HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — Fresh off platelet-rich plasma treatment in both of his nagging ankles and a round of cortisone shots to boot, Brooklyn Nets point guard Deron Williams has looked as spry as he has all season and he’s easily playing his best basketball.
Just in time for a new pain to come to town: Mark Cuban.
Wherever the Dallas Mavericks owner goes, but especially in New York, he is the center of massive media attention. With tonight’s game marking the first time Williams will play the Mavs since the club tried to woo last summer’s top free agent to his home town, the topic will certainly be top of mind tonight.
Only Cuban, the man who recently suggested that the Lakers should think about using the amnesty clause on Kobe Bryant only to see him light up the Mavs for 38 points, and then tweaked Derek Fisher for signing with Oklahoma City, won’t be there to set off potential verbal fireworks. He was speaking Friday morning at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston, and the team’s media relations staff said he isn’t expected to make the short trip to say hello to the rejuvenated D-Will.
As for Williams — who is playing like an All-Star over the last five games, averaging 22.8 points, 8.4 assists and nailing 51.5 percent of his 3-point shots — he tried Thursday to head off discussion of his free-agent decision.
“There’s no reason to even go down that lane. That’s behind me. I’m part of the Brooklyn Nets,” Williams told ESPNNY.com “There’s no reason to even revisit that.”
The Mavs and Nets both met with Williams in New York at the start of the free-agency period last July. The Nets got first crack followed by a three-member contingent from Dallas that included coach Rick Carlisle, president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson and special consultant Michael Finley. Absent was Cuban, who was busy filming the TV show “Shark Tank” in Los Angeles.
Williams, who decided to stay with the Nets and sign a five-year, $98 million deal, would say later that not meeting with Cuban had an impact on his decision.
“A lot of the questions that me and my agent had for them really didn’t get answered that day — you know, pertaining to the future,” Williams said in October. “And I think if [Cuban] was there, he would have been able to answer those questions a little bit better. Maybe would have helped me.”
Cuban, to no surprise, scoffed at Williams’ assertion and shot back on a Dallas radio program.
“I’m a big D-Will fan, but I’m kind of surprised that he would throw his front office under the bus like that by saying that I would make a difference. I would have expected him to say — like I’d expect one of our guys to say — ‘Hey I’m so thrilled with the front office and the moves we made and our team that it wouldn’t have mattered what he did.’
“He’s a superstar point guard, but my goal is to build a team. … I’m flattered that he thought my presence would have made more of a difference than what the Nets’ management did.”
Cuban also suggested that his club, struggling at 25-32 and in jeopardy of not making the playoffs for the first time in 13 seasons, is actually better off without Williams and the max contract that would have weighed down Dallas’ payroll.
“But in hindsight, I don’t know if I would have been happy [had Williams signed],” Cuban said on the same radio show. “I think we’re in better position now than we would have been if we had gotten him.”
There’s probably not many Mavs fans who would agree with that sentiment right about now. Williams on Thursday said he has not spoken to Cuban since the summer. But he does have the Nets at 34-24 and seeking at top four spot in the Eastern Conference.
“It wasn’t really a back-and-forth thing anyway,” Williams said.