When the Nets re-signed Deron Williams to a new contract this offseason and blew all of their cap space for the next few years on players to surround him, it's fair to say they thought they were buying a leader.
It's also fair to say that they weren't expecting him to lead a mutiny of sorts against the coach that wound up with Avery Johnson getting fired after just 28 games. It was a firm reminder that players always call the shots in the NBA and a suggestion that perhaps the Nets backed the wrong horse heading into this season.
Williams was playing poorly, behaving badly and the Nets lost 10 of 13 games to take a lot of the bloom of the rose they were trying to grow in Brooklyn. Things have made a real turn for the better since Johnson walked the plank, culminating in a comeback from 12 points down in Sunday's 97-86 win over the Pacers.
It might have been Williams' best game of the season as he kept the Nets in striking distance with Gerald Wallace on the bench and Brook Lopez struggling and then led them to the win with four points and four assists in the fourth quarter. Williams finished with 22 points, nine assists and five rebounds and the Nets won for the sixth straight outing to equal their win total from all of last season.
During the winning streak, Williams is averaging 19.5 points, 8.3 assists and he's shooting nearly 50 percent from three while hitting all of his free throws. It's been an impressive stretch in every way for Williams and it couldn't have come at a better time.
After facing the Raptors on Tuesday night, the Nets will play six straight games against teams with winning records with five of those games coming on the road. Posting an 8-1 record under P.J. Carlesimo is notable regardless of competition, but stepping things up makes it possible to determine how much is about the Nets improving and how much is about playing some of the worst teams the league has to offer.
Williams is the key to that question being answered in a positive way for the Nets. You don't win in the NBA unless your best players are playing at a high level, something that is the lasting lesson of the first half of the Nets season much more than anything having to do with coaching changes or new arenas in cooler environs.
Williams kept everyone waiting this season. The next couple of weeks will determine whether the wait was worth it.