If things go the way Deron Williams hopes, queries wondering if he can return to an elite level will slowly start to cease as he navigates through his third season in Brooklyn.
Now able to pronounce himself completely healthy after surgical procedures on both ankles in May, Williams has visions of again being one of the league's best playmaking point guards, elevating his game so he no longer feels he's letting people down as the face of the Nets.
"That's the plan. That's definitely the plan," Williams said Monday at Basketball City in Manhattan, where he was hosting his annual charity dodgeball event to benefit Point of Hope through his foundation. "When you can't run, can't jump, it's hard to play basketball, especially in this league. The only thing I wish is I would've got surgery earlier, but what can you do? I'm ready to go now and excited about the season."
Besieged by nagging ankle injuries the last two seasons, Williams finally had enough after the 2013-14 campaign. He underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his left ankle to remove spurs from the front and back, and also had that ankle joint cleaned out. Additionally, he had a loose bone fragment below his right ankle removed -- all with hopes that he could get his game back in gear after his worst statistical season since his rookie year in 2005-06. He averaged 14.3 points, 6.1 assists and 2.6 rebounds in 64 games, numbers that he knows aren't good enough.
Playing under coach Jason Kidd, with whom he was close, was supposed to reignite Williams' game. But the injuries hurt. He missed 18 total games, 16 coming in two separate stints nursing a sore ankle, and with Kidd's botched power play bid in Brooklyn leading to his bolting to coach the Bucks, Williams has to learn a whole new system and get acclimated to his fourth coach in two-plus seasons. Let's just say he was caught off guard by Kidd's stunningly swift exit.
"I think it surprised everybody," Williams said. "I don't think anybody saw that coming. It is out of nowhere."
Williams said he hasn't spoken with Kidd since he left for Milwaukee and still isn't sure what precisely transpired.
"I don't even know enough about the situation," Williams said. "I have heard a lot of different things, as you guys probably have. I don't know what exactly happened, but we are excited about Lionel Hollins being our next coach. We wish J-Kidd the best of luck in Milwaukee, but we are excited about Lionel."
Seems as if Hollins is equally thrilled with how things are shaping up with his point guard.
"That's it. Health," Hollins said. "When you go through what Deron went through, he wasn't just hurt last year, he was hurt the year before. For him to get healthy from the surgical perspective, and to be able to work in the summer, and get your mind right and focus on basketball and not focus on pain, that is a tremendous asset to have.
"We are looking for big things from him. Health is the number one issue for this team going in with Brook [Lopez], KG [Kevin Garnett] and Deron. If they are healthy, and we can create continuity and a foundation of a group playing together, then I think things will fall into place."
Williams isn't sure if the training staff will let him go all out when training camp begins Sept. 27. Either way, it should be different from what he experienced last October, when he wasn't able to do much of anything in the preseason after spraining his right ankle working out in Utah in September.
"I was in great shape last year, ended up having to take a month off in the middle of September and was in a walking boot," Williams said. "Anytime you do that, it is going to be hard to stay in shape, basketball-playing shape. There is a big difference being in shape and being basketball ready."
The last few seasons have made Williams somewhat of an expert in that area -- probably more than he would like. So it wasn't hard to see why he's giddy about the prospects of simply being able to walk around now without his ankles swelling causing discomfort and making it extremely difficult to feel confident about his game.
"Last year was tough," Williams said. "I missed pretty much all of training camp, most of the preseason. I practiced one time, played nine minutes in a preseason game and was thrown into the fire. I was probably about 60 to 70 percent. It is definitely different this year.
"I think it's great that I will be able to participate in training camp and I am practicing with the guys right now, will be able to play before training camp, which is great."
Notes & quotes:Hollins said Garnett, who is returning for his 20th season, will be the Nets' starting power forward and also made it clear he doesn't intend on putting any minutes restrictions on the 39-year-old. Garnett missed 19 games battling back spasms in his first season in Brooklyn and averaged a career-low 20.5 minutes per game. "If he's healthy, and producing, he's going to play," Hollins said. "How many minutes? I don't know. But he is not going to play 15 or 16 minutes. I can guarantee you that. If he is playing and starting, he is going to be out there." . . . Hollins also said he never asked Garnett if he was pondering retirement. "It doesn't really matter. You're pregnant or you're not pregnant," Hollins said. "He looks good. He looks in great shape, shooting the ball extremely well. He is working. I would assume that if he decided to come back and if in fact it is his last year, he would want to make it his best."