Deron Williams was at one point in his career considered one of the best point guards in the NBA. His size, shooting ability and passing skills made him one of the best in the NBA at that position when he was in Utah. But in Utah, he began to be unhappy under head coach Jerry Sloan. The veteran coach eventually decided to step down in February of 2011. There were reports that Sloan and Williams’ relationship was getting bad and that was one of the reasons he stepped down, but Sloan never alluded to that when making his retirement speech. But nevertheless, Sloan was gone and Ty Corbin stepped in. However, it wasn’t long before Williams was gone from Utah as well. In the same month Sloan retired, Williams was traded to the Nets for guard Devin Harris, forward Derrick Favors, two first-round picks and cash considerations. Williams played for the Nets for a year and change and then signed a new deal in the summer of 2012 when he was a free agent and many thought he could help bring that franchise out of the doldrums. Williams was considered the guy that could help take the Nets to the next level as they were about to move into their new Brooklyn arena and away from New Jersey. But they could not have been more wrong about the exploits of Williams.
The signing of Williams was supposed to lead the Nets to the top of the East according to the Nets thoughts as an organization. They believed that his skills would make that team better and that he was a franchise player that was good enough to carry their franchise. They could not have been more wrong. Ever since he signed that five-year, $98 million deal, it seems like he has not been healthy nor as effective as the Nets envisioned. Sure, he averaged 18.9 points per game the first year of the deal, but his play regressed with every season he was in a Nets uniform. It seemed like he was never sure of himself when he was with the Nets. He would show glimpses of being the player he once was in Utah, only to come back to the guy that was still searching for who he was. His points per game slipped ever single season he was with the Nets organization, including slipping to 13 points per game this past season, his lowest since his rookie season. Even his former teammate, albeit for one season, questioned his role with the team. Paul Pierce said this when asked about Williams in Brooklyn: “Before I got here, I looked at Deron as an MVP candidate. But I felt once I got there, that’s not what he wanted to be. He just did not want that.” Pierce would also go on to say that the pressure of New York and the media market may have played a factor in Williams and his performance with the team. But for a guy that demanded a high salary and was billed as a big-time player, it seemed he should have been better than what he was. But unfortunately, the hype never lived up to the reality of who he was as a player.
Going into this offseason, many wondered what the Nets would do with Williams after there were some questions about his future with the team. Would they find someone to take on his contract and relieve them of the burden of his contract or would they have to suffer through another year or him not meeting expectations? Well, word began to get around that he was not happy with coach Lionel Hollins last season. And he reportedly had to be restrained from going after Hollins around the All-Star break. Around the time this news was breaking, the Nets were working on a buyout for the veteran guard. The Nets were willing to wipe their hands clean of him and they were willing to do what they had to do to make it happen. The Nets and Williams eventually ended up getting a buyout together for him and he is now slated to sign with the Dallas Mavericks for a reported two-year deal. And as for the Nets, they will use the stretch provision to pay him his buyout in yearly increments. Essentially, Williams will be getting paid by two teams for the next two seasons. And as a bonus for him, he is headed back to his hometown to play for his hometown team. The benefits for him to be where he is from should make him more comfortable. But some have to wonder if Williams will ever be the guy he once was as a player. He is 31 years old at this point and he wasn’t the most overly athletic point guard to begin with. Dallas is taking a chance on him and that they can get the best out of him. While Williams has moved on, the Nets are starting to move forward as well. They have Jarrett Jack and a few others that are there to step into the spot for Williams. And you could definitely argue that Jack played better than Williams all season long. But the fact remains that Williams is gone and the Nets are moving forward without him. And both could probably not be happier.
The Nets thought they were getting a star when they brought in Williams. But instead they received a guy that was not comfortable in the big city and was never the same player outside of Utah. Many can even argue that the system in Utah is what created the rep that he built before getting traded. And it can also be said that the same system he tried to corrupt in Utah under Jerry Sloan is the thing that he needs the most at this point. Williams’ tenure with the Nets is probably something the Nets wished was a bad nightmare. But with them paying him over the next few years in regards to his buyout, he will continue to haunt them like a ghost in a haunted house. Williams may be gone but his memory there in New York will be something that will not go away soon enough for the Nets. As for the Mavericks, they are taking a chance here with Williams rediscovering who he is. But if they were paying attention to what happened in Brooklyn, they should temper expectations.