Speaking publicly to New York reporters for the first time since departing the Big Apple for Dallas over the summer, Williams opened up about his mostly disappointing tenure with the Brooklyn Nets.
“It just never went well, I don’t think. It felt like everybody felt I was the problem, and so now I’m gone,” the Nets’ former $98 million man said after scoring 20 points and dishing out seven assists in the Dallas Mavericks’ 104-97 victory over the New York Knicks on Monday night at Madison Square Garden.
“[Dallas] has been great for me. It’s been great for my family. [There’s] a lot more positivity in Dallas, and I think I needed that in my life.”
The Nets acquired Williams in a blockbuster trade and signed him to a max contract, making him the centerpiece of owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s five-year championship plan.
But things didn’t go as hoped, and Brooklyn ultimately paid Williams $27.5 million as part of a buyout to go away.
“Expectations were high. I was injured pretty much the whole time I was there,” Williams said. “Four coaches in 3½ years doesn’t help as a point guard with chemistry and things like that and just constant change. It just didn’t work out.”
Sources said the Nets weren’t happy with Williams’ attitude and decline in production. And with the team in rebuilding mode, they wanted to get under the luxury tax. Trade talks failed to yield any takers. A fresh start was needed from both perspectives.
Perhaps Williams’ former teammate, Paul Pierce, summed it up best when he said, “Before I got there, I looked at Deron as an MVP candidate. But I felt once [Kevin Garnett and I] got there, that’s not what he wanted to be. He just didn’t want to be that.
“I think a lot of the pressure got to him sometimes. This was his first time in the national spotlight. The media in Utah is not the same as the media in New York, so that can wear on some people. I think it really affected him.”
Nevertheless, Williams has excelled as a supporting player with the Mavericks, averaging 15.2 points and 6.0 assists per game while shooting 42.5 percent from the field, 37.8 percent from 3-point range and 92.9 percent from the free-throw line.
“He looked comfortable. He got away from New York,” Knicks max player Carmelo Anthony said. “Some people can handle it and some people can’t. He’s a guy who needed to get away from this where he can be himself and get some clarity and get back to Deron Williams that we all used to love.”
Added Anthony: “[Leaving] can rejuvenate you, mentally, emotionally for him. It was more kind of getting away from this, getting away from New York. It seems like he’s comfortable out there in Dallas when he’s on the court. He’s a different D-Will than we’ve seen over the past couple of seasons. You can tell that he has some mental clarity where he felt comfortable again.”
While they not miss him in the locker room, the Nets (5-15) certainly miss Williams on the court, as they rank 29th in offensive efficiency. Last season, Brooklyn had a near top-10 offense when Williams was on the court and a bottom-three offense when he was on the bench.
Said Williams of all the negative reports about him: “There’s nothing you can do. It’s over. I’m past all that. I’m onto a new chapter. I wish things were different — would have happened differently, but they didn’t. I can’t dwell on it, just move forward and I think that’s what I’ve done.”
Williams said he continues to pay attention to how his former team is doing. He’ll return to Brooklyn on Dec. 23, when the Mavericks play the Nets.
“I check on everybody,” he said, adding that he has no regrets. “I still have friends on that team, so I want them to do well.”