Deron Williams overcame a major hurdle in his practice plan today, returning to contact basketball for the first time in the team’s practice.
Williams was still limited and didn’t complete a full practice, but went 5-on-5 in a half-court offense for “about 15 to 20 minutes” with the rest of the starting lineup. It’s the most basketball-related activity he’s done since the Nets lost Game 7 of the first round of the playoffs last season. He’s done drills and non-contact practice since, including the workouts he orchestrated for the team in Los Angeles, but this is his first real 5-on-5 work since May.
According to him, it’s the longest he’s taken a break from full basketball in his career. “I didn’t feel in sync at all because I haven’t played basketball,” Williams said, laughing. “But it felt good to get out there.”
“He looked great,” head coach Jason Kidd said of Williams, though later acknowledging that Williams was a bit rusty. “The process is to do a little bit more each day, and today he got in some contact stuff and he looked good.”
Williams was significantly more upbeat than two days ago, when he said he was “frustrated” and at times didn’t feel like a part of the team. But Kevin Garnett vehemently refuted the idea that Williams wasn’t a part of the team.
“Although Deron hasn’t been on the court with us in practice throughout camp, it doesn’t mean he hasn’t been present,” Garnett said. “Doesn’t mean he didn’t initiate L.A. The workouts. Duke. The dinners. The game rooms. Up late nights talking. On the plane. Card games. In the back, talking.
“Whatever it is, we’re willing to do that, we’re willing to come together and join that. So when you see teams that are not cohesive, it’s because one, everybody’s stagnant, everybody’s closed. They’re not open to each other. Here, that’s not the case. We’re all understanding our one goal, we all have it in common, and we’re trying to reach that goal.”
Williams was officially ruled out of Wednesday’s game against the Boston Celtics and does not expect to play Friday against the Miami Heat. Friday is the team’s last preseason game, marking Williams’s earliest return date as October 30th, the team’s regular season opener in Cleveland against the Cavaliers. He’s on trainer Tim Walsh’s timetable, and Walsh is taking as much time as possible to rehabilitate the star guard’s ankle.
“They want me out there, but at the same time, they know how important it is for me to be healthy at the end,” Williams said. “They want me to take my time and they’ve told me to come back when I’m 100 percent.”