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Monday, March 14, 2011
Williams' impact felt since joining Nets

By Mike Mazzeo

New Jersey Nets point guard Deron Williams is back.

Thank goodness, because the Nets are going to need a huge night from Williams on Monday night in order to beat a Boston Celtics team that surrendered just 56 points to the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday night.

Although he’s only played just five games with the Nets since he was acquired in a blockbuster trade with the Utah Jazz, Williams’ impact has certainly been felt -- especially on the offensive end.

Before Williams’ arrival, the Nets were averaging 99.4 points per possession, 91.2 points per 48 minutes, assisting on 57.0 percent of their made field goals and shooting 43.8 percent as a team, according to ESPN Stats and Information. But those numbers have drastically improved with the 26-year-old All-Star running the show.

With Williams in the lineup, the Nets are averaging 107.6 points per possession, scoring 103.4 points per 48 minutes, assisting on 67.5 percent of their made field goals and shooting 46.2 percent as a team. And most of us agree, we haven't seen guys this open for shots since Jason Kidd was out there dropping dimes.

Plus, you have to factor in that Williams (right wrist) isn’t even 100 percent at this point. Despite averaging 15.2 assists per game -- a number that you might not even be able to put up in NBA 2K11 -- he’s shooting just 36.5 percent from the field.

If you missed ESPN.com NBA expert Marc Stein’s weekend dime, check it out here.

Stein asked an Eastern Conference scout about how he thinks Williams fits into New Jersey's system.

"I really think he'll be much happier over there. They're going to play a little bit more of a wide-open game, use more of his quickness. I know everyone wonders how he's going to get along with Avery [Johnson], but everyone I talk to says he's not as strict as they thought he was going to be. I do think [Avery is] going to give him more freedom.

"The biggest thing with [Williams] is that he's obviously not healthy. That wrist is bothering him. But he's been more on the attack [with the Nets] than I've seen him in the past. He knows it's his team and he's getting the freedom to call plays, open the floor up, get in some different kinds of pick-and-rolls that can exploit his speed and quickness.

"He just had to do it in a different way in Utah. [Jerry Sloan] is a system coach and a super successful system coach. And he didn't change that system for anybody, from Karl Malone to now. D-Will was plugged into that system and they didn't make adjustments for him.

"[Such a rigid approach] can't be argued with because of all the success Utah's had. But this is going to be a breath of fresh air for him."

The scout's analysis is spot on. Scouts usually are with these types of things.

Williams has one of the best crossover dribbles in the NBA. He can change direction on a dime. He can get his own shot whenever he wants, but rather unselfishly, often defers to his teammates. That's why you need to give him freedom.

Williams is capable of dropping 20 on any given night. His 2010-11 stats (20.8 ppg) suggest as much. It's just that his right wrist is hampering his ability to knock down perimeter jumpers consistently, which essentially makes him a one-dimensional scorer, who can only get his points on dribble-drives and layups in transition.Williams has made just six of his 27 3-point attempts (22.2 percent) since joining the Nets.

He has said his injured right wrist won't fully heal until he gets 3-4 weeks of rest. But that won't happen until the offseason.

It will be intriguing to watch Williams the rest of the season. He hasn't really had anytime to establish a solid grasp most of the offense sets. And yet, he's one of the few players that picks things up so fast it doesn't even matter.

Of course, most of us that watch the team on a nightly basis, already have our eyes on 2011-12, when Williams will be fully healthy and Johnson will have the entire offseason to implement a system that fits his general to perfection.

Now that should be a treat.