One of the hardest things to figure out about this season's Nets is which of their faces to take seriously.
Is it the one from the torrid start to the season or the horrid December that cost Avery Johnson his job? Is it the team that took to P.J. Carlesimo like a duck to water or the one that gets thumped just about every time they face a good team?
We're reluctant to draw any big conclusions given how erratic things have been to this point, but we're cautiously optimistic that we've finally settled on the version of the Nets that will determine just how far they go this season. And that's all because of Deron Williams.
Throughout the first half of the season, it was very clear that Williams was not the player that the Nets had decided to build their team around last offseason. There was no aggression to his game as he settled for threes and didn't try to do much at all to shape games around his will, something that every good point guard does on a regular basis.
As nice as it was to see Brook Lopez playing well and Joe Johnson sinking buzzer beaters, you knew that the Nets were only going to do anything meaningful this season if Williams got himself on track. With every game that passed and every report of another attempted fix for his aching ankles that failed, it got harder and harder to imagine that happening.
Until the last three games, that is. Williams has strung together a trio of performances that have fueled Nets wins and left you feeling like you're seeing the Williams of old on the court.
He had 20 points and eight assists in an easy win over the Bobcats, he drilled 11 threes in a rout of the Wizards and then turned the ball over just once in another cakewalk over the Hawks on Saturday. The shots are coming from better spots, the ball is moving easily around the offense and Williams' body no longer seems to be betraying him when he tries to make something happen.
These are the Nets we hoped to see all season (although things won't be that easy when they're back up against teams who don't stink) and it all starts with Williams. That leads us to both a reminder that it has been just three games (Williams was as bad as ever against the Mavericks earlier this month) and the question of whether he can keep it up?
We'd like to be definitive, but it's hard because Williams' ankles are still the x-factor. Will they need more cortisone shots in the future of has the platelet rich plasma treatment done the trick for Williams to feel well the rest of the way?
Without knowing the answers to those questions, we can't know whether the Nets are going to keep up what they've done in the last three games. We do know that they aren't going anywhere with the Williams of the first half, so recent developments are ones to savor for Nets fans.