With the Brooklyn Nets firing their head coach Avery Johnson yesterday, point guard Deron Williams saw his reputation as a coach killer increase. First there was Williams’ influence forcing legendary leader Jerry Sloan into retirement, and now the Johnson situation. Williams now seems like a NBA version of Steve Buscemi’s character in “Billy Madison” who had a “people to kill” list. Except for coaches.
Johnson was Coach of the month in October and November, yet canned in December. A 10-4 start raised expectations (which were already sky high to begin with due to the new arena, new uniforms and a lot of money spent on free agency), then Brook Lopez got hurt and the losing began, turning them into a .500 team.
And Deron likely complained about the play-calling, and had input into this outcome, even though the real decision came from the rich Russian upstairs. But is Deron still the star he once was? And is he worth it for teams to bend over backwards for?
First of all, the Nets are more of a fantasy team put together than a real NBA team. And they have no real bench. So it’s not all Deron’s fault. Or Avery’s fault. But Williams seems to have diminishing skills, if he’s truly healthy. His dropping shooting percentages are more due to his being hurt. But even so, he’s not a max contract, franchise cornerstone anymore. And it pains me to say that because in the past I’ve written posts about my man-crush on him and others calling him the best point guard in the NBA (and other columns of that ilk, see the bottom of the post for links). But he’s not anymore, Chris Paul or Rajon Rondo holds that title.
But he’s still a great player, a leader and a great point guard. He’s declined, but he hasn’t declined as much as his former Utah Jazz running mate Carlos Boozer. a week ago, a Star-Ledger columnist wrote Deron Williams was “one evening gown shy of a diva” Well that’s a bit extreme, and that columnist D’Alessandro went on to say:
We heard you blame your troubles on coach Avery Johnson, and pine for the days when that wise old crank in Utah ran stuff that was better suited to your individual skills.
Trust us: The national response was raucous laughter, because you were the guy responsible for getting Jerry Sloan to decide after 27 years that he’d rather live with his 30 tractors in McLeansboro, Ill., than put up with your insubordination.
Now you say Sloan was best for your career, not to mention the $100 million contract that validates it? That’s rich.
Today, Charles Barkley said it’s time for Williams to “put up or shut up” which is a lot more accurate than that column. Scouts compared Williams to Jason Kidd when he was coming into the league. And for awhile there, it looked like he might even surpass the accomplishments of Kidd. Today, not so much.
Because even this Illini, this University of Illinois grad who will never forget how Williams thrilled my brethren and I in 2005 (especially so in the Arizona game, the Elite 8 comeback at Rosemont) believes he’s resting on his laurels today. Even this guy who has a man-crush on Williams believes that he’s slipping. And has a poor attitude about it.
Here’s the complete Sports Bank Deron Williams anthology
Case for Williams being best Illini pro ever
Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, a Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Chicago Tribune.com, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports
A Fulbright scholar, published author and MBA, Banks has appeared on live radio all over the world; he’s also a member of the Football Writers Association of America, U.S. Basketball Writers Association, and Society of Professional Journalists. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too.