five games this season, before doing it three times in a row during their losing streak.
Plus, the losses that have started to pile up in such a short time come on the eve of their second matchup with the Knicks, a game that's definitely going to be hyped every single time the two meet.
After a pointed line of questioning asking about the team's recent failures, Deron Williams decided that he'd had enough and decided to put himself on the line, calling out himself and his team:
We lost three in a row. We won five in a row, we just lost three in a row. We need to get back to winning. We need to get back to playing defense. We have to do what makes us successful. We haven’t been doing that the last three games. We saw it in the film. We need to change it. It’s on us to change it. We can blame Avery. We can’t blame Mario (Elie). We can’t blame Popeye (Jones). We can’t blame Billy (King). We can’t blame Mr. Prokhorov. We can’t blame you (Bondy). We can’t blame the fans.
It's definitely not a bad thing that he's going out and pointing out the shortcomings of his team over the past three games, but he's putting a large portion of the burden on himself rather than on the entire team.
That is what Brooklyn is, after all. It is Deron Williams' team on the floor, and any failure by the Nets is going to be viewed as a failure by Williams, the de facto leader.
He's expected to be the centerpiece of the offense, so when he's struggling, it's understandable that the rest of the team is going to struggle unless they pick up the slack.
Willliams is struggling mightily himself in two of the last three games—and, really, in the entire season, if we compare him to the way he used to play.
What has become an issue is that Williams has settled in a specific role that is a stark contrast to who he used to be. Instead of relentlessly attacking, he's fine shooting jumpers and letting his passing do more work than his scoring, which is a problem.
There's no shortage of assists in his game this season at nine a game, but sometimes the Nets need him to take over the offense in other ways, and he does so by settling for jump shots.
This season, he's shot more than twice as many three-pointers as he has attempts at the rim (101 three-pointers to 45 attempts at the rim) compared to 342 three-point attempts last year to 230 restricted-area shots.
Now compare the past two years back to the days when there was a legitimate "Deron Williams or Chris Paul?" argument going on. Williams was shooting 30 percent of his shots (292 attempts) at the rim compared to 31.9 for three (317 attempts).
People have rarely called him out on it. We've accepted that we were wrong to argue that he and Paul were on the same level. Now, however, he's shooting so poorly and getting to the rim so infrequently that it's becoming a visible detriment to the Nets.
With the Knicks coming back to the Barclays Center at 5-1 since their last meeting, and the Nets just 2-3 since, Williams needs to remember what it was that made him a top two point guard in the league in order to maximize this team's potential.