On the eve of facing his former team, the Utah Jazz, for the first time at Barclays Center, Nets guard Deron Williams spoke candidly about playing in the different styles of the clubs and admitted he has not improved because of it.
Williams, who signed a five-year, $98.7-million contract in July, said that in his six seasons with coach Jerry Sloan and the Jazz, he was a "system player," which is how he starred in high school in Dallas and at the University of Illinois under Bruce Weber. Asked if he has become a better player since he left the Jazz for New Jersey via trade in February 2011, the point guard's reply was short and swift: "No."
"That system, it was a great system for my style of play," said Williams, whose numbers reflect the transition. Through 23 games, he is below his career average in shooting percentage (45 percent to 39, and 35 percent to 30 on three-pointers) and assists.
"Here, it's just more one-on-one isos," Williams said. "In high school, my coach wasn't one of those guys who would let us just throw out the ball and play. We had a stable of plays that we relied on, with good execution. In college, we ran a motion offense, a lot of cutting, lot of passing, lot of screening, so I'm still trying to adjust."
Sloan's structured Jazz made the playoffs four straight years after Williams' rookie season, advancing to the Western Conference finals once and to the semis twice.
Williams, 28, said he doesn't consider facing the Jazz "special" because he played for the Nets in Salt Lake City last season, a 107-94 loss during which fans warmly acknowledged his return.
Earlier, Nets coach Avery Johnson said he thought Williams would be "excited" by the matchup. He added that during a tape session, coaches told Williams his shooting technique was not a problem. "He had his best practice," Johnson said, reminding listeners that it's how Williams finishes the season that counts.
That was one thing the two agreed on. "I can adapt to anything," Williams said. "We're still a young team and it's just December."
Notes & quotes:Monday's practice was the last one at Barclays Center. The PNY Center in East Rutherford, N.J., the 65,000-square-foot facility that was flooded during superstorm Sandy, is ready. Johnson said having two full courts for practices will be helpful.