EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –- As his minutes have steadily increased, Deron Williams' game and confidence have been building, as well.
The Brooklyn Nets headed out for a three-game Western swing, and they left with their point guard feeling better about himself. That’s a very good thing for coach Jason Kidd.
Before flying to Sacramento, where the Nets will play the Kings on Wednesday, Williams was the last Net on the practice court. Under the watchful eye of Kidd, Williams worked on running floaters and free throws long after practice was done.
“I want to get back to playing basketball,” Williams said. “I haven't been able to do it and now I'm just getting to where I feel like I can attack.
“And I'm starting to feel like my old self again.”
Once Williams starts playing like his old self, the Nets (2-4) will be that much closer to performing the way many expected them to. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett may draw all the attention, turning the Nets into contenders with their arrival. But the two veterans have said the Nets won’t truly be able to see how good they can be until Williams is at full strength.
Williams missed almost all of training camp with an ankle injury, and the Nets have struggled early to adjust to one another, win on the road and finish games.
Kidd has brought Williams along slowly on a minutes restriction, but his playing time has steadily increased. And so has Williams’ offensive production. He has increased his scoring in each game, averaging 13.6 points in his past three. He tallied a season-high 17 points and 10 assists in 33 minutes in Saturday’s loss to the Pacers.
Williams, though, did foul George Hill while the Pacer was taking a 3-point shot and committed a turnover in the final three minutes.
The Nets will need some clutch plays from Williams if they want to have a successful trip. The Nets will have an advantage at point guard with Williams when they face the Kings, who have Greivis Vasquez and Isaiah Thomas at the position. The Kings could shuffle their starting lineup, so it remains to be seen who Williams will start against.
And then on Saturday, Williams will go head-to-head with Chris Paul and the Clippers. That matchup will be a juicy one. By the end of this trip, Williams should know exactly where he stands physically.
“That's every night in this league, man,” Williams said of facing tough point guards on this upcoming trip. “There's not really nights off anymore, when it comes to the point guard position. These young point guards are looking to make a name for themselves; they're playing with a lot of confidence, so there's no nights off.”
Williams’ confidence might soar if he has a successful trip. He’s looking forward to it.
“It's fun, man,” Williams said. “It's competitive, so I enjoy the challenges.”