Deron Williams Shows the Mavericks What They're Missing

Williams drops 31 in front of Mark Cuban, who decided to show up this time

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP
    It was a happy homecoming for Williams, even if it didn't always look that way.

    Mark Cuban was able to clear his schedule for this visit from Deron Williams. 

    The Mavericks owner/publicity magnet infamously skipped the Dallas-born Williams' visit to meet with the Mavericks when he was a free agent over the offseason, something Williams said was on his mind when he ultimately made the decision to re-sign with the Nets.

    Cuban said after Williams returned to Brooklyn that he thought his team would be better off in the long run for not signing the point guard, words that seemed to provide plenty of motivation for Williams on Wednesday. 

    Williams had 26 of his 31 points in the second half as the Nets turned a 51-51 tie into a 113-96 win that moved them to 2-0 on their eight-game road trip. Williams scored 13 in each of the final two quarters, looking every inch the franchise player the Nets were so desperate to keep. 

    That's been the biggest change over the last month for the Nets, who still have the occasional hiccup while generally showing a more consistent level of performance than they did during their erratic first few months of the season. 

    Williams is the driving force for everything the Nets hope to do as they built their entire team around him being a star player. When he wasn't, the pieces looked disjointed and it didn't help that Wiliams also decided to wage war on Avery Johnson at the same moment he was playing like garbage. 

    Now, though, he's decided to both play and act the part of the team's leader and the benefits are obvious to that approach. Williams ran the show flawlessly over the final 24 minutes on Wednesday, with his two-man game with Brook Lopez eventually adding up to 69 points between the two of them. 

    That's pretty much the ideal for what the Nets want to do offensively, especially when Andray Blatche chips in with another 14 points off the bench to make the Nets a true interior powerhouse over the entire 48 minutes of play. With Joe Johnson clearly still bothered by a foot injury and, it must be said, a less perfect fit with the other two stars than the Nets likely imagined, it's going to be that inside-out game with Lopez and Williams that decides Brooklyn's fate this season. 

    He might not always have the motivating factor of rubbing his success in Cuban's face, but Williams hasn't seemed to need it of late. Rewriting the story of his season after an awful first half seems to be all the push he's needed to get things moving back in the right direction. 

    Josh Alper is also a writer for Pro Football Talk. You can follow him on Twitter.