The Bloom's Off the Nets' Rose

Deron Williams criticism precedes another loss

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP

    It had to hurt for the Nets to watch Jazz forward Derrick Favors block Brook Lopez' shot at one end and then hit a runner over Kris Humphries to open up a bigger lead in the fourth quarter of Utah's 92-90 win in Brooklyn on Tuesday night. 

    Favors was briefly a Net, of course, and trading him as part of the Deron Williams package was the biggest step toward putting together the team that moved to Brooklyn this year with overwhelming amounts of fanfare. That fanfare's died down after seven losses in their last nine games.

    Like many of those other losses, Tuesday night's came as a result of the Nets blowing a lead at halftime thanks to dreadful play in the third quarter. The Jazz were down 13 at the half, but the only surprise at the end was that the Nets actually had a chance to win the game with a three on their last possession. 

    That's how lost the Nets looked on both ends of the floor for most of the half as the Jazz, following the same script that they've followed throughout this losing jag. They were sloppy with the ball and deficient on the boards, leading to a lot of easy fast break chances for Utah, and the offense stagnated far more than you'd imagine an offense led by Williams stagnating. 

    A good bit of that stagnation is actually by design, something that Williams criticized earlier this week as being a poor fit for his skills compared to the offenses he ran in college and with the Jazz. The critique was mild, but it was the kind of thing that seemed like a warning flare for problems that might follow down the line. 

    Avery Johnson favors a lot of isolation and post-ups, which is fine when you don't have a point guard like Williams as the best player on your team. While he's put in some motion-oriented stuff, the Nets invariably go back to the iso-heavy game in the biggest spots and their opponents know it. 

    The Jazz shut down Joe Johnson, who is better served by such a system, down the stretch after he had a strong first half because the Jazz knew exactly what the Nets were going to do every time down the court. The Nets never adjusted and they haven't adjusted at all through this rough stretch, which makes their performances all the more frustrating. 

    Both Williams and Avery Johnson have talked about the learning curve, but Williams has been here for almost two full seasons and he's been a prime NBA point guard for much longer than that. The Nets moved heaven and earth to keep Williams in town, destroying their cap by overpaying B-level players to make sure Williams didn't take his ball and go home. 

    If you're going to do that, shouldn't you then come up with an offense that maximizes his skills? Williams used to finish at the rim all the time and now he is almost entirely a perimeter player whose shooting isn't good enough to make that work consistently enough to win games.

    That's not enough to make you wish the Nets had never traded Favors, but the presence of Utah in Brooklyn on Tuesday night was a reminder that Williams was traded by the Jazz just after helping force the ouster of coach Jerry Sloan because they didn't get along. Williams sent a pretty clear warning signal this week, because you don't go public with such issues on a lark.  

    In a way, it looks a lot like what went on between Mike D'Antoni and Carmelo Anthony last season as both men refused to budge in order to make better use of what they had at their disposal. Williams, Avery Johnson and the rest of the Nets have already seen the Knicks twice this season, so they're surely aware of how much better things are when you don't stay slavishly devoted to a system while your best players are being used in less than optimal ways. 

    They'll see the Knicks again on Wednesday and another loss will add to the dismay on the other side of the river for a team that's seen their shine lose a good bit of luster in the last month. 

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