The Nets requested waivers on their point guard Deron Williams on Saturday, putting an end to a tumultous three years in Brooklyn. There are reports indicating that the Nets bought out his contract and Williams is heading to his hometown Dallas Mavericks.
Nets General Manager Billy King said in a statement on Saturday, “I would like to thank Deron for everything he gave the organization over the past 4 ½ years. I would like to wish Deron and his family good luck in the future.”
This is the best thing the Nets can do this offseason, as this is a perfect example of an addition-by-subtraction move. The Nets are now free from the albatross that became his 5-year, $100 million contract, which had $40 million left on it. They free up cap space and also can greatly change the attitude of their team.
It was interesting that Williams and Joe Johnson were not mentioned at all on Thursday during the Nets’ press conference announcing the re-signings of Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young. King was selling the case that Lopez and Young are the core of the team. In some ways, they are the core of what King would like, a group of upbeat, positive guys going out playing basketball.
The rumors of Williams’ buy-out heated up Thursday night, just hours after the press conference. and there has been talk of Johnson being traded to Cleveland.
This is all happening just about three years to the day that Williams signed the five-year deal with the Nets and Johnson was traded here from Atlanta. They were feted in a celebration at Brooklyn Borough Hall on July 13, 2012 and the tandem was called “Brooklyn’s Backcourt.” By the end of their third year together, they looked more like “Brooklyn’s Busts.”
Williams was never right for New York City, as he was a surly guy who had no interest in the high-profile nature of where he played. He also was not anywhere close to a leader, as he would show up his teammates on the court whenever they made a mistake by doing things like putting his hands on his hips.
He never had a clutch moment or a game-winning shot, like Joe Johnson repeatedly had in 2012-13, or Jarrett Jack this past season. Jack became the starting point guard for most of the season for his big-time play.
Williams’ time with the Nets was epitomized by the first-round series with Atlanta in April. He was awful throughout the series, except for a big performance in Game 4.
The lasting memory will be when he missed a game winner in the closing seconds of Game 2 in Atlanta that would have evened the series. After he missed the long baseline jumper, he stood staring at the rim with this smirk on his face. I still don’t know what to make of it, what he was thinking. Was it the fact he was still getting his $20 million even though he never hit these types of shots? Was it that the Nets were two games away from elimination, thus closer to vacation? Was it ultimately that he just didn’t care?
The Nets did everything to make him comfortable, especially artificially building a winner in Brooklyn with reckless trades, like the one that brought Gerald Wallace here from Portland for a pick that turned into Damian Lillard; the Joe Johnson deal with Atlanta, in which they gave up multiple draft picks; and the riskiest of all – the trade with the Celtics that brought Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Jason Terry here for a package that included three first round draft picks.
A sign of how difficult Williams can be was when he was in Utah and he pissed off longtime Head Coach Jerry Sloan so much that he resigned. Sloan was as mild-mannered a man as you could find and the fact he was that enraged by Williams spoke volumes. Sloan’s resignation came just two weeks before he was traded to the then-New Jersey Nets at the trade deadline in February 2011.
This gave Williams the justified reputation of being a coach-killer, and his time with the Nets confirmed it. The Nets went through four coaches in his time here, Avery Johnson, P.J. Carlesimo, Jason Kidd, and Lionel Hollins. The Daily News reported on Friday that Williams and Hollins nearly came to blows this past February while they were having an “airing of grievances.” (What did they think this was, Festivus?) Whatever it was, it doesn’t sound good, and one thing that was clear from Hollins in his first year here was players better follow what he wants.
When Williams came to the Nets, he was acknowledged to be one of the best point guards in the league with Chris Paul. It is no contest now, asPaul is still regarded as the class at that position. Williams has to really find himself again in Dallas.
Rajon Rondo also was in the conversation of best PG, mainly due to his postseason performance. His career has also taken a tumble, and he wound up going to Dallas from Boston last year, and had a tough time dealing with Head Coach Rick Carlyle. They argued during a game on the court once, which brought a one-game suspension and their relationship never improved. It got so bad the Mavs sent him home during the playoffs. This should serve as a cautionary tale for Williams, that Carlyle and Dirk Nowitzki won’t put up with his act.
For the record, Williams (6’3”, 200) appeared in 277 games (258 starts) with the Nets after joining the team via trade from Utah on February 23, 2011. He registered averages of 16.6 points and 7.5 assists in 34.2 minutes per game and was named an All-Star in 2012, his first full season with the Nets. In 2014-15, Williams appeared in 68 games (55 starts), recording averages of 13.0 points and 6.6 assists in 31.1 minutes per game. Williams also saw action in 25 playoff games with Brooklyn, averaging 15.6 points and 6.5 assists in 36.5 minutes per game.
In 716 career games (664 starts) split between the Nets and Jazz, the 31-year-old Williams has averaged 17.0 points and 8.5 assists in 35.1 minutes per game.