Streaking D-Will, Nets set to begin real test
January, 16, 2013
By Mike Mazzeo | ESPNNewYork.com
Ned Dishman/NBAE/Getty ImagesDeron Williams scored 21 points and dished out seven assists in the Nets' victory over Toronto.Brooklyn Nets point guard Deron Williams is playing like an All-Star right now -- even if he honestly doesn't think he deserves to be one.
Williams helped guide the Nets to their season-high seventh straight victory on Tuesday night at Barclays Center -- 113-106 over the Toronto Raptors -- scoring 21 points in 43 minutes, while dishing out seven assists and extending his streak of consecutive free throws made to 40 by going 8-for-8 at the stripe.
"Obviously, I'd be honored if I get picked," Williams told ESPNNewYork.com in the locker room shortly before he boarded the team charter plane bound for Atlanta.
On Tuesday morning, when asked if he felt he was having an All-Star-caliber season, Williams replied, "No. ... I just think there's people playing better than me."
Later, interim coach P.J. Carlesimo, who has gotten everything out of his $98 million franchise player, disagreed.
"He's gotta work on his answers," Carlesimo, who is 9-1 since taking over for Avery Johnson, joked. "I don't like his answers a lot."
Despite struggling earlier in the season due to injuries, confidence issues with his jump shot and being uncomfortable running Johnson's offensive system, Williams all of a sudden looks like the dominant point guard he used to be in Utah.
"He's been leading us to victories," said shooting guard Joe Johnson, who also had 21 points -- 14 of which came in the second half. "He's been aggressive on both ends of the floor, and he's been getting everybody involved. The game has been fun."
The All-Star starters will announced Thursday night, while the reserves will be announced exactly a week later. Williams has already averaged 36.6 minutes per game this season, and given that he's been so banged up, the Nets might be better off if he isn't selected to his fourth All-Star Game. After all, he could certainly use a long rest a month from now.
But none of that really matters right now. Not when the Nets (23-15) are to embark on a stretch in which they play seven of their next nine games against teams with winning records.
"Our confidence is high right now, definitely as a group," Williams said. "And you know when you're winning and having fun, I think everybody picks their game up a little bit and feels like they have to if they want to join and don't want to be left out. We've had a lot of different lineups, but guys are just ready to play."
On Tuesday night, it was reserve forward Mirza Teletovic who stepped up, delivering three 3-pointers and 10 points off the bench. In his last four games, Teletovic is 9-for-16 from downtown.
Carlesimo's biggest problem these days? Finding minutes for everyone.
"I'm really struggling," he said.
Currently, the surging Nets find themselves just two games behind the defending champion Miami Heat for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. This upcoming stretch provides a chance to find out what this team is truly made of.