- Mike Mazzeo, ESPN Staff Writer
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He was hoping there would be a carry-over effect this season. But then, as has happened several times during his tenure with the Nets, he got hurt.
“I was excited about it and then injuries happened,” Williams said Wednesday, a day after scoring 25 points in 37 minutes, both season highs, and adding seven assists in his return to the lineup after missing 11 of the previous 12 games due to a sprained left ankle.
“[I was] definitely frustrated that I couldn’t do that [play at a high level]. I’m sure if people jump off the bandwagon, which is great, but I know what I’m capable of doing when I’m healthy. Unfortunately, I haven’t been healthy the last couple of years, which is frustrating, so hopefully, knock on wood, I can stay healthy and see what I can do.”
Williams, plagued by ankle injuries and weight issues for the majority of the 2012-13 campaign, suffered a sprained right ankle and a bone bruise during an offseason workout in Utah, which proved to be a significant setback. He missed all of training camp and most of the preseason, failing to develop chemistry with his new teammates.
In his first seven games, Williams was far from 100 percent, averaging 11.1 points and 7.4 assists while shooting 41.7 percent from the field. He then missed two games after spraining his left ankle in Phoenix on Nov. 15. Williams came back Nov. 20 in Charlotte, but reinjured the ankle and missed the next nine games.
But Williams looked like a different player Tuesday night. He orchestrated the offense brilliantly, facilitating for his teammates and finding open looks for himself. In the fourth quarter, he scored seven straight points, hitting a difficult scoop shot and knocking down a fadeaway jumper after he called for a clear-out.
So why wasn’t he as aggressive earlier in the season?
“I was hurt. I was hurt before that last injury,” Williams replied. “It was great for this [right] ankle as well to get the rest, it definitely was, because it was still hurting. I didn’t really have that blow-by speed. I’m still getting it. It’s still coming. It was definitely good to heal this [right] ankle while this one [left] was hurting.”
Williams said he was “a little sore” following Tuesday night’s game, but he says he’s fine. On Thursday night, Williams will go up against one of the NBA’s premier point guards, Chris Paul.
“It’s great,” Williams said of the matchup with Paul. “We’ve had a lot of battles over the years. He’s a good friend of mine and a great competitor as well, and I enjoy going up against him.”
The Eastern Conference being so bad has allowed Williams the time to get healthy.
“That’s the reason I wasn’t really rushed to get back,” he said. “I see we’re struggling, but then you see the East, you win three, four games and you’re back in it. That’s why I was kind of able to sit back and take my time.”
The Nets are a lot better with Williams than without him, that’s for sure.
“He’s one of the elite players in this league and the way he played was huge for us, and so being the head of the snake, the engine, it’s good to have that guy back,” Nets coach Jason Kidd said.
5dSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann