Deron Williams played his best game of the year Tuesday night in New Orleans when he scored 33 points.
The one caveat was that Joe Johnson was not in the backcourt with Williams. With Johnson sitting out the last three games due to a sore left heel, Williams has been able to assume some of the responsibilities as the game’s closer — a role Johnson has performed to near perfection this season.
The Nets are hopeful Johnson will return Friday night against Dallas, especially after how he and Williams performed in practice on Thursday.
“We’re still working on [our chemistry],” Williams said. “It’s something that we’re going to continue to work on and get better as it goes. I said it before I’ve never played with a guy like Joe, so it takes adjustments. We’re used to having the ball in our hands for the majority of the time, so now it’s kind of one of those things.”
Williams is shooting 19-of-36 in 79 minutes over his last two games and interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo does not believe the surge is a fluke.
“I think the shooting is real,” Carlesimo said. “I mean he’s shooting the ball extremely well, he’s moving, he’s moving well [and] he’s attacking. We’ve not actually sat down and asked him, but clearly he’s had to do more the last couple games, in terms of creating offense not just for other guys but also for himself.
“He looks good, he looks comfortable [and] he’s played big minutes,” Carlesimo said. “We rested him a little bit the other night but he’s playing big minutes and he’s playing very well which is all encouraging.”
Johnson hopeful but unsure
Johnson said he felt encouraged after Monday’s practice but didn’t suit up the next night. Johnson felt the same after a nearly perfect shooting performance in practice according to Keith Bogans but still wasn’t ready to declare 100 percent that he is ready to return Friday.
“It's better, not 100 percent, but it's definitely better,” Johnson said. “I'm able to get out here and move around, work out and get back acclimated."
The reason for the uncertainty is the concern that if Johnson plays without fully — or nearly — recovering it could exacerbate the injury and be more of a detriment to the team.
“I wanna say yeah, but I don’t want to jump out on a limb,” Johnson said. “We’re still trying to do the necessary things to get me back out there as soon as possible.”
If Johnson does not start, C.J. Watson will. Watson made two starts for Williams before the break, scored 25 points against Denver on Feb. 13 and is shooting 34-of-62 over his last five games.
Brooks skips practice
Marshon Brooks has played over 20 minutes in consecutive games for the first time this season but he might have to wait to see if he can get that much playing time in a third straight game.
Brooks was held out of practice with a sprained right wrist and is considered questionable for Friday. Brooks missed three games in November with a sprained left ankle and his playing time has fluctuated this year.
He played a season-high 31 minutes Sunday against Memphis and had eight points and seven rebounds while taking 13 shots. On Tuesday, Brooks played 23 minutes and also scored eight points.
Brooks also has had 20 games with under 10 minutes of playing time.
“He’s moved the ball well, he’s made good decisions with the ball and not just in terms of scoring, but he’s had some good passes where he moved the ball,” Carlesimo said. “He’s trying to do a better job defensively, which is still the biggest concern.”
Carlesimo also said the aspect on defense Brooks has improved most is on help defense, but said his transition and one-on-one defense still need to be worked on more.
Follow Nets beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.