An (Unfair) Villain's Return

By JakeElman
Dec. 23, 2015

Former Nets point guard Deron Williams may not have had the best of luck in New Jersey/Brooklyn, but it's unfair to blame everything on him

Williams, 31, is averaging 15 points and six assists for the surprising Dallas Mavericks, potentially solidifying himself as Mark Cuban's point guard of the near-future in the process (Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports)
Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Written by Jake Elman

SportsMix

Get the Kanye West playing, roll out the black and white carpet, and send out some cheerleaders -- a homecoming is happening in New York tonight. Sadly, and very sadly at that, it's not 50 Cent making quality music. 

Deron Williams, former Nets superstar and one-time Disney Channel actor, returns to Brooklyn tonight to play his first game against the team that happily paid him $98.7 million across five years; only four of those years, though, would be spent in the black and white as Billy King, in a somewhat questionable move, cut ties with the three-time All-Star over the summer. This, after two straight seasons where ankle injuries and inconsistency were more common than, you know, actual good games. 

Now a Dallas Maverick, and one of the team's better players at that, a shaven-headed Williams comes home and is expecting...absolutely nothing. 

“I’m sure I’ll get booed. Those Brooklyn fans, they expected more out of me. I expected more out of myself,’’ Williams, who spent 2011-15 with the Nets, . “Injuries are tough, man. Somebody that’s been injured year after year, they can attest. They take a toll on you physically. It takes a toll on you mentally."

As per the norm, Williams is dealing with injuries again and is likely to miss his first game back against the team that gave him a buyout this summer. How sad, because I was looking forward to see Andrea Bargnani smack the hell out of his shots and Bojan Bogdanović cross him over in what will eventually turn out to be a 20 point loss for the Brooklyn Nets. 

If we're being honest, Deron Williams in Brooklyn and injuries got along as well as someone with a severe grass and hay allergy going on a mandatory school field trip to a farm. Here we have a player that, while with the Jazz, played less than 70 games just once in his five full seasons under Jerry Sloan (68 games in 2008), but only accomplished that feat once in his four full seasons with the Nets with a 78 game showing in 2012-13, the team's first in Brooklyn. 

During the lockout season of 2011-12, which was Williams' last All-Star Game appearance, he did manage to play in 55 of the 66 games (83%) that year, but only averaged 70 a season during his time with the Nets. For some players, 70 games a season sounds fantastic, but when you're an iron man like Deron Williams once was? It's unacceptable. 

"I wish I wouldn't have been hurt. I wish I would've played better and people didn't feel like I was just stealing money. That's the last thing I want people to feel like," prior to his first game against the Nets. "It didn't work out the way anybody had hoped."

You want to know what the worst part of all this is? People were still ranking Deron Williams as a top three point guard coming into the 2011-12 season! In September 2011, Bleacher Report's Alexander Diegel :

"Deron Williams only played in 65 games last season, but when he was on the court, he was in prime form for both the New Jersey Nets and Utah Jazz, Williams is the new face of the Nets, and represents the chances for Mikhail Prokhorov to back up his claim to build a dynasty."

...someone, please grab the tissues. I'm going to start crying at how sad that is in hindsight. 

You hear people, especially former athletes now in the media, make mention of how that period of being great (or even just good) falls off quicker than they can believe, and Deron Williams is pretty much the poster boy for that idea. For what it's worth, I just want to compare Williams numbers from 2011-12, or his four full seasons in Brooklyn, to a few other point guards over those years. 

See You Next Fall (from 2011-12 to 2014-15)

Player

Games played (and starts)

Points per game

Rebounds per game

Assists per game

FG percentage

VORP

All-Star Games

Playoff appearances

Deron Williams

265 (246)

16.7

3.1

7.3

.487

8.8

2 (2011-12; 12-13)

3

Chris Paul

274 (274)

18.7

3.4

9.9

.527

23.1

4

4

Kyrie Irving

257 (257)

21.0

3.5

5.7

.453

11.8

3 (2012-13; 13-14; 14-15)

1

Russell Westbrook

261 (261)

24.3

5.7

8.1

.439

18.7

3 (2011-12; 12-13; 14-15)

3

John Wall

276 (269)

15.0

4.3

8.8

.458

11.1

2 (2013-14; 14-15)

2

Man, the end came quick for Deron Williams in his prime, huh? 

But, is Deron Williams fully to blame for the Nets being in the bleak position that they're in? Absolutely not, even if you just look at the players on the court and take the front office out of the equation. Why didn't Gerald Wallace do more during his time with the Nets? Why did Brook Lopez struggle to stay healthy? If Williams wasn't stepping on the court, that'd be one thing, but the guy was trying to play as much as he could. 

In a post for SB Nation's Nets Daily blog earlier today, Brian Fleurantin :

He's a hated figure among Nets fans and management, but he tried his best to play through injuries and worked to get back on the court as soon as he was physically able to. I've seen a few allusions to Williams possibly not caring about Brooklyn, but it's hard to make that case when he pushed himself to be out on the floor even to his detriment and was active in the community. You can interpret him constantly playing through injury to be foolhardy, but whenever we discuss his tenure in New Jersey/Brooklyn, I feel that those should be brought up in his favor.

That is quite possibly the best way to describe Williams' tenure with the Nets. Deron Williams isn't a villain, nor should anyone think of him as one; we're not talking about a player that stopped showing up to practices, got into fights with teammates, or killed small animals for pleasure. He's someone battled injuries and was a part of a team that was ruined by an incompetent general manager, but because he was the point guard and was getting paid lots of money, he gets the blame. 

Am I disappointed by the fact that Deron Williams never won a title with the Nets in his (first???) stint with the organization? Of course I am, and I think all of the ten fans left are. Do I hate Deron Williams and want to see him die a painful death or catch a multitude of diseases from one of the Kardashians? No, of course not. Guy did his best, gave the Nets some good times, and didn't kill anyone or . All in all, I'd say it was a decent enough, but less-than-amazing, stint with the Nets. 

Welcome back to Brooklyn, Deron. I wish you the best of luck in whatever comes next, . 

But Billy King on the other hand? Billy, in exchange for all that you've done for this organization, enjoy the Kardashian sisters. You've earned, it buddy. 

What are your thoughts about Deron Williams' tenure with the Nets? Make sure to chime in on the conversation by leaving a comment or tweeting me, and if you want to properly join the Mix, give me a follow on Twitter at @


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