As Deron Williams improves, Nets just want to make it out of Boston alive

Deron Williams, JaKarr Sampson

The Brooklyn Nets have had a rough travel schedule this preseason. Even though they’ll only play six games — two fewer than most other teams — they balanced that out with two 14-hour flights to and from China, followed shortly by three preseason games in four nights. Most of the team has talked about feeling jet-lagged from the trip.

Outside of the team’s biggest member, Brook Lopez, suffering an unfortunate foot injury, they’ve come out mostly unscathed to this point. “We’re still getting China out of us,” Deron Williams admitted after Monday night’s victory. “Still getting into a rhythm.”

Still, they’ve won four of five preseason games, the lone loss coming at the hands of the Boston Celtics Sunday night. They’ll face them again Wednesday, in their final tune-up before their regular season opener against… the Boston Celtics once again.

Hollins hasn’t hinted at his lineup for Wednesday night’s game, but given that the team has practice scheduled for every single day after their last preseason game until the beginning of the season, there’s a chance he’ll limit the minutes of his best players just to make sure they get home. Kevin Garnett, who played with the Celtics from 2007-2013 and had an emotional return last season, is not expected to make the trip with a stomach virus.

Hollins added that he has no expectations whatsoever for their performance Wednesday. “Nothing,” he said flatly after Monday night’s game. “Just that no one gets hurt.”

Hollins might be alluding directly to Williams, who has struggled with numerous ankle injuries over the past three years, recently culminating in surgery on both of his ankles shortly after their second-round loss in the 2014 playoffs. “The fact that he’s been healthy is the highlight (of his preseason),” Hollins said of Williams. “He’s a good player, he played well, but for me it’s just the fact that he is healthy, he’s able to move, he’s able to push and attack. I’m happy for him.”

Williams has averaged 14.2 points in 26.7 minutes per game over the team’s five preseason games, shooting 49.1 percent from the field and 7-15 from three-point range. He was notoriously averse to shooting near the rim last season, averaging just 3.2 points on 5.7 drives to the basket in 32.3 minutes per game, ranking 55th in the NBA in points per game on drives, per the NBA’s optical tracking data.

Williams himself says he feels much better following the surgery, but he’s not 100% yet. “I’m still getting there, still getting my feet under me,” he said, noting he’d only just started running at full-speed on September 1st. “There’s still scar tissue in my ankles. Just working through it, but I feel good, a lot better than last year. Just continue to get my lift back game-by-game.”