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Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Starting Five: D-Will's second-half surge?

By Mike Mazzeo

The Brooklyn Nets can only hope.

Hope that, for a second straight season, Deron Williams returns to play at an elite level following the All-Star break.

It happened in 2012-13. So why can’t it happen in 2013-14?

It pretty much has to, since, at the end of the day, the Nets are probably only going to go as far as Williams takes them.

In the four games prior to the break, the $98 million point guard struggled mightily, averaging 11.3 points, 4.5 assists, three rebounds and three turnovers on 36.6 percent shooting -- 26.7 percent from 3-point range.

He has already missed 16 games due to injury -- receiving yet another round of cortisone shots and PRP injections in both of his ankles in early January.

Recently, Williams has talked about lacking confidence, about how it bothers him that it’s news when he has a good game, about how he needs to get healthy.

Without much of his explosiveness, he still hasn’t dunked.

It didn’t used to be this way.

“That’s where it’s most needed,” Williams said of the All-Star break giving him some time off mentally to clear his head. “I know for me especially, just to get my confidence back, step away for a minute.”

Just look at some of his recent performances:


The Nets lost all five of those games.

An Eastern Conference scout who watches Williams play on a regular basis wonders if, aside from being hurt, D-Will isn’t motivated to be at his best because the East is such a bad conference.

“I think he’s a little banged up and he feels like he doesn’t have to go all out [because of the standings],” the scout told ESPNNewYork.com. “I think it’s half him taking a mental break and half him trying to get healthy. ... He’s been awful.”

During the break, Williams went to Las Vegas with Andrei Kirilenko, according to Kirilenko’s wife Masha Patova’s Instagram account.



Perhaps it was just what he needed, a time to relax and get his mind off basketball.

The Nets certainly hope so.

Williams’ first game of the second half comes in Utah against his former team Wednesday night. He had 21 points and 11 assists the last time he faced the Jazz on March 30.

A similar performance Wednesday night could be just what Williams needs to get back on track and turn his season around after the All-Star break -- just like he did in 2012-13.

Question: Do you think Williams will turn it around for a second straight season after the All-Star break? Let us know in the comments section.

In case you missed it: The Nets are interested in Jarrett Jack and Jordan Hill as the Feb. 20 trade deadline fast approaches.

Up next: The Nets practice Tuesday in Utah.