Commentary

No more excuses for Deron Williams

D-Will has the right supporting cast in Brooklyn; time for him to be a leading man

Updated: November 8, 2013, 12:16 PM ET
By Johnette Howard | ESPNNewYork.com

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It's less than two weeks into the new season, and the Nets are in a curious position. They're trying to show they're quick studies even as they acknowledge they may be a work in progress for a while because of all the new players they added over the summer. And yet, there was something of the same old-same old in the disappointing way things came down around them earlier this week.

When it was time for a tone to be set or a team dressing-down to be done, Deron Williams wasn't the one leading the way after the Nets' galling loss to an inferior Orlando team, and a Cleveland team they took for granted before that.

[+] EnlargeDeron Williams
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsDeron Williams must lead the way this season.

It was Kevin Garnett, who's barely been with the team a couple months, shouting at teammates in practice and ratcheting up the tempo, banging his 37-year-old body into big men 15 years his junior, and then walking off the court with sweat dripping off his face as he said to no one in particular, "You feel me?"

And that is not exactly the way it was supposed to happen for the new-look Nets.

KG is the same as ever. But Williams is still an enigma -- and the Nets need more of everything from him.

At times, Williams -- who is averaging just eight points and eight assists -- has looked as if he's not totally healthy. But there's nothing wrong with his voice. He hasn't played as if the arrival of Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry from Boston has galvanized his determination to grab this team by the throat the way, say, young Rajon Rondo had the guts and presence to do when the same more-decorated trio of veterans was still with the Celts, not the Nets.

D-Will still has a tendency to hide at times in other players' shade. His flatness with reporters after the Nets' rousing workout Thursday at their New Jersey practice facility was typical.

With back-to-back tests against Washington and fellow Eastern Conference power Indiana Pacers just ahead, Williams spoke for a few minutes without saying much. Then -- poof -- he was gone, without making much of an imprint on anything. Not even about if the traffic might be bad out on rain-slicked Route 17.

Again, it's early. But this is not the role KG or the 35-year-old Pierce envisioned from Williams when they arrived this summer.

"I think KG and Pierce said it best: They're here to be support players to Deron and Brook [Lopez] and Joe Johnson," first-year Nets coach Jason Kidd said Thursday.

Nor is this necessarily the Deron Williams that Terry envisioned after Kidd gathered the Nets at a team dinner on the eve of training camp and asked each player to take a turn addressing his teammates.

"We just got into a big circle, and each guy was just asked to describe his role, what he thought he could do for this team to help us win a championship, and each individual guy spoke," Terry recalled Thursday. "A lot of times, it's uneasy because you're in front of your peers and you have to be honest. It has to be genuine. And if it's not, it's going to show.

"[That night], each guy looked the other in the eye, and at the end of the day, everybody's conversation was, 'Win a championship.' We said whatever you stated your role to be that day, we were to hold you accountable as we went forward. And we said that when you're not doing your job, you're going to be reminded -- each and every guy."

Terry admits he had something specific to say to Williams that night.

"I told just told him that I'm here for him," Terry says. "I said I want guys to do some things that they haven't necessarily done in their career, and it might not be as comfortable. Sometimes you have to go outside yourself, go outside your comfort zone, to achieve something that's great. It's just the way it is.

"That's what I had to do in Dallas [when the Mavs won a title]. And that's what going to have to happen here. And I'm not just pointing at Deron. I'm saying it's all of us."

What would getting outside of his comfort zone look like for Williams?

"For him," Terry said, "it's just realizing he has tons of help now, so utilize all the weapons you have. And then, bring that same energy and passion every single night, regardless of the circumstance. And I think he realizes that."

Williams hasn't done it so far in this young season. That doesn't mean he won't. But he's often been a moody and inconsistent player for the Nets. And when his minutes finally aren't limited as they are right now and he's had more time to become the glue that pulls the Nets together as point guard, it'd be best if he left no question he was grabbing the reins of the team and making it his.

Garnett and Pierce have already done everything but send him an engraved invitation. That there are no guarantees the two ex-Celts might even play past this season should only add to the urgency to think title-or-bust this year. But especially for Williams, who -- remember -- is still touted as their franchise player.

"I know it's been tough for him," Terry said. "Changing coaches [four times]. Having to come from a Utah system to a Jersey system. Handling losing. Then finally getting some help from Joe Johnson last year, and this year getting all of us. He's always had to adjust. So my advice to him is just realize hey, this year's a new year, man, and you've got help.

"It's not all going to fall on your shoulders."

Terry sounded spot-on until that very last sentence.

With all the talent the Nets have this season, Williams is out of excuses. He's absolutely, positively got to shoulder more than any other Net. He has to have loudest all-around game of any Net, even if Garnett continues to be the loudest voice in the room.

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