Deron Williams has ball in his court
Mavericks eye free agent-to-be, who controls games with his ballhandling skills
The man every MFFL -- Mavs Fan For Life -- wants starting at point guard when next season begins, missed his last 11 shots. And he disappeared for much of the fourth quarter, when the Dallas Mavericks nearly rallied from an eight-point deficit in the last seven minutes.
So what. Really, who cares?
Deron Williams remains one of the NBA's top five point guards.
Besides, he still showed virtually every trait you'd want from a point guard in the New Jersey Nets' improbable 93-92 win over the Mavs on Monday night at American Airlines Center.
Williams scored just 12 points -- 10 in the first quarter -- and handed out 12 assists in nearly 38 minutes.
Even though he scored his last basket with 3:14 left in the first quarter, Williams still controlled the game because he's the epicenter of the Nets' offense.
He either starts every play or the play is designed for him to get the ball. The point: The ball is always in his hands.
And his skill set makes it nearly impossible to get it away from him unless he chooses to give it up.
When the play is designed for him, the Nets run him off a series of screens because he's capable of hitting jumpers as he comes off a screen. But he can also get into the lane whenever he wants because the ball seems attached to his hand.
Either one, actually.
He has one of the game's best cross-over dribbles along with a combination of speed and quickness that makes him difficult to cover.
"Did you see how fast he was? Whoa," Shawn Marion said. "That was no joke. He got me a couple of times in the first quarter, but I kept coming at him and it finally got him off his rhythm a little."
Williams is among the NBA's best pick-and-roll players, in part because he's 6-foot-3 and 209 pounds, which means he's still big enough to see the court if a bigger player switches to him and he can hit the mid-range jumper.
Williams, who grew up in The Colony, received a warm welcome when he was introduced before the game.
Mavs fans weren't just being polite, they want him to sign with the Mavericks this summer, when he's scheduled to become a free agent. Williams has made no secret about how much he loves playing in the AAC and in front of friends and family at home.
There has already been considerable speculation about whether Williams will sign with the Mavs. After Monday's practice, New Jersey coach Avery Johnson referred to the Mavs as a big threat to sign the 27-year-old guard.
Perhaps all the hype contributed to his poor shooting night.
"I didn't get frustrated," he said after the game, "did you? I just missed some shots."
All righty then.
Who knows why Williams can be so prickly, but none of that matters when it comes to playing point guard. Not unless you think he's eventually going to frustrate Rick Carlisle into retirement the way he did Jerry Sloan.
The Mavs will take their chances, if given an opportunity to sign him.
While Williams has made no definitive statements about returning to Dallas to continue his professional career, it's clear the Mavs will have an opportunity to sign him in the offseason.
Whether they can do it remains to be seen, but all you can ask is to have a seat at the negotiating table in the Williams and Dwight Howard sweepstakes this summer. We all know Mark Cuban declined to re-sign so many key pieces of last season's championship team so he could create enough salary-cap room to sign at least one of the two All-Stars expected to be free this summer.
DeShawn Stevenson received his championship ring before the game as Williams and the rest of the Nets watched a short video montage of Stevenson before he tried on his glittering bauble and gave it a kiss.
What better recruiting tool for the Mavs than having Williams experience yet another Mavs' championship celebration. Jason Kidd has already said he's willing to give Williams the keys to the franchise.
In a few months, we'll see if Williams wants them.
Jean-Jacques Taylor is a columnist for ESPNDallas.com.
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