NBA Sunday: Deron Won’t Commit to Nets
Deron Williams Refusal to Commit a Bad Sign
When the New Jersey Nets made the deal for Deron Williams, sending away a former All-Star point guard, a young prospect worthy of a top-three pick, and two first-rounders, they did it with the hopes that they’d finally gotten their franchise player. And in today’s NBA, where having a top-15 players means you’ve got a leg up in alluring a second top-15 player, nabbing D-Will was an absolute coup.
The problem is that the Nets aren’t particularly good outside of Williams and maybe Brook Lopez, and that could mean that Williams is the top-15 player being tempted to join up somewhere else, not the top-15 player doing the tempting.
"How can you commit to something you just got into? I just got here," Williams told the New York Daily News’s Stefan Bondy as part of a lengthy feature on the point guard. "I haven’t even been here a month. How can I just say I’m going to stay here? That’ll be great because that’s what people want to hear, but I can’t say that."
He’s adjusting to the idea of missing the playoffs—something he absolutely is not accustomed to doing.
"I like to win," he said. "When I looked, (the Nets) weren’t in the playoff picture. We were like nine games back. In Utah, we were in the eighth position. I was looking forward to a strong push."
But that push isn’t going to happen, especially considering Williams has missed five straight games with a wrist injury and doesn’t have any incentive to hurry back.
Furthermore, those aren’t particularly encouraging words for Nets fans, who had hoped that Williams would be the first in many big moves green-lighted by Mikhail Prokhorov. In fact, Williams is already commenting on the team’s lack of talent and his own desire to test the open market in 2012.
"I’m going to need some help. We’re going to need to get some other pieces," he said, adding, "I’ve never been a free agent so, I mean, at some point I’m probably going to become a free agent."
At least he’s not fence-sitting on how he feels about the Nets.
Of course, with the team headed for Brooklyn, a long-term future in New York might not be the worst career move for Williams, and despite everything else he’s said about wanting to test free agency and not being able to commit to a team with so little talent, he’s actually not opposed to the idea of eventually signing an extension.
"You can definitely tell their objective is to keep me here," Williams said. "I’ve had a lot of good conversations. I met with Dmitry Razumov (Prokhorov’s chief aide) and Mr. Prokhorov. They’re pretty much keeping me in the loop."
But in order to really consider staying with the franchise, Williams is going to have to see more big moves. Otherwise, there’s no telling what he might do when he’s given the opportunity to exercise his player option after next season.
The fact that he can’t just say, "I love it here" and "I can tell they’re going to build a winner and I want to be a part of it," is troubling. Those are the types of things Carmelo Anthony is saying in New York, so why can’t Deron say them in Jersey? Maybe if he had Stoudemire in his frontcourt, he’d feel differently, but the bottom is line is that Williams clearly is not enamored with his current franchise.
Prokhorov and Williams’s teammates have a little over a year to change his mind.
Are the Celtics Playing Possum?
A month ago, the Boston Celtics were pretty clearly the top team in the Eastern Conference, playing better than anybody expected considering the fact that literally all three of their centers were hurt and most of the rest of the roster was on the back nine of their careers.
Now it seems as though those problems have started to catch up with the Celtics, and with Rondo ailing and struggling, and the Kendrick Perkins trade not working out as well as Danny Ainge had hoped, Boston looks like a pretty average team as the postseason approaches. Of all the teams in playoff contention, only the New York Knicks have had a rougher last ten games
"We’ve just got to play better and act better and we’ll get there,” Rivers told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe. "I have no doubt about that, but we’re not there right now. It’s all mental.”
The Celtics have lost six of their last ten, the last two coming at the hands of short-handed teams in the Memphis Grizzlies and Charlotte Bobcats.
"These games aren’t lost because Shaq [O'Neal] and Jermaine [O'Neal] aren’t playing,” Ainge said. "The guys that are in uniform and playing, we have plenty to be winning games. I think everybody in that locker room will tell you we haven’t been playing as well as we’ve been capable of playing. Ultimately, our Big Four, when they play well, we win."
But they haven’t been winning, and that might be less frustrating if Chicago wasn’t blowing right by them for the top spot in the Eastern Conference and Miami weren’t only a half game away from sending the C’s to the three seed.
Both the Bulls and HEAT are in the midst of four-game winning streaks, and Chicago has lost only once in the last 13 games, and only three times since February 9th. Miami, meanwhile, has started to figure out how to get LeBron James and Dwyane Wade on the same page—something everybody was afraid they’d do just in time for the playoffs.
Even Orlando, who seems all but assured to start the postseason in the four slot, has won five in a row and 7-of-10. The only "elite" team in the conference that’s moving in the wrong direction is Boston.
Of course, we’ve seen this before from the Celtics. Last season, the team played dismally all the way up to the last day of the regular season, but when the playoffs started that group of veterans knew exactly how to turn it on and start creating headaches again.
This team is old and banged up, but no other roster in the conference knows how to win in the postseason like they do, and that’s what makes them so dangerous. Chicago may be the sexy pick to represent the East in the Finals right now, but we have to remember how different things get when the playoffs start.
Can the C’s just hit the "on" switch when the time comes like they did last year? That should be one of this postseason’s most interesting subplots.
Jared Sullinger Not Ready for NBA?
This summer’s draft class has already been pretty well-accepted as a weak one, and as the NCAA tournament winds down it seems like the pool of talent is getting nothing but shallower. Ohio State star freshman Jared Sullinger spoke pretty definitively after his team’s Sweet 16 loss to the Kentucky Wildcats that he would not be entering the NBA draft.
"I’m going to be an Ohio State Buckeye next year," Sullinger told ESPN.com’s Dana O’Neil. "This isn’t why I came here, to come in here and see my seniors in here crying. I came here to win a national championship."
While the mind of any 19-year-old could be changed with the millions to be had as a top-five pick in the draft, Sullinger swears he’s not just bitter about the loss. He really wants to come back to Columbus for his sophomore season.
"I’m a man of my word," he said. "I don’t change my word and no one changes it for me. This is what I want."
On Sunday, Sullinger tweeted, "Next year is going to be great," with the implication being that "next year" would be happening on the campus of Ohio State, not in Cleveland or Sacramento or Minnesota.
Sullinger’s coach, Thad Matta, believes that Sullinger is telling the truth because his star player has been saying all season that he wasn’t going to be a typical one-and-done freshman.
"He’s been telling me that all along," Matta said. "And I believe it. He told me, draw me up a contract, whatever you need to do. I believe him when he says it."
So what does this mean for the outlook of the draft? Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams are likely the top two prospects on the board along with Lithuanian big man Jonas Valenciunas, but beyond that things really drop off. Baylor’s Perry Jones, long considered a top-five prospect, has faced criticism on both personal and professional levels, but he would become the top power forward available and a sure-thing top-five pick.
There’s still time for Sullinger to put himself back into the mix, especially if he considers the possibility that his stock could fall in a year’s time, but it doesn’t seem like that’s something he wants to do.
Something similar happened with Joakim Noah, who probably would’ve been a top three pick in 2006 but went back to Florida to defend the national championship he’d just won. By waiting a year, he dropped to #9, but long-term that hasn’t seemed to hurt him. Noah is on the top team in the Eastern Conference and is signed to a pretty solid long-term contract.
If that’s the precedent, Sullinger might not have to feel bad at all about staying put. Unless he gets injured, of course. But he’s not worrying about that right now. He’s worrying about redeeming himself next season. Whatever happens to the draft as a result isn’t his responsibility.