- Ohm Youngmisuk, ESPN Staff Writer
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With training camp less than two months away, we’re examining the burning questions facing the Brooklyn Nets.
Today’s question: Will Deron Williams return to All-Star form?
Much of it depends on if Williams can make a full recovery physically and mentally after undergoing surgery on both of his ankles in May.
The physical part appears to be on track as Williams is said to be making progress. But it is in his and the Nets’ best interest for the point guard to take a cautious approach in camp.
Since the 2011-12 season, when he averaged 21 points and 8.7 assists, Williams’ game has been on the decline physically and mentally. Injuries took its toll on the point guard, who needs to hit the reset button and jump-start his game again.
Williams averaged 18.9 points and 7.7 assists in 2012-13 but saw those numbers dip to 14.3 points and 6.1 assists last season. He played in 64 games, missing time due to his sore ankles.
And he might’ve rushed back too soon after missing five games in the middle of January. Williams just rarely looked comfortable last season, playing well in spurts. He averaged 16.9 points and 5.6 assists in the first round against Toronto but saw those numbers dip in the second round against Miami to 11.2 points and 6.2 assists per game. During a Game 2 loss to the Heat, Williams went 0-for-9 from the field in 37 minutes and finished with no points, seven rebounds and six assists.
While Williams might not have been healthy, his confidence was also clearly far from being in peak form as well. Sports Illustrated recently did an in-depth interview with Kobe Bryant and also released a series of excerpts from the time with Bryant. During one excerpt on Bryant’s views on confidence, Williams’ 0-for-9 night came up.
SI wrote: Gotham Chopra, the director of “Kobe Bryant’s Muse,” an upcoming documentary on Bryant, told a story about being with Kobe and watching the Nets and the Heat play. Recounts Chopra, “Deron Williams went like 0-for-9. I was like, ‘Can you believe Deron Williams went 0-9?’ Kobe was like, ‘I would go 0-30 before I would go 0-9. 0-9 means you beat yourself, you psyched yourself out of the game, because Deron Williams can get more shots in the game. The only reason is because you've just now lost confidence in yourself."
And there is likely the answer to whether Williams can regain his All-Star form. First, he must recover physically. And then, perhaps even more important, Williams has to gain confidence again in his ankles and then build his confidence back up in his game.
Last season, he had to get used to having Jason Kidd as his coach, and he often deferred to Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson. Add on the fact that he wasn't feeling at his best physically, and you have a down year. He has to get back to feeling like he is "The Man" on the team again. That’s going to take time.
I believe he can average 18-to-20 points and double-figure assists again. Reaching those averages this season will be difficult, given his offseason surgery and having to learn a new coach and system again. The Nets also still have Johnson, and Brook Lopez is also making his own return from surgery. With no Shaun Livingston, Williams should have the ball in his hands more. And with Pierce in Washington, Williams has to take this team and make it his team.
Williams, 30, has three years remaining on his contract. He has plenty of time to regain his All-Star form, and I think he can. I just wonder if it will happen in Brooklyn or if he might need a fresh start somewhere else to get back to the old D-Will.
Question: Will we see Williams regain his All-Star form with the Nets again?
5hMatt Walks, ESPN.com
6dESPN Stats & Information
6dMarc Stein and Mike Mazzeo
21dKevin Pelton and Chad Ford