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Discouraging Deron: Nets Star Williams Must Step Up

Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into the 2013 – 2014 season, the Brooklyn Nets had high expectations. While just seven games have passed in the still-young season, it is evident that rookie head coach Jason Kidd and the Nets are not living up to those expectations. They are 2-5 and sit at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. Their stacked starting lineup, which, by the way consists of 35 All-Star appearances, is struggling mightily. From guards and forwards such as Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce to the men in the middle like Kevin Garnett and Brook Lopez, no one is more important to the success of the Nets than Deron Williams. As Brooklyn goes so goes Deron, and right now, Deron ain’t goin’ nowhere.

The 29-year-old point guard joined the (then) New Jersey Nets via trade in 2011, before signing a five-year, $98.7 million deal in the summer of 2012 to stay with the team. Williams was the first true star to don a Nets uniform since the days of Kidd and Vince Carter, and they hoped to build around the former Illinois standout. Finally, led by Williams with the help of Johnson and Lopez, the Nets returned to relevance and captured the four-seed in the Eastern Conference, their first playoff appearance since 2007.

Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

After acquiring future hall of famers KG and Pierce last offseason, Brooklyn was instantly thrown into the conversation as a threat to King James’ throne in the NBA. More than two weeks into the season and the only thing the Nets seem to threaten is the Utah Jazz’s June lottery pick. Sure, the blame can fall on Garnett and Pierce, who are both averaging career-lows in points, with KG also shooting a career-worst from the field. Or blame Lopez, the 7-footer who can’t manage to grab more than 6 rebounds per game. But the main problem lies with the man who manages the ball – the main problem lies with Deron Williams.

The three-time All-Star is looking more like an average role player than the leader of a title contender. Through seven games, Williams is averaging 11.1 points, 2 rebounds and 7.4 assists. His point and rebound averages are the lowest of his nine-year career, while the 7.4 assists is the second-worst average of his time in the league. He is shooting 41.7 percent from the field, down from 44 percent just one season ago.

Entering the season, Kidd mentioned Williams as a possible MVP candidate to which he responded to Jared Zwerling of Bleacher Report,

“It definitely excites me when they’re talking about you like that. 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.”

Unfortunately for Williams, there is nothing to be excited about right now.

So, how does Williams, who is supposed to be in the prime of his career, get back on track? The answer is no simple task, and one that will gradually develop as the season continues. To start, however, he needs to get more minutes. Williams is averaging just over 28 minutes per game compared to the first seven games of last season when he averaged close to 36 minutes.

Williams is a playmaker; if he is spending more time on the court, not only will it translate into success individually, but for the team as well. Thus far, he has dished out 52 assists, slightly lower than at this point last season. It is no coincidence that Johnson, who is averaging 12.4 points per contest, is not performing like he was one year ago when he was scoring upwards of 17 points per game. Johnson needs Williams, and Williams needs Johnson.

Of course, the Nets current roster has only played a handful of games together and teams simply do not gel right away. Deron, however, holds the keys to allow his team to unleash into the unstoppable force many thought Brooklyn would become. He just has to find them.

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Brooklyn Nets Season Preview: A New Look

The Nets made a lot of noise this offseason, trading for Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry. Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

As training camp is soon to begin, the start of the 2013 – ’14 NBA season will be underway shortly. There are a lot of new faces on new teams this year, and the Brooklyn Nets are no exception to those new faces. Let’s take a look at their offseason moves and how their season will play out.

Key Player Changes:

While the Nets lost quite a few talented players who played significant roles on last year’s playoff team, Brooklyn certainly got a lot better. On draft night in late June, the Nets made one of the biggest moves of the offseason. They traded away Kris Humphries, Keith Bogans, MarShon Brooks, Kris Joseph and three first-round picks to the Boston Celtics in exchange for future hall of famers Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, to go along with sharpshooter Jason Terry. They also picked up Andrei Kirilenko, who will play a decisive reserve role throughout the season.

Questions For The Season:

Can the veterans such as Pierce and KG stay healthy? Garnett, 37, and Pierce, 35 are two of the most important pieces in making this season successful for their new team, but getting through all 82 games could be an issue. Rookie head coach Jason Kidd realizes this, and has already stated that Garnett will “probably” not play in back-to-back games. Not only can this help prevent injuries, but it will keep him fresh as well come playoff time.

Brooklyn needs Deron Williams to lead them. Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

Can Deron Williams be the star the Nets need him to be? Williams is coming off a great season, averaging 18.9 PPG, 7.7 APG while shooting over 45% from the field. While he has more talent around him than he has ever had before, the offense will still run through the 29-year-old point guard. Brooklyn is not getting any younger, and if they want to win, now is the time. Winning, however, begins with D-Will.

Can Jason Kidd Coach? With a proven, star-studded roster already intact, it will be interesting to see how Kidd, who competed against the Nets as a point guard just one season ago, will coach his new team. It will help having Lawrence Frank, who has served as head coach of the New Jersey Nets and Detroit Pistons as well as an assistant under Doc Rivers in Boston, right by his side throughout the season.

Season Prediction: 55-27, two seed in the Eastern Conference.

I do not foresee the Nets challenging the Mighty Miami Heat for the one seed in the conference, but Brooklyn is certainly capable of claiming the two seed. The competition, however, will be tough. Derrick Rose will be back on the court with the Chicago Bulls, the Indiana Pacers will only continue to get better and the New York Knicks will also be in contention.