The Nets often referred to Deron Williams as the “head of the snake” when it came to facilitating their offense.
But down the stretch in the team's 12 postseason games he could never get the offense flowing properly.
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Williams reflected on a season that ended Wednesday with him going scoreless in the fourth quarter of a 96-94 loss while also saying he might get surgery on both ankles at some point in the offseason.
What Net fans have learned about Williams is that when his ankles aren’t feeling 100 percent his confidence sags no matter how many pep talks he is provided by teammates.
“I think just more of it is confidence-wise,” Williams said at break-up day Thursday. “It just takes a beating on you confidence-wise, because I thought I was over it after the last half of last season and then to start the season the way I did, missing training camp, missing a couple games, not even being 80 percent those first couple games and then sitting out again, you know it just took a beating on me. I couldn't do what I wanted to, I can't finish the way I want to finish. You start thinking about things. So that was just the main thing was just confidence-wise. It's hard to get back to where I was.”
Williams played in 64 games in his third full season with the Nets and averaged 14.3 points per game — both career lows in an 82-game season. His previous career low in scoring was 10.8 points per game as a rookie in Utah in 2005-06 when Williams came off the bench in 33 games.
Williams has never had any surgery on his ankles, though in the last two seasons, he has taken several injections. The most recent injection occurred before Game 7 against Toronto. He averaged 11.5 points per game and shot 36.7 percent (25-of-68) after that game.
The Nets played a style where Williams is not going to necessarily score 30 points but the ankle issues have limited him to 15 combined regular season and postseason games of 20 points. Last year, Williams had 36 games with at least 20 points, including a game with 42 points against Washington.
“We played a lot different this year too,” Williams said. “I’m not gonna be a guy coming out here and scoring 30 [points]. That’s not how we play. We’re an equal-opportunity team. But I definitely can play better, I can shoot better than I did in the playoffs. But it was tough. Definitely confidence-wise, I used to step on the court and feel like I was the best player no matter who played against, so I gotta get back to that. Even if I’m not the best player on the court, I gotta feel like I am.”
The various ankle issues have limited his ability to generate much lift, a fact evidenced by infrequently dunking and not even doing so until March 17 against Phoenix.
Many fans are clamoring for Williams to be traded but his contract might be too much to be moved no matter how creative the Nets get. Williams has three years and $63 million remaining on the deal he signed before the 2012-13 season.
“I think it took a while where he got the spring back in his legs,” general manager Billy King said. “You guys talked about him dunking. That’s something that he never had to think about. It just became natural. I think as a player when you lose that ability it messes with your ability because your mind says one thing and your body can’t do it; it’s frustrating.”
Follow Nets beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.