by Deron Williams, January 13, 2012
We're heading over to Utah on Saturday to play the Jazz, and I'm excited for it. I think it's going to be a fun night.
I'm forever thankful for the opportunity I was given in Utah, my first opportunity in the NBA. It was a great six years of my life. I had a lot of fun there, and we won a lot of basketball games. Making it to the Western Conference Finals was probably the highlight for me, being so close to a championship. But the whole time there was a great experience.
I learned a lot of valuable things during my time in Utah. Coach Sloan taught me toughness. He is a tough, hard-nosed guy, and he instilled that in his players. He taught us how to compete every day. It wasn't always about Xs and Os with him. It was also about competing and leaving it all out on the floor. You can do all the preparation in the world and all the talking in the world, but it just mattered to him when you went out there and did it on the floor.
My whole family loved Utah. We really enjoyed living there and being a part of that community. It'll be great to be back and playing in front of the fans that I came into the league with. There will probably be some mixed reviews, probably some boos out there, but I think there's still a lot of love too. I have nothing but love for the community there, for the fans there.
The energy in that arena was always amazing to me. Night in and night out, they're on their feet. The arena is packed no matter if they're playing the Lakers or the Heat, or if they're playing the Pistons. Regardless of what the opposing team's record is, the Jazz fans are there to support their team, and they do it right. They're loud, they're on their feet and you can feel it.
I'm going to try and take it like it's another game, but it's going to be hard for it not to mean more than that. I know most of those guys very well. I still keep tabs on most of them. I'm always looking up Paul Milsap and C.J, Miles to see what they did on a given night. I talked to Raja Bell the other day -- he just had a baby -- so I texted him to congratulate him. I'm always watching to see what those guys are doing, and I'm always rooting for them too. I want them to do well. I want Coach Corbin to be successful. It's great for him to have a coaching opportunity and I want him to do well.
I think that familiarity will have an effect on Saturday. There will probably be some excitement, some emotions before the game. I'm just really excited about it. It should be fun.
OFF AND RUNNING
The beginning to this season, the hectic schedule, the travel and the lack of practice time has been brutal. We haven't had many home games, so we haven't had many practices. It's been just games, and we've had a lot of back-to-backs since the start, so there hasn't been much time to rest since the beginning of the year, either.
It takes a special kind of commitment. As a player, you just have to take care of your body, try to get rest and eat right, anything to stay healthy. I ice after every game and every practice, no matter what, just as a precaution to get inflammation down.
Before the season started, I figured that we were going to see a lot of little nagging injuries that effect players around the league. Stuff like back spasms, calf pulls, nagging things that come up. A lot of guys didn't come in in the best shape, and it's not their fault. You just can't really get in game shape without playing the preseason games and not going through a full training camp. We had such a condensed training camp and two preseason games, and that's not enough.
It's been tough, especially on our team, because we've had a lot of those injuries. All season so far, we've been constantly bringing guys in and out of the lineup. It's hard to get a consistent rotation going when your team isn't anywhere near full strength on a night-to-night basis.
Once we get some of these guys back from injuries, which I think is going to happen real soon, we can start getting a better rotation, a better flow to the game.
Everyone has taken notice of our rookie MarShon Brooks. He's a great player and he's going to be a great pro in this league. He can flat out score the ball and has a lot of confidence, feels like nobody can guard him.
But he also does other things well. He rebounds well. He has long arms so he can get steals. What's really scary is he doesn't even know how to play the game. He's just learning how to play right now. Once he figures things out and learns how to really play, he's going to be very good.
He and I are developing some good chemistry when we're out there together. But we haven't had any practice, so it's all kind of been on the fly. It'll come with time. I'm always talking to him and he's a willing listener. He wants to get better, you can tell that. So I'm always giving him little pointers here and there.
We have a good time as a team. We have a great group of guys in the locker room. We go out to a lot of team dinners. In pretty much every city we go to, we have a handful of guys that go out to team dinner, just hang out, talk and have fun away from the court. It was kind of a tradition here with the Nets before I got here, and it's definitely something I like doing. I think it's good to take some time and hang with your teammates off the court when you're on the road, build some more chemistry and camaraderie.
The relationships here are good. I have a great relationship with Coach Johnson as well, on and off the court. I'm definitely enjoying playing for him and learning from him. He's a guy who was very successful in this league, played 16 years in the NBA and won a championship, so there are definitely things I can learn from him.
