Injuries and underwhelming performances have dotted Deron Williams’s tenure with the Brooklyn Nets, so it should be no surprise that both are front and center in the team’s playoff series.
Speaking with reporters on Sunday afternoon, Joe Johnson said that Williams has dealt with “severe” tendinitis during their first-round matchup against the Atlanta Hawks.
“Tendinitis has pretty much been my kryptonite, and I know he has a severe case of that,” Johnson said, according to reporters at Nets practice. “It’s tough, man. It’s tough. But we all have his back, and whatever we have to do, we have to do it.”
Williams has struggled through perhaps the worst shooting slump of his career. He has made just 17 of 73 shots in his last seven games (23.3%), and has as many turnovers as field goals. Through the first three games of the playoffs, the team has been outscored by 15 points with Williams on the floor. With Jarrett Jack on the floor, the Nets are a +28, an odd reversal for the two point guards following the regular season; Jack had one of the league’s worst plus-minus figures in the regular season, while Williams was close to even.
Williams suffered a hard fall in the first half of Game 3, banging his tailbone on the floor, and later hurt his leg trying to maneuver around a screen. He walked with a noticeable limp during and following the game. Shortly after checking out in the third quarter, the Nets went on an 18-0 run, taking control of the game with Jarrett Jack in the starting lineup.
Following the game, Williams said he was “pretty banged up,” and according to reporters, was not made available to media at Sunday’s practice.
RELATED INFOGRAPHIC: Williams’s Nets Injury History
It’s one blip in a larger, troubling trend for Williams, whose numbers have sharply declined since signing a five-year deal with the Nets in 2012:
RELATED: A Comprehensive List of Deron Williams Nets Injuries
According to reports from practice, Nets coach Lionel Hollins defended Williams as a player while acknowledging his decline, calling the media criticism “totally unfair,” per The Record:
“That’s four years ago,” Hollins said. “No player is the same as he was four years ago. All I’m saying is the guy has played well, and somebody picks out that he has two points [in Game 2]. So what? He played well. It’s not just about the scoring.”
“It’s about winning,” Hollins continued. “It’s about doing the right things for the team. And I’ll defend Deron till the end on that and all my players to the end. If you think that just because a guy makes a lot of money and is supposed to be on some level because everybody put him on that level — whether it be the organization, or whomever — it’s still where we are now and we have to deal with now, and I support him 100 percent.”
“I’m disappointed in how everybody’s coming down on Deron and trying to treat him like he’s a pariah,” Hollins continued. “Deron’s a good person. He’s a good player. Now, is he on the level that you guys think he should be? That’s your fault for thinking somebody should be something.”
The defense coincides with Hollins’s thoughts on Williams before the season, though he was a bit more bullish on his point guard then.
“There are a lot of expectations on him,” Hollins said before the season. “I just want Deron to play good basketball. There are a lot of expectations on him. I don’t know the reasons why – the status he had when he was playing here, the contract. Whatever it may be, Deron Williams is a very good basketball player and Deron Williams is going to prove that this year with this team. And you guys are going to love him. Or respect him.”
Despite his struggles, Hollins will reportedly stick with the same starting lineup if Williams is available to play. According to The Record, when asked if he’d change his starting lineup, he said “no” eight consecutive times.