Brooklyn Nets: How Will the Day be Remembered?

Updated: May 2, 2014



February 24, 2011.

This date was the moment that the New Jersey Nets reentered the basketball conversation in the New York Metropolitan area. After swinging for the fences to acquire Carmelo Anthony and missing, Billy King came through for the organization when he traded for Utah Jazz point guard, Deron Williams.

This year especially, there hasn't been much to smile about.

This year especially, there hasn’t been much to smile about.

Many believed at the time that acquiring Williams was actually the better move for the team. With the Jazz, he was an All-Star caliber player who consistently produced elite statistics while leading them to successful regular seasons and playoff runs. There was great debate as to whether he or Chris Paul was the best point guard in the NBA.

Trading for Williams seemed to be the better transaction, because it was following the same recipe for success that was used a decade prior when the team swapped Stephon Marbury for Jason Kidd. After all, a “superstar” playmaker has the ability to elevate the performances of the players surrounding him. This attribute was what made Kidd so special in leading the Nets into championship contention, and it was believed that Williams would replicate this quality.

With the Brooklyn Nets’ 2014 playoff existence teetering on the brink of extinction, this once prized acquisition is in danger of being labeled as a complete bust. Williams’s inconsistent, underwhelming performances coupled with his deteriorating health and aloof demeanor has held back the efficacy of this Nets team. When you’re allocating maximum money for mediocre production, the end results can be crippling to a team’s success.

There have been many theories as to why Williams has fallen off since his arrival to the Nets. I am in the belief that his health has played an issue, but his mental makeup is just as much at fault. Even when he is at his best, he doesn’t appear to inspire his teammates or fans. There seems to be that lack of connection. To me, Deron Williams is the “Anti-Kidd”.

Kidd was unique in that it was never about him on the court.

Kidd was unique in that it was never about him on the court.

As I have written before, Jason Kidd was such a unique superstar in that he could dominate the outcome of a game without a gaudy stat line. If you’ve been a Net fan long enough, then clearly you recall those nights when a 7-point, 6-rebound, and 9-assist performance could heavily influence a game in the Nets’ favor.

Why were the Nets so successful under Kidd? They played a style of basketball that got everyone involved. Over time it wasn’t shocking to see players like Todd MacCulloch, Aaron Williams, or Mikki Moore make significant contributions. Even with inferior talent at times, Kidd was able to put everyone in a position to succeed. His style of play at both ends of the court was inspiring and infectious. He was the ultimate leader who led by example. Kidd’s hustle, heart, and determination captivated and electrified the fans as well. He may not have been outspoken verbally, but Kidd let his actions do the talking on the court.

In the few years that he has been a member of the Nets (both in New Jersey and Brooklyn) has Williams provided the same impact as Kidd? How about a similar impact? I’m aware that their styles of play are different; however, the primary task for any point guard is to facilitate the teams’ offense and set the tone. They are the ones who dictate the tempo and control the flow of the game.

Nets' players had no choice but to follow Kidd's lead.

Nets’ players had no choice but to follow Kidd’s lead.

You could make the claim that Williams is more physically gifted than Kidd ever was, but what Kidd lacked in athleticism he made up with intangibles and court awareness. He wasn’t afraid to fight for rebounds and chase down loose balls. If the opportunity presented itself, he would attack the heart of the defense. He not only played smart but fearless, and with great natural instincts. In a sense, the point guard in this Nets-Raptors series whose personality and approach to the game resembles Kidd’s more is Kyle Lowry’s.

Kidd was the ultimate gamer. He was willing to put it all on the line and do whatever was necessary to win. Why else do you think “Soda-Gate” occurred this year? If a game presented him with lemons, he found a way to make lemonade. He just knew how to win regardless of the circumstances.

Unfortunately, these are not qualities that Deron Williams seems to possess, at least not from what we’ve witnessed the past few years. If things aren’t going his way, his negative emotions are quick to reveal themselves. Think how many times you’ve seen Deron exude passion or heart (verbally and nonverbally) on or off the court. Would it be safe to assume that you would struggle to compile such a list?

At this point in time, it is very unlikely that we will ever see the consistent, stellar play from Williams that he showed in Utah. The brilliance may show up in spurts every now and then, but unless his health and confidence are fully restored, the Nets most likely have an asset that will continue to depreciate at an alarming rate.

A swagger and passion Net fans aren't used to seeing.

A swagger and passion Net fans aren’t used to seeing.

If Williams’s ankles are going to limit his athleticism for the remainder of his career, then it is up to him to reinvent himself. When Kidd had microfracture surgery to repair his knee, he found a way to change his game. It was during that time when the run-and-gun style subsided somewhat and he became a more consistent jump shooter in a half court offense.

Deron’s career is at a fork in the road. With his expensive contract, the Nets are most likely stuck with him until its expiration, like it or not. The Nets have done their part to surround him with the type of talent that trumps what Kidd ever had during his tenure with the team. It’s time now for him to adjust his game and attitude to make this work and lead them forward.

Tonight will be a big night in Brooklyn. It’s do or die for these Nets, most notably Williams. Many fans have soured on him during these past few years and failing to show up tonight and fight to keep the Nets’ season alive may inflict irreversible damage on Deron’s reputation.

Hopefully for everyone’s sake, February 24 won’t be remembered for the wrong reasons when it is all said and done.