MVP Talk 'Excites' Deron Williams; Nets Star Wants to Push the Pace Offensively

Jared Zwerling@JaredZwerlingNBA Senior WriterSeptember 19, 2013

Can Deron Williams not only help the new-look Brooklyn Nets knock off the Miami Heat this season, but also take away the MVP crown from LeBron James?

Two new members of the Nets, coach Jason Kidd and sixth man Jason Terry, have said Williams should be in the MVP conversation in 2013-14. And that has D-Will pumped up.

"It definitely excites me when they're talking about you like that," he told Bleacher Report. "I feel like if we're winning and I'm playing well, it will take care of itself. I don't get caught up too much into that stuff."

The highest Williams has placed in the MVP voting was ninth in 2009-10. That season, he averaged 18.7 points, 10.5 assists and 1.3 steals over 76 games, leading the Utah Jazz to a 53-29 record and the Western Conference Semifinals.

One key factor behind his success was coach Jerry Sloan's strategy to play off his starting point guard's strength as an effective up-and-down player. That season, the Jazz's pace—an estimate of the number of possessions per 48 minutes by a team—was 96.03, which was in the top tier of the NBA.

However, in Brooklyn last season, the Nets had a pace of 91.23—third-lowest in the league. Two reasons for that were the coaches' strict-system mentality and using Brook Lopez in half-court sets—specifically, establishing his presence down-low at the start of the games.

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

"I think Lopez was part of it, but I also believe it was due to Avery (Johnson) and P.J (Carlesimo's) controlling nature," a Western Conference scout said. "Lopez has to get touches, but everyone's talent on that team has to be utilized."

Looking ahead, Williams wants to return to pushing the pace:

"I definitely want to get back to running, and I think we want to as well. I think it's good. I've had a lot of success playing a lot more up-tempo, like my time in Utah, and I want to get back to playing like that. I think even though we're an older team, we still have guys that can run the floor. Like Paul (Pierce) and KG (Kevin Garnett); even though they're older, they can still run. They're smart basketball players, so it's not about being the fastest guy; it's about being efficient and being smart about how you play."

The Western Conference scout agreed with some of Williams' assessment, saying the Nets will be able to find the right offensive balance between their younger and older players, also including Terry, Joe Johnson, Andrei Kirilenko and Reggie Evans:

"I really don't believe (playing up-tempo) is going to be an issue with them at all. Kidd is smart and with vets like KG, Pierce and Jet, he won't have to 'coach' a lot. I think Kidd will take the leash off so to speak, and allow his point guard some flexibility.

"Having a veteran team can be a luxury because those guys know how to play. They are in great shape and take care of their bodies. My guess is they won't spend much time on their feet at practices."

An Eastern Conference scout believes running is in the Nets' cards, but there will need to be some modifications.

"I think that J-Kidd's mentality is to push," the scout said. "KG will be limited minutes-wise, as will Pierce. Therefore, they will run more with those two on the bench."

A larger issue is Williams' attitude and how he'll adjust to his new surroundings. In the past, Williams has been called a coach killer; Sloan resigned in Feb. 2011 and Johnson was fired last season. But there is some optimism that Kidd, a close friend of Williams, and the highly respected trio of Pierce, Garnett and Terry will help keep D-Will in check.

"He obviously has some personality issues, but my guess is Kidd and KG can ease that," the West scout said. "We can only hope. If it doesn't work, Deron may be sent packing. That's just a gut feeling. Teams can't keep firing coaches for one player."

But will Williams stay healthy? In the 2012-13 season, while he played and started in 78 games, ankle inflammation and weight problems slowed him down. He gradually picked up his scoring each month, capping his campaign with 24.6 points and 8.4 assists per game in April.

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 15: Deron Williams #8 of the Brooklyn Nets is injured in the first half of the game against the Boston Celtics at the Barclays Center on November 15, 2012 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly ackno
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The ankle problems actually began when Williams was playing in the 2012 Olympics. USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo later said he was out of shape when he initially suffered the injury. Now, while Williams is recovering from a sprained right ankle and bone bruise, he feels he's prepared physically for the season. (A Nets spokesperson confirmed that Williams is expected to be ready for the start of training camp, which tips off on the Duke campus from Oct. 1 to 5.)

"I worked out in Utah all summer. (New Nets assistant coach) John Welch gave me my training program, and I did it daily myself. I don't need a trainer; I'm good" he said. "I feel like I'm in great shape right now, and I want to get in better shape in the next couple weeks."

Also this summer, Williams played "a lot of golf"—even hitting the links with Kidd and Terry, whom he played with in Los Angeles when he organized a four-day team workout in August.

"There's a little trash talking," Williams said. "You know Jet. He's the same way on the basketball court."

Williams also enjoyed family time in Utah with his wife, Amy, and their four children, Denae, Deija, Deron Jr. ("D.J.") and their youngest, Desmond. Some of their biggest thrills together include enjoying the outdoors, having fun in their backyard pool and playing Skylanders Giants.

Williams and his family are such big fans of the game that the franchise helped him organize a celebrity charity dodgeball tournament in New York City, which takes place on Thursday to raise money for autism. (His son, D.J., suffers from the mental condition.) At the event, Williams will have the support of many of his teammates.

And he can't wait until it translates to the season:

"That's one of the most exciting things. Just the camaraderie. That's something that a lot of (former) players miss—those moments—just being in the locker room with the guys. I definitely won't take that for granted and I'll enjoy this whole year. We're going to have fun doing it and it's going to be a lot of hard work to try to win a championship, to try to dethrone Miami. That's what we're looking forward to."

Follow Jared on Twitter and Instagram.

Jay Pharoah


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.