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A test of Williams

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Whether he wanted it or not, the Brooklyn Nets are now Deron Williams’s burden to bear. And so far, Nets fans don’t have much proof he’s up to the task.

Williams may not have been the reason coach Avery Johnson got fired two days after Christmas. But when you are widely suspected of running beloved coach Jerry Sloan out of Utah, make headlines for bemoaning the lack of an offensive “system” under Johnson, and don’t play the night before he was fired because of a wrist injury you’ve played through all season — well, people are apt to wonder.

The question going forward is not the extent of D-Will’s role in Johnson’s firing, but whether he can carry this team — as his $98 million contract suggests he should — now that he apparently has the run of the place.

Williams is in the midst of the least efficient season of his professional career. He’s on pace to hit bottom in both field goal and three-point percentage, and his assists-per-game are the lowest since he was a rookie.

More distressing, however, has been his penchant for blaming anything and everything for his woes. First it was “not my wrist; it’s my confidence.”

Then it was the injuries he has had “the whole time” he has been with the Nets.

Next came the fact he’s still “trying to adjust” from Utah’s offensive system to Johnson’s more isolation-heavy sets — an adjustment that might get easier under interim coach P.J. Carlesimo (Peej, unlike Johnson, has experience managing dynamic point men including Rod Strickland and Kenny Anderson in Portland in the ’90s).

Most recently, it was because he “didn’t take any time off” to rest his legs between playing in Turkey prior to last year’s lockout-shortened season and his stint on the U.S. Olympic team.

It’s not that those explanations can’t possibly be true — this very column has offered that Williams might need some time to settle into his new home after a hectic couple of years. But at this point in Brooklyn’s inaugural season, as his team plays .500 ball after a $330 million offseason spending spree, Williams no longer has opportunity for excuses. All that’s left is the job he was hired to do.

Matt Spolar is a nearly 6-foot-1 journalist with a middling high school basketball career who is sure the Nets win thanks to team’s top-tier guards.

Updated 5:38 pm, July 9, 2018
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