An Up-and-Down Night for Deron Williams

Underscoring just how depleted the Nets are, team officials handed out an injury report to members of the news media in the locker room before the game. The report detailed when the team would give updates on injured players. There will be a Brook Lopez (fractured fifth metatarsal) update every Friday, and a MarShon Brooks (broken right pinky toe) update on Monday.

Neither player is helping the Nets right now, either on the court or as trade bait for Dwight Howard, whose massive post presence would give the Nets credibility and probably keep Williams with the team when it moves to Brooklyn. For now, the Nets must endure mostly frustrating games, like the one they lost Saturday, 99-92, to the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

Early in the contest, the Nets relied on Williams (21 points, 11 assists, 6 rebounds, 3 steals) to keep the Knicks’ defense from becoming too comfortable. Shooting from various spots on the floor, Williams led the Nets to an early 17-7 lead. He finished the quarter with 10 points and 3 assists, and played like the best player on the floor.

After sitting for the early part of the second quarter and watching the Knicks cut into the lead with an 8-1 run, Williams encountered stiff resolve from an unexpected opponent: Jeremy Lin, the Harvard product who spent part of this season in the Developmental League. Checking back into the game, Williams went to work on the smaller Lin, backing him down in the post before slinging a sleek behind-the-back bounce pass to Kris Humphries for an uncontested dunk.

“I was doubled, and you know we have bailout spacing, and I was hoping he was going to be there and he was,” Williams said.  

But Lin would not go away, scoring at surprising times and finding open teammates. His 6 points and 3 assists in the quarter helped the Knicks push their way back into the game. Williams did not score and only took one shot in the second quarter. 

“Everybody knows that teams are going to double me,” Williams said. “Take the ball out of my hands, especially when I start out with 10 points in a quarter. We’re learning.”

Williams came out in the second half passing with purpose. He found Humphries (14 points in the third quarter) repeatedly on scoring plays. Most of them developed out of pick-and-roll situations, where Williams, warding off double teams, would slip an on-point bounce pass to Humphries.

“I thought Hump did a good job of finishing some of the plays,” Williams said.

But Williams was playing his fourth game in five nights, and he did not have much left for the fourth quarter. He forced tough shots and was beaten repeatedly by Lin on strong drives to the rim. The lasting image of the game may be Williams, flat on his back, as Lin (25 points, 7 assists) knifed his way to an and-one conversion.

“Down the stretch, I didn’t do a good job of containing Jeremy Lin,” Williams said. “And throughout the game we had little lapses in our game plan that really cost us, a lot of mental mistakes really cost us this game.”

Asked to give his assessment of where the Nets stand right now, Williams responded, “I’m not going to have an update until February 14th.”

It was a joking reference to the team’s detailed injury report, and a funny way for the team’s playmaker to acknowledge everything he has dealt with this season.  

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