Deron Williams has taken criticism all year long, but he's said that he's feeling completely healthy for the first time all season, which should be great news for the Brooklyn Nets as the playoffs approach.
Williams' ankle problems have persisted since last season, and were present and evident during the Olympics over the summer, along with a weight problem, according to Jerry Colangelo (Via Stefan Bondy NY Daily News):
Deron Williams, for the Olympics, was not in the best shape. He was a little overweight, and I told him that at the time.
Williams brought his problems into the season with the Nets, and has given people reason to complain about his performance. He's shooting just under 42 percent for the season, while averaging just 17.3 points and 7.5 assists per game.
His numbers are fine, but they're nowhere near the superstar-caliber numbers that he was previously able to put up with the Utah Jazz.
Over the course of the season, Williams has picked up a laundry list of injuries, including nicks and dings to his ankles as the season went along.
It was so bad that Williams recently lamented his inability to dunk (h/t Zach Schonbrun, New York Times):
I can’t dunk. I can’t jump. Even if I tried, off one leg I can’t dunk. I can dunk off two, but if I just tried to dunk off my left leg, I can’t dunk.
In fact, Williams has just one dunk attempt on the season, and this was the horribly embarrassing outcome.
Before the All-Star break, Williams underwent a series of shots into his ankles, took a few games off and recently went on a juice fast to lose a few extra pounds. He said he's finally feeling confident again (Mike Mazzeo, ESPNNewYork.com):
My ankles don't hurt. We finally got the injections in the right spot, and they feel a little bit better. I can actually walk up and down stairs and run around with my kids. I can go to the playground with them. I don't have to hurt every time I take a single step. So, yeah, I feel a lot better. I can dunk.
So with the suddenly rejuvenated Williams, what can we expect of the Brooklyn Nets?
Well, it's hard to say before we actually see him play a handful of games, but the first look was pretty sold. Williams and the Nets beat the Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday night, 99-78, as Deron scored 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting and added eight assists and four rebounds.
No dunks were on the highlight reel for Williams, but he had a solid game, and he didn't look nearly as bulky as he's looked so far this season.
Williams showed off plenty of driving and kicking to an open Joe Johnson, who was able to knock down five three-pointers, and the Nets coasted in the second half.
It was just a taste of the possibilities with Williams, who is on the verge of turning the Nets into a team that could be a bit scarier in the playoffs after his transformation.
Brooklyn has lacked a key offensive piece all season long, and it's been relying on an inefficient offense by committee to varying results. More often than not, the results were disappointing.
Given time to test out his ankles and figure out his new limitations, Williams could easily fill that role as he was expected to do from day one.
Basically, we're hitting the reset button as far as offensive expectations go with the Brooklyn Nets. If Williams is as healthy as he says, then there's a possibility that this team just got a lot more dangerous.