Deron Williams made a triumphant return to his former borough of residence Monday night, as his Dallas Mavericks took down New York Kristaps, 104-97. Williams was effective, scoring 20 points on 7-15 shooting and dishing out seven assists.
Following his team’s win, the New York media — many of whom covered Williams throughout his tenure with the New Jersey & Brooklyn Nets — had a chance to speak with Williams for the first time since the moments following Brooklyn’s Game 6 first-round loss to the Atlanta Hawks. Per the Bergen Record, Williams cited a lack of continuity with coaching staffs, waning confidence, and “everybody (feeling he) was the problem”:
“It just never went well,” Williams said of his time in Brooklyn. “I just felt like everybody felt I was the problem, and so now I’m gone.”
“I wish things were different — would have happened differently,” Williams said. “But they didn’t. Can’t dwell on it, just move forward and I think that’s what I’ve done.”
Williams, who dealt with ankle problems, and an admitted loss of confidence in his game while playing for the Nets cited several reasons for why it didn’t work out.
“I was injured pretty the whole time I was there,” Williams said. “Four coaches in three and 1/2 years doesn’t help as a point guard for chemistry and things like that and just constant change. It just didn’t work out.”
He’s not wrong: Williams was injured throughout nearly his entire Nets tenure, and the team cycled through coaches like they did marketing campaigns. His underperformance on a lengthy, pricy contract was one of many problems in Brooklyn, which included a below-average defense every season, record-breaking luxury tax figures, and a lack of creativity on offense.
It is curious who Williams classifies as “everyone,” especially since he later follows up by noting that he still has numerous friends on the Nets and hopes they do well. It’s no secret that the fanbase — or at least its loudest and most social media-heavy participants — were overwhelmingly frustrated with Williams, who struggled to meet expectations in a Brooklyn uniform. It’s also no secret that Williams was frustrated with himself, and by some extension, the Brooklyn organization. He could also refer to the front office, who reached out to Williams and his camp regarding a buyout after exhausting the options on the trade market.
Williams has experienced a slight resurgence following the offseason buyout that earned him $27 million over the next five years and the right to sign a two-year contract with the Mavericks. He’s averaging 15.2 points per game in Dallas, and his shooting numbers are up slightly across the board. Williams and his family have made no secret of their comfort back in Dallas, where Williams grew up and played in high school. His role as a secondary option next to Dirk Nowitzki and the tempered expectations also suit him more than a leading role on a floundering team in the New York market.
One guy who has made it in New York agreed: Knicks All-Star Carmelo Anthony.
“He got away from New York,” Anthony said. “Some people can handle it and some people can’t. He’s a guy who needed to get away from this where he can be himself and get some clarity and get back to Deron Williams that we all used to love.
“He’s a different D-Will than we’ve seen over the past couple of seasons,” Anthony continued. “You can tell that he has some mental clarity where he felt comfortable again.”
The Nets tried to acquire Anthony from the Denver Nuggets for months, openly dangling then-rookie forward Derrick Favors as a centerpiece in a variety of multi-team and multi-player trade packages. When Denver elected to take the Knicks’ offer and heed Anthony’s wishes to play in Manhattan, Nets GM Billy King contacted the Utah Jazz and comprised a simple deal for Williams. Favors, now 24 years old, is a budding star with the Jazz, averaging close to 18 points and 9 rebounds per game.
Meanwhile, it “never went well” for the Nets and Williams, and it’s worse now. While Williams and Favors thrive their new situations, the Brooklyn Nets sit at 5-15, and just lost its promising rookie, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, to ankle surgery. They also lack the draft pick to make those losses valuable.