First, there’s the matter of leading a team to a 10-20 record, including five losses in their last six games. The only team the Nets have beaten lately is the absolute worst team in the league—the Milwaukee Bucks.
And then there’s Williams, whose 12.7 points per game is his lowest since his rookie year in the league. Appearing in just 19 games this season, he has often looked hurt, tired, tentative or simply overmatched.
I’m even surprised with this season, how it's played out. It's like a nightmare. The way the injuries have been and the things we talk about every day: the lack of energy, the lack of effort. I didn't see that being a problem when we put this team together.
The season as a whole may seem like a nightmare, but Williams and the team just aren’t waking up. Two weeks ago, Stefan Bondy for the New York Daily News wrote the following about Williams’ woes:
People around Deron Williams keep telling him that he's going to snap out of his slump, that he's too good to be this bad and he shouldn't stop hoisting jumpers. Williams, however, has exhausted all explanations for what has become his three-season romance with inefficiency.
In Williams' own words:
I think it's mostly mental with me. It's become mental. I've tried getting up extra shots, I've tried not shooting so I don't think about it. I tried shooting before games, not shooting before games, so I hopefully I snap out of it.
The Nets’ season began with promise and high expectations. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett arrived from the Boston Celtics, and Jason Kidd ended his brilliant playing career and became an instant head coach. His utter failure so far is a matter for another article altogether.
Age and injuries have certainly played a major part in Brooklyn’s woes. Garnett is at the tail end of a long career and is simply not the presence that he once was. Brook Lopez’s season ended with a broken foot, Andrei Kirilenko has appeared in just four games so far and Paul Pierce missed several games with a hand injury.
As for Williams, his bad ankle has been a part of his ineffectiveness, but injury excuses, even if valid, don’t change the losses. Sadly, he looks like a shell of the player who once seemed destined for greatness. Williams just doesn’t seem to have it this season, and you start to wonder if he ever will again.
He can’t cut, his explosiveness is gone and every time he plants you hold your breath. He doesn’t have the confidence to go hard to the hole so he settles for jumpers, but there doesn’t seem to be much lift left in the legs. And then there’s what happens when he tries to defend (see right).
In fairness, Deron Williams hasn’t been given the best chance to succeed this season. Coming in hurt, playing under increasing pressure with a disintegrating roster and a coach who clearly wasn’t ready, it seems as if Williams simply can’t reach the surface.
Maybe if he had a stronger team around him it wouldn’t be as noticeable. Ultimately, however, we can’t revise history.
Earlier in the season, it seemed like a legitimate question to ask if Williams could regain his elite point guard status. Once one of the league’s rising stars, he now looks pedestrian. And as a team searches for answers, a New Year’s Eve game is at hand—the Nets face the San Antonio Spurs Tuesday night.
Williams’ season began with high expectations. It’s starting to look as if 2013 will end with a whimper. Could 2014 be a fresh start? There is always hope.