Grading Deron Williams' First Game Back from Ankle Injury for Brooklyn Nets
The second difference isn't because Williams is lower profile than Kobe, but because he had possibly his best game of the season against the Boston Celtics Tuesday night.
After missing 11 of Brooklyn's last 12 games with an ankle injury, Williams returned to Jason Kidd's starting lineup and scored a team-high (and personal season-high) 25 points on 10-of-16 shooting while dishing seven assists in 37 minutes.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens summed up Williams' return pretty well. According to The Record's Andy Vasquez, Stevens said, "We weren't playing those Brooklyn Nets that were without Deron Williams for nine games. That was their team and that is a good team."
Williams showed little sign of injury or rust throughout the game and his presence on the floor seemed to lift the entire offense. Brooklyn shot 55.7 percent from the field on the way to a 104-96 victory.
His individual performance will be graded on how he played offensively and defensively, how he meshed with teammates and how he held up physically.
Offensive Skills/Execution: A
Williams scored his 25 points because he was attacking the rim throughout the game.
Inside the three-point line, Williams shot 9-of-11, and a lot of those buckets were layups. He was able to get to the rim not just with crafty ball-handling, but with the kind of explosiveness fans had gotten used to before injuries started weighing him down.
One of the victims of those drives was noted defensive specialist Avery Bradley. Nets fans have to be encouraged that the ankle held up against the kind of pressure Bradley applies.
And it didn't just hold up for the scoring efforts.
For a point guard, offense, of course, is about much more than making your own shots, and Williams did a great job of running the offense throughout the game. Sometimes that meant leading the break. Other times it meant finding the open man in the half-court. And on a few possessions, it was just about getting the ball to Brook Lopez and getting out of the way.
Defensive Presence/Execution: B
Williams has never really been known as a defensive specialist. Combine that with the knowledge that this was his first game back from ankle injury, and expecting a lights-out performance on that end might be a stretch.
Depending on matchups, he spent a little time on both Avery Bradley and Jordan Crawford. They had decent games—Bradley scored 22 points on 8-of-16 and Crawford put up 15 on 6-of-14—but Williams doesn't deserve all the blame.
Sure, he was beaten off the dribble a few times, but that's why rotations are in place. Great defense is a team endeavor and Williams played solid D as part of the unit.
The Celtics entered the night on a three-game winning streak, averaging 109.3 points in that short streak. On Tuesday night, Williams and the Nets held them to 96.
Chemistry with Teammates: A
The Brooklyn Nets finally looked like the team that everyone expected before the season.
Williams and Lopez were clearly the best players and everyone else contributed within their various roles. The offense ran smoothly and the defense performed as a cohesive unit.
Everyone benefited from the aggressive play of Williams throughout the game, and that's exactly how he needs to approach the rest of this season.
They have had a nightmarish start to the season, but if their point guard can continue to play like he did Tuesday, the Nets should make the playoffs in the weak Eastern Conference.
Most players these days come back to action gradually, with minutes restrictions or whatever other cautious practices training staffs come up with.
But that was not the case for D-Will.
He's been dealing with this injury for almost a month and came back with a bang, playing 37 minutes. The only Net who logged more was Joe Johnson (38 minutes).
Obviously, his lungs are in decent shape. But more important than that, his ankle looks good. He never looked like he was favoring it or moving gingerly.
Overall Grade: A
Deron Williams' return to NBA action could not have gone much better than it did.
The Nets won, Williams had probably his best individual performance of the season, and he looks like he's good to go physically.
For 140-character pearls of wisdom from Bleacher Report's Andy Bailey, follow him on Twitter: @AndrewDBailey.