In Deron Williams’ last couple of seasons in Brooklyn, he suffered multiple injuries. Ankle, wrist, knee, ribs. You name it; he has had problems with it. One of the multitudes of reasons the Nets decided to give Williams $25 Million to play elsewhere was his booboo history.
A free agent, Williams chose to return to his hometown, Dallas, for a fresh start. New team, same old problems.
Not surprisingly, the 31-year-old is already dealing with afflictions in Dallas. Before training camp even started, the point guard strained his left calf. On media day, Coach Rick Carlisle was optimistic saying, “He may be a little bit limited at the very beginning of training camp, but he will participate some. It may take him a couple of days for him to get back up to speed.”
After taking almost two weeks off to rest, Williams injured his other calf before completing his first full practice with Dallas on October 9.
This past Sunday, Coach Rick Carlisle ruled out Williams for the remainder of the postseason. He also cast doubt in the point guard’s availability for the start of the regular season.
“He’s doing better, but he will not play in the exhibition games,” Carlisle said. “We’ll see if we can get him ready for the opener. It’s been a frustrating thing for him, but we’re making progress. We’ll get there. I just don’t have a timetable.”
Having no timetable is never a good thing. Whenever Williams can get in a full practice, it will be his first since signing with the Mavs. Not having a chance to participate in practice also puts the point guard in jeopardy of missing more than just one or two games. Even when he returns, Williams will likely be limited due to his unfamiliarity with the Dallas playbook.
Dallas picked up Williams with the hopes that a change of scenery would help him revert to the pre-2014 version of himself. From 2006-13, the point guard averaged 18.9 points and 9.7 assists. During that span, Williams still missed time. He lost an average of 7.7 games per year. Despite that, Williams still performed at an All-Star level, making three appearances in the annual exhibition game.
The last two seasons, however, Williams has seen the injuries not only affect his playing time but his performance as well. The myriad of maladies caught up to Williams as he started 58 and 55 games the last two seasons, respectively. The point guard production plummeted to an average 13.6 points and 6.4 assists. His shooting bottomed out last season to 38.7 percent from the field, a six-point drop from his career rate.
Working with Dallas’ award-winning training staff, the hope was Williams would be rejuvenated and find his stroke. Unfortunately, the staff is being maxed out with the number of injured Mavericks on the roster. Samuel Dalembert, JaVale McGee, Maurice Ndour, Chandler Parsons and Wesley Matthews are all sidelined with various ailments at the moment, with fellow starters Parsons and Matthews recovering from surgery and doubtful to start the season on time as well. Their absence combined with Williams’, will put pressure on a thin, inexperienced bench.
Lucky for Dallas, two veterans look to be in line to handle the extra minutes in the backcourt left by the Williams injury, Devin Harris and J.J. Barea.
The versatility of Harris is critical as he has played both point and shooting guard throughout his career. The plan for this season was for Harris to fill in for Matthews at the 2 while the former Blazer recovered from Achilles surgery. While that may still happen, the emergence of John Jenkins this preseason has provided the Mavs with more flexibility in the backcourt. Jenkins can fill in for Matthews while Harris slides over to be the floor general.
In his 11 year career, Harris has started over 475 games, averaging 14.3 points and 5.5 assists in those games. While the 32-year-old fits better at the two-spot this season, his extensive experience at the point could provide stability to the Mavs offense while Williams is out.
Even if Harris sticks at shooting guard until Matthews returns, the Mavs have a worthwhile replacement at the point, who has already earned Coach Carlisle’s trust. After the Carlisle-Rajon Rondo fallout in the playoffs, the Mavs coach turned to Barea as his replacement. The nine-year veteran put up 11.1 points and 10.3 assists per game in Games 3-5 vs. the Rockets.
Barea also played well when called upon during the regular season. Coming off the bench most of the year, Barea did get the starting nod in 10 regular season games. In those starts, Barea averaged 11.0 points, 4.6 assists, and 3.6 rebounds. The Mavs also went 6-4 with wins over Portland, New Orleans, Oklahoma City.
Even with the decent success of Barea and Harris as fill-in starters, they are exactly that, fill-ins. In no way, shape, or form do the Mavericks want to rely on them as long-term starters this season. For that not to happen, Williams needs to get healthy and quick.