SAN ANTONIO (AP) — All-Star Deron Williams had 14 points and 12 assists in his debut with the New Jersey Nets, but Manu Ginobili scored 26 to lead the San Antonio Spurs to a 106-96 victory Friday night.
Williams, dealt by the Utah Jazz on Wednesday in an unexpected blockbuster deal before the trade deadline, was 5 for 13 and played 41 minutes. He also helped the lowly Nets keep it interesting against the NBA’s best team.
Tony Parker had 13 points and 10 assists for the Spurs, who trailed at halftime. But San Antonio nearly doubled-up the Nets in the third quarter and improved to 27-2 at home.
Nets coach Avery Johnson said before the game they’d have to “wing it” in the first game with Williams, who New Jersey wants to make the long-term face of their franchise. Williams has made no commitment beyond 2012, when he can opt out of his contract. But for now, he provided unusual buzz for a game involving the 17-win Nets.
Owner Mikhail Prokhorov even flew to Texas to see his new star, three days after New Jersey acquired Williams in a trade with Utah that none saw coming.
Anthony Morrow led the Nets with 25 points.
New Jersey shipped point guard Devin Harris, rookie forward Derrick Favors, the No. 3 pick overall in the draft; two first-round draft picks and $3 million in cash for Williams, who had spent all six of his NBA seasons with the Jazz.
DeJuan Blair and Tim Duncan had 17 points apiece for the Spurs, who also seemed eager to see Williams in town for his first NBA game with a team other than the Jazz.
Parker took him to lunch before the game at an Italian restaurant, and Williams chatted before tipoff with Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who had Williams on his bench during the All-Star game last weekend.
The NBA’s third-leading assist man didn’t look as comfortable once the game started. Williams missed four of his first five shots and weathered the expected handful of broken plays, like a bounce pass Brook Lopez didn’t see coming and skipped untouched to the scorer’s table.
Williams headlined the 13th different Nets starting lineup, which also included rookie forward Damion James, who played for the first time since Dec. 9 after breaking his right foot.
James, making his second career start, finished with seven points and four rebounds in 20 minutes.
“We just got to try a a couple things. We only have 25 games left,” Johnson said. “The lineup you see tonight may not be the one you’ll see tomorrow night or in London. But hopefully we’ll settle on something.”
The Nets play at Houston on Saturday and host Phoenix on Monday before playing two games against Toronto in London.
The Spurs (48-10) moved within two wins of tying their number of victories from last year, during what is so far San Antonio’s best regular season in franchise history. Notes: Rookie Spurs F Gary Neal didn’t play after feeling headaches and sensitivity to light following the morning shootaround. Neal banged his head hard on the baseline in Wednesday’s win over Oklahoma City but still returned to finish that game … The Nets haven’t won in San Antonio since 2002 (nine games).
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)