Deron Williams' offense loosens up under P.J. Carlesimo
In a way, this current stretch Deron Williams is immersed in mirrors one that was played out last season by the Nets' neighbors over in Manhattan.
When Mike D'Antoni and the Knicks parted ways a year ago, Carmelo Anthony began a transformation of sorts, and started elevating his game under the guy who was then slapped with the interim tag: Mike Woodson.
As the Nets (20-15) have sauntered through these first seven games with P.J. Carlesimo in charge of things on an interim basis, a similar scenario is happening with Deron Williams.
It took about eight games for Anthony to find his comfort zone with Woodson. The Nets' point guard, though, may be on a faster track.
Barely eight days since a day of reflection in San Antonio, when he acknowledged he was no longer playing like one of the league's elite point guards, Williams suddenly has his groove back. His solid play in the aftermath of the Nets' 104-73 loss to the Spurs on New Year's Eve has been key during this four-game winning streak, a number they'll look to extend Friday when they tip off a three-game homestand that begins with a matchup against the Suns.
"I feel good," Williams said after dropping in a team-high 22 points to go with five assists in Monday's victory over the 76ers.
"I'm just trying not to think so much when I'm out there on the court, just go and play. That's when I'm at my best."
There was a time when pundits debated who was the better point guard: The Clippers' Chris Paul or Williams. Now, that seems like a long time ago because Williams hadn't been playing consistently at an All-Star level.
That hasn't been the case lately, though. Williams is looser. He's attacking the basket effectively, either finishing or finding his teammate. He's back to having fun, even in tense moments -- like in the closing minutes of last week's big win in Oklahoma City, when Keith Bogans badly missed a shot, and the two shared a chuckle as they walked to the bench.
Williams is averaging 20 points and 8.8 assists per game over the last four contests, shooting 48.1 percent. He's no longer passing up three-pointers -- he's made 10 of his last 20 -- and is shooting them confidently, which helps create more opportunities for Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez and Gerald Wallace, among others, to operate since the defense can't simply sag off him.
"It opens up the floor," Johnson said, "because now, he has the pick-and-pop with Brook. Guys don't want to leave Brook. You have me and Gerald in the corner. So it makes it rough. You have to pick your poison."