There was a time when Deron Williams was considered the best point guard in the NBA. And if not the best, then right up there in the discussion with Steve Nash and Chris Paul. When he teamed with Carlos Boozer to lead the Utah Jazz to the 2007 NBA Western Conference Finals in just his second professional season, it was thought that Salt Lake City had Karl Malone and John Stockton 2.0 in hand.
Deron and company lost that series to the eventual NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs, and the Jazz then spent the next few seasons in the very definition of NBA Hell. The Jazz could never get past Kobe Bryant’s L.A. Lakers; and Deron Williams never got that close again.
Deron Williams was the third pick overall in the 2005 draft, the highest Illini ever taken. He’s still the greatest pro player in Illinois Fighting Illini basketball history, but he probably won’t be a Hall of Famer. There is a member of the Illini “Whiz Kids” teams in Springfield, so we can’t say that D. Will is the best pro player in Illini basketball history; just the best former Illini in modern history.
When Deron Williams took the floor for Team USA basketball in 2008, he was regarded as destined to finish with the same type of legendary career as the basketball royalty he called teammates.
“it’s not like he hasn’t played well for the Nets and at sometimes very well, it’s just he hasn’t been consistently great like he was in Utah, where it was every night he was the best – he was one of the top 20 players in the NBA,” said ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy on conference call.
“This guy was an absolute stud, handful, on both ends of the floor,” Van Gundy continued.
“You don’t realize how big and strong and powerful he is and forceful, and he was running pick and roll with Mehmet Okur, who was a great shooting center, and with Boozer. So the centers had to guard Boozer because you couldn’t have your centers chasing Okur to the three point line, and he was playing with Kirilenko in his prime and Harper in his prime and Derek Fisher. They were tough and they were nasty.
“He wasn’t really good there, he was great. I mean, this guy was great. And so what I’m saying is it’s just sometimes you don’t realize how good you have it, and I thought everything was in line for them there to continue to grow and get better, and it didn’t work out that way.”
By the time the 2012 London Olympics came around, Deron Williams took the court with an entirely different legacy. He was regarded to be more diva than superstar, and had an unfortunate reputation as a “coach killer.” It seemed that Williams’ career peaked under Jerry Sloan.
“As far as the bigger picture, I really do think that there are two things that every NBA player can look at his situation and say, all right, what can I learn from it, and the first one would be sometimes you don’t know how good you have it. Deron Williams in Utah with Jerry Sloan, with the combination of the other players that they had, were right on the cusp,” said Van Gundy.
Deron Williams moved on to the New Jersey, which then became Brooklyn Nets and he hasn’t been back to a Conference Finals. Or even close for that matter. D. Will and company won 49 games last year, but lost a really hard fought series in seven to the Chicago Bulls in the first round. Then on NBA Draft night, they went all in, as the Boston Celtics folded. The Nets created a very high priced basketball team with a win now, and I mean right now core ripped from the Celtics, who shifted into rebuilding mode.
The Nets record is misleading, because they spent a good portion of the year tanking, in order to draw the Raptors instead of the Bulls in the first round. Tanking yes, we know that’s a serious issue in the NBA right now. Not just with the very bad teams destined to end up in lottery land, but also those teams headed to the NBA playoffs, you really do have teams that are legitimately not trying.
Deron’s production has dipped substantially this season, and overall in his career since becoming a Net.
“when you go to a team and you purposely, as an organization, try to lose, I don’t think part of that thought process is – you’re not thinking about the impact it can have on individual players and on team habits and that it’s not easy to get it back,” Van Gundy said.
“My experience is that success is very fragile in this league.”
In the first half of game one of their first round series versus the Toronto Raptors, Deron Williams had 18 points; but on 17 shots. In the second half he quieted down and became more of a distributor, less a volume scorer. D. Will said at halftime that he was more aggressive and needed to be more aggressive than in the regular season. Williams finished tied for a game high 24 points on 8-20 shooting (2-6 from three).
What does that mean? Does it mean he’s just not trying that hard/motivated in the regular season?
Deron Williams is only 29, so he still has some time to figure it all out. He’s had a lot of health issues and he may be past his prime however. And no one can deny that his supporting cast is aging. This series literally is Raptors versus “dinosaurs.” (as the Toronto Sun put it)
” I think for them to make a run, I think he’s going to have to be very, very good. His matchup this first series I think could be the most underrated player in the league this season in Kyle Lowry. Kyle Lowry to me clearly should have been an All Star,” said Van Gundy.
“He’s had a tremendous year. He’s got the mentality of a pit bull, and so Deron Williams is going to have to be really good.”
The Raptors have only won one playoff series in their entire existence (2001), and after dropping game one today, I don’t think they’ll get past Deron Williams and the Nets in this one.
Paul M. Banks owns The Sports Bank.net, an affiliate of Fox Sports. He’s also a frequent guest on national talk radio. Banks is a former contributor to NBC Chicago and the Washington Times, who’s been featured on the History Channel. President Obama follows him on Twitter (@paulmbanks)Powered by Sidelines Follow paulmbanks