Some nights on a long NBA season mean more than others. The Brooklyn Nets shouldn’t be only about owning the city; this is about turning the franchise into a perennial playoff contender and even more, like it was a decade ago. Deron Williams, injured or not, is the center of all that hope and ambition.
It hasn’t been the greatest of seasons for the Dream Team member, a two time gold medalist. Williams is playing with pieces of bones in his ankle, severely limiting his speed and quickness; his comfort level when penetrating or trying to create shots from himself. While 16.7 points and 8.9 assists are good for most point guards in the league, it’s pretty obvious Williams can do so much more.
His field goal percentage (39.4%) and three point shooting (26.4%, attempting 5.5 per game) are worrying, but in the first battle of the boroughs, the Nets were too much for the Knicks in overtime, winning 96-89. Williams struggled with his scoring once again, finishing with 6-17 from the field and 16 points, but he also had 14 assists, playing 43 minutes on those hurting feet of his.
In a battle of the crowds, the black of the Nets beat the Blue of the Knicks. That was also a big part that had everyone smiling in the end. It’s not just turning the Nets into a successful team once again; It’s about turning them into a relevant and popular one, in local terms and in national terms as well. It’s easier to battle the Knicks from within the city not from a different state, where the Nets have always fought to stay relevant.
Without Jason Kidd, the Knicks shifted back to a more traditional lineup. Traditional, it seems, isn’t the way to go for this team. Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler were great, combining for 63 points and 23 rebounds. But there was no order, no usual spacing and passing that we’ve gotten used to see from the Knicks this season. No one from the bench to push through and be a difference makes.
The Nets had more than Williams. Brook Lopez, as expected, was extremely efficient in the paint, finishing with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Gerald Wallace finished with 16 points as well, but the big surprise was Jerry Stackhouse, completing the set of old players on the floor (the majority belong to the Knicks), adding 14 points from the bench. Stackhouse hit the big three early in overtime that put the Nets in front 89-86, for good. He hit two more free throws late in the game to clinch the victory.
It’s a weird thing about the Nets so far. They have stars, but they’re not real superstars, or not performing as such at the moment. Gerald Wallace’s body is showing signs of slowing down after a career of fast paced, high risk basketball Brook Lopez is one of the more talented centers in the NBA when it comes to offense, but still lacks a lot when it comes to defense and beating his lazy feet on rebounding efforts. Deron Williams and Joe Johnson aren’t the dream backcourt they were projected to be, each battling his own injury problems.
It’s still enough for 9-4 start, tied with the Knicks for the top of the division, and a special 7-1 start at home. The good signs? Deron Williams is going to get better, and with the Knicks slowly fading away from their unexpected start, the Nets might be the best team in more than just Brooklyn when this season is over.