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Friday, April 18, 2014
D-Will 'motivated' to stand out in playoffs

By Mike Mazzeo

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The advanced stats paint a different picture of Deron Williams than the regular metrics.

Throughout the season, the Nets were a much better team with their $98 million point guard on the court, scoring 8.3 more points per 100 possessions, while allowing 3.8 fewer points per 100 possessions.

Still, Williams was not the MVP candidate Nets coach Jason Kidd and former teammate Jason Terry figured he would be in 2013-14.

Hampered by ankle inflammation up until the All-Star break for the second straight season, Williams averaged a pedestrian 14.1 points and 6.3 assists per game.

The Nets may be favored -- at least by most basketball media types, anyway -- heading into their first-round playoff series with the Toronto Raptors. But good luck finding anyone who thinks they have the advantage at point guard.

As one Eastern Conference scout told ESPNNewYork.com, “Kyle Lowry has outplayed Deron Williams throughout the entire season.”

In four games against the Nets, Lowry averaged 22 points and six assists on 50 percent shooting.

“He’s tough,” Williams said, “Very aggressive on both ends of the floor. Definitely the key is to try to contain him. He’s just a shot-maker. He’s making shots right now from everywhere.”

Williams said he’s “motivated” to have a good postseason. He needs to.

The Nets can’t afford for him to have two turnovers in the final minute -- like he did in a 104-103 loss to the Raptors on Jan. 27.

“For [the Nets] to make a run, [Williams] is going to have be very, very good,” ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy said during a conference call, “And the person he’s going up against in the first series could be the most underrated player in the league this season in Kyle Lowry. Kyle Lowry should have been an All-Star this season. He has had a tremendous year. He has the mentality of a pit bull.

“Williams is going to have to be really good.”

In some games this season, he has been. But stretches of greatness have been rare.

Earlier this season, Williams admitted that his confidence wasn’t where it needed to be.

He is far from where he was in 2010, when NBA general managers voted him the best point guard in the league.

“Sometimes you don't know how good you have it,” Van Gundy said. "Williams, in Utah, with [coach] Jerry Sloan, with the combination of the other players they had, were right on the cusp. They were very, very good. He was viewed as that point -- some people thought Chris Paul was the best point guard, some people thought Deron Williams was the best guard. But they were both guys who were looked upon as surefire Hall of Famers.

“This guy was an absolute stud, a handful on both ends of the floor. You don’t realize how big and strong and powerful he is. He wasn’t really good then. He was great. It’s not like he hasn’t played well with the Nets, and at times very well. It’s just that he hasn't been consistently great like he was in Utah like he was every night.”

Said Kidd: “I think Deron has gotten better as the year has gone on, but the biggest thing is his health. He’s gotten healthy, so hopefully that continues through the playoffs.”