Watching Deron Williams fire dodgeballs should’ve been enough.
At his Celebrity Dodge Barrage last year, Williams showed up in a walking boot, after spraining his right ankle and suffering a bone bruise during offseason workouts in Utah.
Williams also underwent surgery on both of his ankles in May, shortly after the team’s playoff run ended. He was fitted for walking boots, getting around on a scooter.
But after a couple of months, Williams went from this…
This year, Williams showed up early to his tournament, wearing low-top “pre-dodgeball” Nikes as he walked in to the event, hosted at Pier 36’s Basketball City.
“They feel good,” Williams said about his ankles. “I’ve been working out hard every day, getting ready to go.”
RELATED: Deron Williams Injury History
Williams had the surgery on May 27th, removing bone spurs from the front and back of his left ankle and removing a loose bone fragment from his right ankle joint. The injuries coincided with down year for Williams, averaging career-lows since he became a full-time starter in points per game (14.3), assists per game (6.1), player efficiency rating (17.6), and field goal attempts per game within three feet (2.4).
“Any time you can’t walk, can’t run, can’t jump, it’s hard to play basketball,” Williams said with a chuckle, “Especially in this league. Only thing I wish is that I would’ve gotten surgery earlier, but what can you do? I got it now. I’m ready to go now, and I’m excited about the season.”
Most of the team’s gotten together at the training facility for pre-camp games, and more guys filter in each day. Sergey Karasev, Jarrett Jack, and Mason Plumlee (who just won the FIBA World Cup with Team USA in Spain) all said this was their first day with the team, and Mirza Teletovic joined them, leaving just Bojan Bogdanovic and Joe Johnson as the final Nets to join. Coach Lionel Hollins is around too, handing out morsels of information and strategy, but he’s mostly in the background.
Williams said he’s only played in one-on-one games against coaches up until this point — “dummy defenses,” he calls it — but Tuesday he’s supposed to begin playing bigger games against teammates. “Just take it day by day,” Williams said. “Hopefully September 27th goes, I’m good to go.”
As for dodgeball, Williams looked just fine. Not only did he move around with no readily visible issues, he — and many of his Nets teammates — played with the intensity you’d expect players to reserve for NBA games. They strategized. They didn’t take it easy on opponents, particularly one team adorning faux blond mohawks that plays semi-professionally.
There was one thing that separated Nets young and old. When Williams thought a player on the other side was cheating, he’d glare wide-eyed at the referee and shout his case. “WE CAUGHT IT! HE’S OUT!” Williams would often win these mind games, probably because it was his event. But on one occasion, Nets draftee Markel Brown was on the rough end of a bad call. He failed pleading his case to a dodgeball referee. The cost of being a rookie.