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NEW YORK -- New Jersey Nets point guard Deron Williams returned to the lineup on Wednesday night and started against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden after missing the past six games with a strained flexor tendon in his right (shooting) wrist.He scored 22 points and had eight assists in 37 minutes of the Nets' 120-116 loss.
"We'll see how it goes," head coach Avery Johnson said before the game. "We had long discussions [as an organization] and made the decision [for him to come back]. We're excited to have him back in the lineup tonight, whether he can give us five minutes or 25 minutes, whatever it is, it's just great having him back tonight."
Williams first suffered the injury on Jan. 26 when he was a member of the Utah Jazz, and has continued to aggravate it since. He last played on March 18.
Johnson said the fact that his team was facing the rival Knicks in a nationally televised game on ESPN factored into Williams' decision to play Wednesday night.
"It did," Johnson said. "He's a competitor. He's played in a lot of big games and playoff series, so he understands the magnitude of the game."
Williams had targeted a Wednesday night return earlier in the week. On Monday, he told reporters that his right wrist was "feeling pretty good," but knew he'd probably aggravate the injury again.
Doctors have told Williams that he'll need to rest for three to six weeks for his right wrist to fully heal. However, he will not require surgery.
Williams has pondered sitting out the rest of the season, but right now that's not an option.
"Yeah, I'm going to give it one more try," Williams told reporters before the Nets' 98-87 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday night. "Hopefully, I don't hurt it again, which is hard to do, because everything's so instinctive, with your hands and with your wrist."
Williams participated in the team's pregame shootaround, taking several mid-range jumpers. He flicked his wrist a bit, but apparently he was well enough to go.
Williams doesn't talk to reporters before games.
Entering Wednesday, Williams was averaging 14.8 points and 13.1 assists, but was shooting just 32.7 percent from the field and 28.6 percent from 3-point range in eight games with the Nets.
Meanwhile, small forward Travis Outlaw started in place of Sasha Vujacic. Williams, shooting guard Anthony Morrow, power forward Kris Humphries and center Brook Lopez rounded out the starting unit.
"I would like to keep Outlaw coming off the bench," Johnson said. "We had Damion James [starting]. That's his spot, but he's not available. And we're significantly smaller at that position when we don't start him. Hopefully [Travis] will have a lot of energy tonight."
James (foot) remained out, and will not play the rest of the week. Sundiata Gaines (hip) and Quinton Ross (back) were also unavailable.
At this point, both Gaines and Ross will likely miss the rest of the season.Mike Mazzeo is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.