Deron Williams, Nets are better off apart
Buyout Deal Provides Relief for Both Player and Franchise
Deron Williams got his wish, and so did the Brooklyn Nets.
By parting ways with their high-priced point guard, the Nets will be able to avoid paying the NBA’s exorbitant repeater luxury tax and, even more importantly, build a team that coach Lionel Hollins can take to greater heights than it has enjoyed during the first three years here in Brooklyn.
Last Friday, Nets general manager Billy King and Williams agreed to part ways somewhat amicably as Brooklyn bade farewell to its enigmatic point man via a $27.5 million buyout for the remaining two years and $43 million on Williams’ original five-year, $98 million pact.
Hailed as the front man for our fair borough’s first major pro sports franchise since the Dodgers fled to Los Angeles back in 1957, Williams never lived up to elite-player status here.
Nor did he provide the type of inherent leadership qualities necessary for a top-rung player on a franchise eager to win its first-ever NBA title.
“I would like to thank Deron for everything he gave the organization over the past 4 ½ years,” said King in a team-issued statement announcing the Nets’ decision to “waive” one half of what the GM once called “The Best Backcourt in the NBA”.
“I would like to wish Deron and his family good luck in the future,” added King, who has since been busy orchestrating numerous moves designed to make the Nets more athletic at the point guard position and a bit rougher and tougher inside, as per the wants of Hollins.
Williams, who struggled through injuries and bouts with his own confidence during his tenure here, just inked a two-year deal with Mavericks that will net him most of the remaining millions he left on the table with the Nets.
The Dallas native will doubtlessly be more comfortable playing in an environment where he isn’t looked upon as “the guy”, as future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki will always assume that role for the Mavericks until his retirement.
Back in the summer of 2012, when the Nets were ready to move into their Downtown digs, Dallas was the one place many pointed to that may have prevented the Nets from re-signing Williams.
But a maximum contract, and assurances that the Nets would build a championship-level team around him motivated D-Will to be the organization’s pied piper upon its arrival here.
The results: two first-round playoff ousters, the first of which was a deflating Game 7 home loss to an injury-plagued Bulls team, and a five-game elimination at the hands of Miami in the Eastern Conference semifinals in 2014.
While newly signed center Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson, who is likely now to remain here for the $24.9 million left on his contract, were also looked upon as important pieces to Brooklyn’s original foundation, it was Williams who often bore the brunt of criticism for the Nets’ failings.
Mainly, because he failed.
There is no getting around the fact that Williams was a productive player for the Nets.
In 277 games, including 258 starts, with the franchise following his acquisition from Utah on Feb. 23, 2011, Williams averaged 16.6 points and 7.5 assists in 34.2 minutes per game. He was also named an All-Star in 2012, the year before the team landed in Brooklyn.
Last season, Williams, whose ankles were a perpetual, nagging nuisance throughout his time here, appeared in 68 games (55 starts), recording averages of 13.0 points and 6.6 assists in 31.1 minutes per game.
He also saw action in 25 playoff games with Brooklyn over the past three years, averaging 15.6 points and 6.5 assists in 36.5 minutes per game.
Those numbers look solid on paper, but they aren’t the type of otherworldly statistics that most players brought in to change a franchise’s fortunes are expected to put forth.
In the games the Nets needed him most, Williams proved to be a virtual non-factor, oftentimes playing a secondary role or disappearing all together during key moments down the stretch in the postseason.
His lack of playoff potency reached its peak this past season, when the Nets were bounced by the top-seeded Atlanta Hawks in the first round.
Williams scored two points in Game 2, three points in Game 3 and five points in Game 5. Lost inside those three disasters was a where-did-that-come-from 35-point effort in Game 4.
None of it was ultimately enough to help the Nets advance, nor did Williams ever grab a playoff series by the throat and pave the way for Brooklyn’s ascent in the Eastern Conference hierarchy.
So Williams will go back West, where he will try to rediscover his game and re-enhance his name, which was sullied during his time here with us.
The Nets are now on the clock to prove they can do better, and go further, without D-Will.
As far as breakups go, this one was mutual, and should best serve both parties going forward.
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