New Jersey Nets: Breaking Down Week 18 and Our First Look at Deron Williams
It was another very short two-game week for the New Jersey Nets, and, just like in Week 17, they came out winless.
Circumstances were a little different this time around, however. The team acquired Deron Williams from the Utah Jazz at the trade deadline, and the starting lineup featured four new faces.
Like the last weekly breakdown, because it was such a short week, statistics won't be looked at too much and observations will be more general. The focus will be given mainly to what we've seen from Williams and what we should expect from the team going forward now with him on board.
But first, here's the usual quick recap:
The Nets went 0-2 on the week, are 17-42 on the season, still reside in fourth place of the Atlantic Division and continue to hold down the No. 12 spot in the Eastern Conference.
Okay, so what did we see out of Mr. Deron Williams in these two games?
First off, we saw a guy who can really play point guard. Williams can push tempo with the best of them, penetrate just as well and use it to find a shot for himself or setup a teammate. He can throw some simply amazing passes out there, and he can get to the free throw line at an excellent rate.
Williams is a proven winner with the intensity and focus required to win a championship. If the Nets can keep him on the team and surround him with some good-to-great players, a title will be in reach soon.
That's the good news, but there was some bad news as well.
While Williams racked up a total of 29 assists in his two games as a Net—an astounding number considering he hasn't had much time at all to practice with these guys—he was actually quite Devin Harris-esque with his shot, going 8-for-25 in the two games combined.
He also misfired on all seven of his three-point attempts and had seven turnovers.
The turnovers are easy to swallow, being that pretty much all of them came as a result of miscommunication. Williams expected someone to be in a certain spot and the guy wasn't there. This will happen until everyone gets used to playing with each other.
His shooting, on the other hand, needs improvement.
His poor stroke is being largely attributed to a wrist injury he suffered earlier in the season, aggravated during the All-Star Game and then re-aggravated during the game in San Antonio.
Williams is a 46.5 percent shooter for his career and normally connects on 35.6 percent of his threes, so that area of his game should get better as his wrist heals up.
Additional good news regarding Williams is that he seems to have already established a great rapport with Kris Humphries, probably due to their time spent together in Utah.
Humphries went 11-of-22 from the field last week and was routinely the recipient of a Williams pass that found him wide-open for a jumper. By the way, Humphries recorded yet another double-double in Houston.
Also, after struggling in San Antonio, Brook Lopez and Williams started to feel each other out against Houston, with Lopez scoring 21 points on 8-of-16 shooting.
With Lopez as the franchise cornerstone before Williams got here, getting those two on the same page will be crucial. If Williams and Lopez can develop anywhere near the same type of on-court chemistry the latter had with Devin Harris, New Jersey's center should be in for a monster final stretch of the season.
As mentioned earlier, there were other changes in the starting five.
Rookie Damion James returned from his broken foot and immediately usurped the starting small forward position. James understandably had trouble finding the range on his shot in his first game back, but he seemed to regain his form against Houston by going 4-of-6 from the field.
James leaves nothing to be desired in terms of energy and hustle. In the two games, he amassed four offensive rebounds (not bad at all for a small forward) and showed a knack for being around the ball whenever it came lose.
Simply put, the rookie knows what he's doing out there.
The final new piece in the starting lineup was Sasha Vujacic, a move that came as a surprise.
Being that he did not play well in the two games—going 6-of-22 from the field and 3-for-12 on threes—he might not last long in this role.
Anthony Morrow, the man Vujacic replaced, went off against the Spurs by scoring 25 points. Although he didn't have quite the same success against the Rockets, he should not be riding the bench for long.
There is also some cause for concern going forward due to Jordan Farmar's ankle injury, which he sustained in Houston.
Farmar left the arena in a walking boot and will reportedly miss about one week, according to The Star-Ledger.
So where does all this leave us going forward?
All we can look for is how Williams and the rest of the team adjust to each other, and whether or not they will eventually be able to win some games.
Williams should be able to keep his assist numbers high, but he will need to find a way to get his shot to drop more often. If it's a problem with the wrist, perhaps it will come down to shot selection.
How will the Nets fare next week?
These next two months will also serve as Vujacic's final audition, as he is a free agent after the season. If he keeps playing like he did last week, don't expect him to come back.
Once the season ends, we can start thinking about personnel moves and what players are available to bring in and help get this thing turned around. But for now, let's just hope that the team can win some games down the stretch.
The Nets start out next week with a home game against Phoenix (30-27) on Monday before taking a trip to London to play Toronto (16-44) on Friday and Saturday.
It will all depend on how well the team meshes, but a 2-1 or even 3-0 week is certainly a realistic goal.
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