by Alex Sims, February 15, 2013
As the 2012-2013 season crosses over the All-Star break and into the stretch run toward the playoffs, it becomes increasingly clear daily how strongly Deron Williams and the Nets have embraced their move to Brooklyn.
And even through some painful adversity and surprising change, the Nets have been equally embraced as the main attraction in New York's most populated borough.
As a team and a franchise, the Nets began the season in celebration of their Brooklyn rebirth and underwent a dramatic transformation. The new-look Nets added a few new players, a new logo and color scheme, a new state-of-the-art arena—and really an entirely new identity.
With that new identity came an exponential increase in expectations. Through the first 53 games of the season, the Nets (31-22) have already amassed more victories than all of last season, while showing some promising signs of reaching their ultimate goals.
But they have also proven that they are a team that is still forming and working toward that level.
The Nets' new era in Brooklyn began with the hottest start in franchise history—11 wins in the first 15 games. This stretch was highlighted by six D-Will double-doubles and a monumental win over the New York Knicks—Brooklyn's rival just across the East River.
Then came the volatile month of December. The Nets lost 10 of their 13 games in the final month of 2012, prompting Brooklyn brass to part ways with head coach Avery Johnson at the end of the month.
But as the calendar turned, the Nets came back looking like a new team with interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo at the helm. D-Will posted 19 points and 13 dimes as Brooklyn knocked off one of the NBA's most talented teams—Oklahoma City Thunder—on Jan. 2 to spark a seven-game winning streak.
In his best month of the season, D-Will had nine games with 18 or more points and 11 games with seven or more assists, as the Nets finished January with 11 wins against just four losses—matching their hot start to the season.
However, as the All-Star break approached, D-Will's health issues began to catch up with him. Deron's season began with a cortisone shot is his left ankle and 50 games later, his All-Star break began with platelet-rich plasma treatment on both ankles. In between, Deron has battled through a litany of injuries to his ankles, shoulder, shooting wrist and more.
As his inflamed ankles cut down the explosiveness that made him one of the league's best point guards, Deron was forced out of action in the Nets' final two games before the break. He took some much-needed time off while undergoing PRP treatment and is expected to make his return immediately after the break.
No. 8 is confident that he will come back strong after his injury. Once he makes his return D-Will expects to be back in top condition to take the driver's seat as Brooklyn makes its push to the playoffs.
"We just want to continue to play and win and get better as a team. We feel like we're a playoff team. We want to try and get home court advantage and then do some damage in the playoffs."
BY THE NUMBERS
For the first time in several years, the Nets are playoff contenders and the numbers show just how good they've been in their first season in Brooklyn.
- 2 Only two teams in the NBA have more wins vs. division opponents than the Nets.
- 2.8 D-Will has averaged just 2.8 turnovers per game—lower than any season in which he has started 50 or more games.
- 4 Deron posted a career-high four blocks vs. Portland on Nov. 25, including three in the first quarter.
- 7 Brooklyn's longest win streak this season is seven games. Deron averaged 19.7 points and 8.1 dimes in that span.
- 9 The Nets have already accumulated nine more wins than they did all of last season.
- 13.9 Brooklyn's average margin of victory during its seven-game win streak.
- 14 D-Will has scored 20 or more points 14 times this season.
- 33 Deron tallied a season-high 33 points against Oklahoma City on Dec. 4.
- 52 The number of consecutive free throws D-Will made in a 12-game span this season stretching from 2012 into 2013.
- 85.5 On the season, Deron's free-throw percentage stands at 85.5 percent—higher than any other season in his career.
- 5,016 D-Will's current career assist total. Deron joined the 5,000-assist club during a win over Detroit on Feb. 6.
IN THEIR WORDS
As the Nets have made a strong run at playoff contention in the first half, they've received crucial contributions from starters and reserves, but everyone in black and white knows how crucial Deron is to their success.
Nets center Brook Lopez
"He gift wraps buckets for me. He makes my job so much easier."
Brooklyn guard Joe Johnson
"He's just really leading by going out and really playing hard night in and night out. He's been pretty banged up this whole year…but other than that, he's stepping out and playing."
Interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo
"It's not just in the open floor. It's not just running the halfcourt offense. A lot of his assists come from double teams, from post-up positions; it makes him different than some other point guards. You see a lot more different passes from Deron because his skill set and the way he is used in the game."
Brooklyn Swingman Jerry Stackhouse
"Whenever you have a guy that means that much to you, your franchise player, when Deron picked it up, we picked it up. I don't think there's any coincidence."
Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov
"I think he's the best point guard in the league. He's a leader and he needs the right team [around him]. As we know, superstars are driving the brands, they are pushing people to love them and love the team."
Nets general manager Billy King
"Am I confident he's going to get back to being Deron Williams? Yes."
— The Brooklyn Game (@TheBKGame) November 27, 2012
Everything Deron Williams does is in one fluid motion, I love watching him play
— DII Devo (@BallerKingDevo) November 4, 2012
Deron Williams is running this show -- and the Nets are on a tear.
— Stefan Bondy (@NYDNInterNets) January 9, 2013
Deron Williams and Joe Johnson are developing some deadly chemistry. Fun to watch. #BrooklynNets
— Satvik Patel (@NosideMuzik) January 16, 2013
— Dee Brown (@deebrown11) January 17, 2013
Deron Williams is doing whatever he wants right now.
— NBA Guru (@NBAGuru) January 29, 2013
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) February 7, 2013
One thing Deron has always been known for is his killer crossover dribble and that hasn't changed a bit with the move to Brooklyn. Check out a compilation of D-Will's best crossovers, assembled for Nets blog The Brooklyn Game:
GAME OF THE YEAR
It was a photo finish for game of the year between the Nets' Jan. 2 road victory over Oklahoma City and their Nov. 26 overtime triumph over the New York Knicks.
The Thunder victory made a very compelling case. That win sparked Brooklyn's seven-game winning streak and came in the midst of a tumultuous stretch, as the Nets struggled through the month of December which brought 11 losses and a coaching change.
Against the defending Western Conference champion Thunder, D-Will tallied an impressive 19 points, 13 assists and five steals—and Brooklyn was plus-18 with Deron on the floor.
However, despite the enormity of the victory over OKC, the magnitude still couldn't match that of Brooklyn's victory in the inaugural Battle of the Boroughs.
On November 26, 2012 the Nets of Brooklyn hosted the Knicks of Manhattan in the first meeting of their budding rivalry, a game originally scheduled for Opening Night but delayed by Hurricane Sandy.
Brooklyn withstood a scoring onslaught from Knicks stars Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler, who combined for 63 points in the back-and-forth battle. D-Will countered with a double-double of 16 points and a season-high 14 assists to go with three steals and six rebounds.
But four quarters of play weren't enough to hold the crosstown clash and the two rivals took to overtime to decide the game. In the extra period the Nets dominated defensively, holding Anthony—the current NBA scoring leader—to just one point and the entire Knicks team to just five in the extra five minutes.
At the end of it all, Deron stepped to the free-throw line and put the game on ice, nailing consecutive shots from the charity stripe as "MVP" chants rained down on hime inside the sold out Barclays Center.
The two teams went on to split their four-game season series at two games each, which could potentially set the stage for a deciding playoff series.
IN HIS OWN WORDS
The 2012-13 season has had its peaks and valleys, but D-Will is confident that if the Nets continue to stick together, they're destined for greatness.
"As a whole, I think we're just encouraging each other right now. We're having fun and we're enjoying playing together. That's the most important thing. I think we'll have a chance to beat anybody."