Deron Williams looks like a man who's playing with his last chance ... and the Brooklyn Nets are loving it. The rediscovered urgency seems to have lit a fire under his tail at just the right time of the year. He's had back-to-back double doubles since returning from the All-Star break -- or better yet -- the Trade deadline.
"I'm going to be aggressive now," Williams said. "Whatever happened in the first half ... it's a new half, and I'm ready to go."
"I think for them a lot of it is relief," Billy King said. "There's no more rumors from you guys about where they're going to go. ... Now they can focus on basketball."
Thursday's deadline looked to be the end of the Deron Williams era in Brooklyn. Even if they weren't going to trade him, they were an agreement away from forcing Williams' to turn over his franchise keys to Reggie Jackson. The core of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez remained in Brooklyn and this may be their last chance at a title run together. It's a big "if", an "if" we've talked about countless times, but if D-Will can regain his 2012-2013 swagger and continue to play at a high level, the Nets are going to be just fine.
The core is 2-0 since finding out their traveling fates had come to a standstill. With Williams, nobody could be too sure what his fate was. He missed 22 straight shots prior to the All-Star break and barely looked capable of playing back up to Jarrett Jack.
They're undefeated in the second half of the season behind Williams' lead. To be fair, it's only two games against two poor teams, but it appears like D-Will may have acquired the leadership role with Kevin Garnett out of the locker room. The same way it was the first season in Brooklyn, the 49-win year -- 2nd best in franchise history -- the same team that pretty much 'ride or died' with D-Will. When he did well, the Nets did well.
Deron averaged 19 points & 8 assists on a bad ankle, and even turned into a new player during the second half of the season; enough to notch the fourth seed in the East in heavy part due to cortisone shots injected in his ankles during the 2012 All-Star Weekend.
He didn't get shots or any procedures done this year. Instead, he went to Cabo.
The previous two wins come by an average margin of 18.5. The team is showing signs of establishing an identity with the younger guys fastening up the pace. It's the plan that formed along the way since Billy King made the trade for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. If you've noticed, every move the Nets have made since then makes them younger, sheds some money, but keeps them competitive. The newest addition to that system is Thomas Robinson, the former Kansas Jayhawk who was selected 5th in the 2012 NBA Draft. Billy wanted him. He finally got him.
What's the importance in this? Deron has always emphasized his desire to run, but never established that kind of pace because the guys he's worked with haven't exactly been the most up-tempo bunch. Last year, even coach Kidd wanted to run with Deron being the main facilitator, but couldn't do so because of the old legs. That's why it's important that Brooklyn continues to get younger behind Deron's lead. It needs be his team.
It may be premature, but we'll take our chances and let it play out the rest of the season as the stakes get heavier and the teams get better. However, it's a different feeling. A fun feeling -- the kind you get when you actually look forward to turn on the TV and watch these guys fight. Finally fight.