FILLING THE VOID
The injury to Brook Lopez changed the way we do a lot of things on the court. I'm a point guard who likes to pick and roll with a big man. We thought we were going to have a nice 1-2 punch with Brook and I this season and now that we don't, it's definitely tougher on offense. Brook makes it easier on everybody because he draws double teams. He's a 20-point a game scorer and he'll get you eight rebounds, so we're missing a lot in him.
I talked to him the other day and he's doing well. Right now he is rehabbing. He told me he's staying in the weight room as much as possible to stay in shape. He's making his way back, slowly but surely. Until he gets back and until some guys get back into game shape, other guys are going to have to step up, and I think some of our guys have done that.
Nobody is going to be able to replace Brook, but as a collective group, guys are doing a good job. It's tough and it's something that we're still working on, game-by-game. We're asking some of these guys to be somebody they're not. It's a tough situation, but this is the way it has to be for now.
The big men are definitely trying to step up in Brook's absence. We're getting productive minutes out of Johan Petro and Shelden Williams. Kris Humphries has done a great job on the boards and scoring when needed. He's had some big scoring games for us. Billy did a great job trading for Memo Okur, too. We needed a center that could step in and get some points. Memo brings a different dynamic to this team, being able to space the floor and shoot the three. He's been battling some nagging injuries and he's only got two practices with us so far, but I know he'll work through it and have a great season for us.
As for me, I know I'm not playing very well right now. I'm not shooting well, I'm turning the ball over and I just don't have any rhythm. For whatever reason, I haven't gotten comfortable yet. I feel like every shot I've taken this season, I've had to work hard just to get it off. I'm just trying to get going, some way, somehow.
I'd say it's definitely wearing on me, both mentally and physically. I'm not a person that takes losing well, nor do I take playing poorly well. I lose sleep over it. But I'm doing my best to work through it. This is a situation I've never been in. I've never been on a losing team. Every time I laced up, I felt like, no matter who the opponent was, we could win the game. I don't like doubting myself, or my team, so I'm trying to find ways to get through that.
We just have to stop making so many mental errors. We make mental error after mental error, and it snowballs and ends up costing us in stretches. We're a young team, a team that was assembled late, so we're a little behind and we all have to realize that.
FIVE FROM FACEBOOK
I always like to hear from you guys, my fans, and I wanted to take this opportunity while I'm blogging to respond to some of your questions. We got a ton of great ones through my Facebook Fan Page, and here are my answers.
FACEBOOK QUESTION (FB): Are you still following how Beşiktaş is doing in the Turkish League? - Ömer Seymen
DW: I've been checking in on them, seeing how they're doing on EuroBasket.com and I've stayed in touch with a couple of my teammates over there, so I get the scoop. I miss my team and my teammates. I had a great time playing over there with those guys. I enjoyed living in Istanbul, so I miss the city too. I'm thankful for my time over there. It was a great experience for myself and my family and I look forward to coming back to Istanbul soon.
FB: What do u think of Illinois' Brandon Paul's performance against Ohio St.? - Kenny Brown
DW: I'm upset that I didn't get to see it. I could've watched the game, I just didn't even know it was on. We had just gotten into Denver and I missed it. But I read about it the next day. I'm very happy for Brandon. That's a great win for the program and a great performance for him. I talk to the coaches over there often and I think the program is headed in the right direction. We're getting back on the winning track now and we have some tougher guys this year so I think we should do some damage once we get into the tournament.
FB: What advice would you give a parent who's 12 year old son practices every day so he can one day be as good as D-Will, his idol? - Kris Fluckiger
DW: I would just tell him to work hard. Work on the fundamentals with him. He has to put up a lot of shots, do a lot of ball-handling drills. But mostly, just do everything at 100 percent effort. As a 12-year-old, I was constantly playing basketball. Outside or inside, didn't matter. I pretty much lived at the rec center, especially in the summertime. I was the first person to go in when the doors opened, and I was usually the last person to leave when the doors closed. I always wanted to be the best. When I was little, I wanted to play on the big court, and I had to prove myself to the older guys in the neighborhood that I belonged, even though I was so young. Once I got their acceptance, I didn't want to leave.
FB: How do u get your beard looking fresh? - Gabriel Rodriguez
DW: I have a great barber. His name is Nixon Pierre and I'm going to see him while I'm in Utah. I have a good barber in Jersey too, but Nixon is my guy. Whenever I have something important, he's going to be there.
FB: What is the MOST important quality for a baller to have past being just born for the game? - Debbie Strandell
DW: Simple. The will to win.
Thanks to everybody for their questions and I hope you enjoyed the blog.