HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Rarely has one dunk seemed like such a revelation.
But in the case of Brooklyn Nets point guard Deron Williams, his first dunk of the season (above) is an indicator that he is ready to resume his elite point guard ways at just the right time for the Nets.
The playoffs are just a couple of weeks away and the Nets are getting their All-Star point guard back from the ankle issues that have plagued him since the summer.
If you need proof that the dunk (and what it signifies) was a big deal, just look at the reaction of the Nets’ bench. They went crazy when Williams used a crossover to break down the Cavs’ Wayne Ellington and slip past him for the one-handed jam. It reminded me why Williams has always occupied a spot alongside Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo, Tony Parker, Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook in the discussion of the best point guards in the league.
“When he’s right, he’s as good as anybody in the league,” a Western Conference scout said. “And there is no doubt he’s back in great shape and leaner and quicker than he was earlier this season. He’s looked great recently.”
The 20 pounds Williams has shed since the All-Star break helped rescue him from what was shaping up to be the worst of his eight seasons in the league. He went into All-Star weekend averaging 16.7 ppg and 7.6 apg while shooting 41 percent and 35 percent from 3-point range, all while laboring his way through his 36 minutes a night on those damaged ankles.
Cortisone shots that began in October didn’t help initially, but after combining those shots with platelet-rich plasma injections to both ankles, helped turn things around for the Nets’ catalyst and leader.
In the 21 games since the break, Williams is playing much better. He’s scoring at a higher clip (22.2 ppg) and shooting it much better overall (47 percent) and from deep (43 percent) as the Nets have stabilized things and ready for a first-round playoff challenge that could see them hosting the Atlanta Hawks.
“I think it’s a combination of everything,” Williams told Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News about his second half resurgence. “I’m able to do extra work now, things I wasn’t able to do before (because of the pain). All I could do is play games. I couldn’t put extra shots up. I just had to go home.”
The longer Williams keeps up his current play, the longer it’s going to take for someone to send the Nets home in the playoffs.