Williams went through a minor slump in the middle of the season. Suffering from a pair of inflamed ankles, the Nets’ floor general produced well below his career per-game average in points, assists and field-goal percentage prior to the All-Star break.
Now, just a month later, No. 8 is back to his old ways. Williams is finally healthy and looks like a man on a mission. The 28-year-old is determined to reclaim his place among the NBA’s elite.
But how do we know D-Will has righted the ship?
Well, it’s simple really, because the numbers don't lie.
Since the break, D-Will is averaging an impressive 23.5 points and 7.6 assists while shooting a scintillating 46 percent from the field.
Make no mistake, Deron Williams has primarily been considered an elite point guard because of his scoring ability.
During the course of seven seasons in the NBA, he’s averaged at least 18 points in five campaigns. It's a remarkable achievement for a player that’s also responsible for being a chief facilitator.
Then the summer of 2012 happened.
Williams suffered an ankle injury that prevented him from participating in the Olympics. It took him nearly an entire year to recover, and the effects of the injury plagued Brooklyn’s leader throughout the first half of this season.
Prior to the break, he averaged just 16.7 points per game, almost two points below his career average. It’s a startlingly low number for a player that averaged over 20 points in 2010-11.
After three rounds of cortisone injections, one round of PRP injections, a week of rest and a juice-diet cleanse, the Nets’ leading man is once again scoring at a prolific rate. D-Will scored 31 points in back-to-back games last week, and dropped 42 on March 8 against the hapless Washington Wizards.
How do we know the superstar version of Deron Williams is back?
He’s scored at least 20 points in 10 of his last 16 games, leading the Nets to their first playoff berth since 2007.
Offseason surgery is probably the only real long-term remedy for D-Will’s damaged ankles, but the three-point shot has provided some temporary relief.
With his ability to penetrate hampered, Williams has done a lot of scoring from beyond the arc during his resurgence. In 16 games since the All-Star break, he’s shot 42 percent from three-point range.
Against the Wizards on March 8, the Nets’ playmaker made an NBA-record nine three-pointers in the first half en route to a season-high 42-point performance. He finished the game with 11 three-pointers, leading Brooklyn to a 95-78 victory.
Teammate Reggie Evans was impressed.
"It kind of reminded me of my days when I first got in the league when I played with Ray Allen," said Evans.
"Deron, he was hot like fish grease. He was hot, so he kind of kicked it off and we just kept it going throughout the game." (via USA Today)
It looks like Williams finally has his legs back.
But it’s hard to believe a few rounds of shots and a week of rest could account for such a sudden rejuvenation.
Maybe USA Basketball president Jerry Colangelo was right. Maybe D-Will was out of shape before the Olympics, and that’s the reason he injured himself.
"Deron Williams, for the Olympics, was not in the best shape," Colangelo said. "He was a little overweight, and I told him that at the time." (via Yahoo! Sports)
Only Williams knows for sure. But his abrupt weight loss is telling.
According to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News, a recent juice-diet cleanse helped Williams drop at least 10 pounds. That’s a lot of weight for a professional athlete to lose in the middle of a season.
Many, including ESPN’s Bill Simmons (via Grantland.com), wrote D-Will’s obituary a little too soon. Simmons ranked the Nets point guard’s contract among the worst in the NBA, and likened the Mavericks' failure to acquire Williams to Keanu Reeves’ character Neo dodging bullets in the film The Matrix.
Now, Deron Williams is once again playing like a top-five superstar NBA point guard. He’s almost single-handedly willed the Nets to their first playoff berth since 2007.
With Joe Johnson suffering from nagging plantar fasciitis and a recent quad contusion, Williams will have to continue to carry the Nets' backcourt.
Brooklyn (41-29) is just two games back of the crosstown rival New York Knicks with 12 games remaining. If D-Will maintains his blistering pace down the stretch, the Nets will almost certainly be crowned Atlantic Division champions.
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