Deron Williams, battling injuries, expects to play in second-half opener

Deron Williams and Joe Johnson look on late Deron Williams and Joe Johnson look on late in a game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Barclays Center. (Feb. 5, 2013) Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.

Any way you slice it, Deron Williams just hasn't been the same player this season.

It's rather obvious.

"I can't jump," the Nets point guard said Monday after practice at the PNY Center. "I don't know if you've noticed, I haven't dunked. I can't dunk. Even if I tried, off one leg I can't dunk. I can dunk off two, but if I tried to jump off my left leg, I can't dunk. It's definitely been a concern. That's a big reason I did the PRP."

Williams was referring to the platelet-rich plasma injection he received in both ankles last Monday, which sidelined him for the Nets' past two games.

He expects to play Tuesday night as the Nets (31-22) tip off the unofficial second half of their season when they host the Bucks (26-25) at Barclays Center.

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Besides dealing with inflammation in his ankles -- something that was brought to light when he had a cortisone shot in training camp to calm some bone spurs -- Williams has fought through shoulder, quadriceps, elbow and wrist injuries.

He's taken criticism from all angles for his up-and-down play, the latest being USA Basketball president/chairman Jerry Colangelo saying Williams played in the Olympics a "little overweight" and wasn't in the best shape.

Those words came just days after the Nets didn't skip a beat offensively without Williams, knocking off the Pacers and Nuggets. But his play is going to be key the rest of the way.

"We just want Deron to be Deron Williams," interim coach P.J Carlesimo said. "If Deron is Deron Williams, we'll be fine. I do think if the treatment allows him to play with a little or a lot less pain, that will be significant. If that's the case, obviously I think we'll see an even better Deron."

Williams said he feels a bit better. In reality, he needs more than a week of rest to see significant progress, but he knows that's not possible, given that there are 29 games left and the Nets are beginning what will be a push for playoff seeding.

As to whether he'll ever return to his previous form, which a few years ago had people debating whether Williams or Chris Paul was the NBA's top point guard, Williams suggested that his days of constantly posting eye-popping numbers -- the way he did with the Jazz -- are over.

Will people ever see the old Deron again?

"I don't know what that is anymore," he said. "I don't know what you mean by that, being Deron Williams. I think people want me to be what I was in Utah. They want me to average 11 assists, 10 assists.

"This is a different team. I don't have the ball in my hands as much as I did there. It's not the same type of team where I have to do that.

"I have Joe [Johnson] that can score, so he's going to have the ball. Brook [Lopez], we pound it to him and he's going to have the ball. It's a different offense, so I'm not going to do the same things and have the same numbers that I did in Utah. I can still have the same impact on the game without having the same numbers."

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