Deron Williams’s frustration mounts as season inches closer

Deron Williams

Deron Williams
Deron Williams (AP)
Are you planning on practicing in full with these guys?

“I appreciate your concern for my health. I really do. Thank you.”

The Nets said you’d be ready first day of training camp, full to go. Now it’s been three weeks since. Did something happen?

“I appreciate your concern for my health. Thank you.”

Do you need to play in the preseason to feel good physically?

“I appreciate your concern for my health. Thank you.”

Brooklyn Nets guard Deron Williams repeated this mantra multiple times today before the team’s open practice. His answers are robotic, fixated. It’s one he leaned on last season, when his ankles crippled his early-season performance. He’s dealt with numerous ankle problems since joining the then-New Jersey Nets in February 2011, turning a corner after receiving platelet-rich plasma therapy treatment heading into the All-Star break last season.

After an injury working out at his home in Utah, Williams was expected to be back for the first day of training camp on October 1st. It’s nearly three weeks later, and Williams has yet to return to contact. The frustration mounts every day he’s with the team, just a bit closer to practice without full participation. He’s doing non-contact, 5-on-0 drills with the team, but nothing beyond that.

“It’s frustrating having to sit out,” Williams said, riding a stationary bike. “It’s frustrating having to watch them play games, even if they are preseason, and really, practice. Practice has been fun to watch, but also frustrating to watch because I can’t be out there.”

He has every right to be frustrated. This is his profession, his chance to kick off the season building towards a championship with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and the rest of the roster, and he’s forced to sit out contact drills. The team has been coy about his injury, refusing to say if he’d play more than one day at a time. “You play with the guys that are out there,” head coach Jason Kidd said, continuing to dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge all questions about Williams’s injury.

“There’s been a lot of battles out there, a lot of great practices, and I want to be a part of those,” Williams added. “So at times I feel like I’m not part of this team right now because I’m not out there, and I want to be a big part of this team.”

Williams says the ankle “feels good.” “I feel like I’m getting better every day. I feel like I’m progressing. I feel like if there’s a change, I’ll let you guys know.”

The rest may be simply precautionary. There’s no need for him to overwork in preseason if he’s hurt, even slightly, considering how much rests on his ankles when the games matter. The goal is to return for opening night against the Cleveland Cavaliers on October 30th, but he needs to overcome a few hurdles before he gets there. “I would definitely think you need to scrimmage before you go out and play an NBA game,” Williams said.

The team has two more preseason games — Wednesday against the Boston Celtics, and Friday against the Miami Heat. His status for those two games is uncertain. Williams will continue to get questions about his physical readiness until he’s ready to play. Hopefully that’s sooner rather than later.