by Alex Sims, December 04, 2012
Deron Williams and the Brooklyn Nets are primed to take on the basketball world.
After the best 15-game start in franchise history, D-Will knows that his team can compete at the highest possible level. But to make it there, No. 8 is demanding more from himself.
"I definitely need to play better for us to make that jump," Deron said. "We could be a great team. You've seen us win five straight and I haven't shot the ball well. We've had some good wins so I think these two days of rest will be great. We haven't had rest in a while. So this will be good for us."
The Nets are coming off a road trip more than 1,000 miles away from the comforts of the Barclays Center that culminated with a thrilling contest against the defending NBA Champion Miami Heat. Now Brooklyn will benefit from a few days of rest before taking on the team that fell to the Heat in the NBA Finals—the Oklahoma City Thunder.
D-Will spent that break focused on regaining the shooting stroke that has made him a perennial All-Star. No. 8 has been banged up all season, most recently with a sprained wrist suffered against the Los Angeles Clippers. However, he isn't about to use injury as an excuse for his shooting struggles.
"It's not my wrist, it's my confidence. I have to play better, injuries or not," he said following Saturday's loss to Miami in which he tallied 10 points and 12 assists. "I have to play better than 10 points. I wasn't being aggressive. I have to find a rhythm. It's tough."
The performance was his seventh double-double of the season, but for the Olympic champion, that isn't enough. Even in Brooklyn's 11 wins, the perfectionist in Deron desires more.
"I'm the kind of person that doesn't want to play bad. I feel like I'm letting my team down, I feel like I'm not doing enough to help us win," he said. "So if I do it when we're winning, I'm happy we won but I still feel like crap that I played bad. When we lose, I just feel like crap and it sits with me for a couple days."
Veteran swingman Jerry Stackhouse has noticed the pressure D-Will has been putting on himself this season. But the 16-year NBA veteran has seen the pressure that opposing defenses have placed on Brooklyn's point guard and knows Deron is doing his best to work within the constraints of that pressure.
"He's a player that's going to be the focus of everybody," Stackhouse said. "Everybody that we play, they are going to try to take the ball out of his hands. He can't allow himself to get frustrated about that. He's got to trust being the bait guy. It might not be that he's not going to have a huge night scoring or a huge night getting assists. It might be the hockey assists."
By hockey assists, Stackhouse essentially means the pass before the pass. This kind of ball movement may not show up on the stat sheet, but it will show up on the scoreboard in favor of the Nets.
"That might be great for the team, where he makes that pass and then somebody else makes it and gets the assist," Stackhouse said. "But it all starts with his greatness being able to go create all that. Once he accepts that and understands that, we go to another level."
D-Will has been doing plenty of that this season, which has allowed eight of his teammates—including Stackhouse—to average more than seven points per game. However, with the surplus of scorers in this offense, Deron is still looking for his place in the mix.
"I've definitely been turning down some shots to get other guys shots, but I just haven't found a rhythm in this offense yet," D-Will said. "I haven't found where I can get my shots from consistently, and I'm not a guy that likes to go one-on-one every play, so it's been difficult."
Deron can facilitate as well as any point guard in the league, in fact, he's fourth in the NBA in assists per game at 8.9. But he still isn't content with his play this season, in which he has shot below the team average from the field and three-point range.
"I want to be able to do more for our team," he said. "I'm not used to shooting the ball like this. I'm not used to not being aggressive like this."
Despite his early shooting struggles, D-Will's teammates trust in his leadership and know he is the type of torchbearer who will be able to light the way to the top once he finds the correct route.
"We're all still trying to figure this out. We're trying to figure out how to get him going, and get him in rhythm," said Deron's backcourt teammate Joe Johnson. "I know he wants to get going, and we want to try to get going. We know he'll lead us in the right direction."
Deron and the Nets (11-5) will have a chance to take the next step in that direction on Tuesday night against the defending Western Conference champion Oklahoma City Thunder (14-4). Tonight's game begins a four-game homestand for Brooklyn.
No. 8 will be matched up with two familiar foes in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. D-Will played against the two back when he was with the Utah Jazz and along side them for the US Olympic team in London.
"I've played enough against both of those guys in the Western Conference to know their games. It didn't take the Olympics to figure that out," Deron said of Durant and Westbrook. "They are two of the best players in this league, two of the best scorers in the league, so we have to be ready to go."
Alone, each member of the Thunder tandem is a dynamic and dangerous scorer, but together they have averaged 47 points per game—more than any other pair of teammates in the NBA.
"We have two guys on that team that one person can't stop them for a whole game," Deron said. "It has to be a team effort, we have to pay a lot of attention to both of those guys, especially in transition. (Russell Westbrook) attacks the basket relentlessly in transition. We'll have to do a good job of getting back and trying to contain them."
Tuesday's tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m. EST from the Barclays Center and the game will air on NBA TV and the YES Network.
- Deron Williams' confidence suffering as Brooklyn Nets point guard tries to regain form after injury (New York Daily News, December 2, 2012)
- Nets' Guiding Force Is Still Searching For His Scoring Touch (New York Times, December 2, 2012)
- Deron Williams isn't happy with his play (Newsday, December 2, 2012)
- Nets' Deron looking to snap shooting funk (New York Post, December 3, 2012)