The New Jersey Nets have about a season-and-a-half to convince newly acquired Deron Williams to stay with the team, and they haven't exactly started off on the right foot.
The Nets got thrashed by the Houston Rockets Saturday night by a final score of 123-108. The Rockets hit over 50 percent of their shots on the night and nearly 45 percent of their three-pointers, as New Jersey gave up far too many easy baskets and open looks.
The tone was set early, with Houston scoring 37 points in the first quarter and shooting 67 percent from the field. By halftime, the Rockets led 71-58 and the game was pretty much over.
As has been the case for much of the year, New Jersey fought back and crept to within nine a little over halfway through the third, but was unable to sustain the momentum and get any closer.
With the score 87-78 in favor of Houston, the Nets had the ball with a chance to cut the lead to seven or maybe even six.
Kris Humphries then proceeded to commit an offensive foul and the Rockets went on to score 12 unanswered points to put the game out of reach at 99-78.
Now, it's still too early to say what the Nets will look like with Williams over these final 23 games. Everyone needs to get used to each other again and Williams has to figure out the strengths and weaknesses of his new teammates.
What we do already have, however, is a pretty good look at which players the Nets will either need to let walk in free agency or find a way to deal away.
Travis Outlaw, Sasha Vujacic and John Petro went a combined 5-for-25 in this game, with Vujacic misfiring on five of his seven three-point attempts.
Vujacic has had some good games for New Jersey, but he's been far too inconsistent and needs to understand that when his shot isn't falling he has to find another way to help the team.
There's no reason for him to be putting up 13 shot attempts and seven three-pointers when he isn't feeling it. He is also a terrible liability defensively and the Nets should make no attempt to retain him this summer.
Outlaw and Petro are a bit of a different story in that they're locked into contracts for the next few years. If the team can somehow find a way to send one or both of them off, though, they need to do so.
Of course, they weren't the only ones to struggle from the field.
Williams (3-of-12) and Anthony Morrow (4-of-12) both had off-nights. The difference is that they have proven track records which make their bad games a little easier to take.
Morrow doesn't have such difficulty finding his stroke that often, and he had a great game 24 hours earlier against San Antonio.
Williams is one of the best point guards in the league. His 17 assists against the Rockets and 9-of-12 night from the free-throw line offset his poor shooting performance.
This fact remains, though. Williams will have no desire to stick around on a team that plays like this.
The Nets may have a year-and-a-half to sell him on staying with this team, but they really have just this upcoming summer.
They'll need to get this man some players who can produce at a high level, and they got a good look at a potential pick-up in Kevin Martin of the Rockets, who scored 30 points.
The Rockets refuted rumors that they were looking to trade Martin this season, but his name was still floating out there and was last season as well. Perhaps the Nets can find a way to wrestle him away from Houston in a trade this summer.
If not then, a move needs to be made by next season's trading deadline, and if something doesn't happen then, well, goodbye Deron Williams.
The clock is ticking.
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