By Steve Lichtenstein
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So much for certain members of the Nets faithful showing any love to star point guard Deron Williams, as I heard that ridiculous cry several times while sitting inside the Barclays Center during Wednesday night’s 119-108 victory over Denver.
The problem was that Williams was also a spectator, adorning a suit and tie instead of his usual No. 8 jersey for a second straight game, both of which the Nets won. Thus the faulty “logic,” common among sports fans, which posits: “A followed B. Therefore, B caused A.”
Brooklyn general manager Billy King, who was also looking spiffy, watching intently with only one week left to improve his inconsistent roster via a trade, knows better and need not acquiesce to those few fans’ demands.
But I hope this Nets’ mini-run as they head into the All Star break doesn’t stop King from continuing his due diligence on other fronts.
For the Nets should feel extraordinarily fortunate about these recent results, which moved them into fourth place in the Eastern Conference at 31-22.
With Williams out for the two games while receiving injections to relieve inflammation in both his ankles, the Nets received some unexpected production from the understudies.
During the Nets’ 89-84 overtime win at Indiana on Monday, second-string guard C.J. Watson struggled (1 point on 0-for-7 from the floor) and was benched in favor of rookie Tyshawn Taylor.
Taylor saved the Nets’ bacon (in so ugly a game that NBA marketing execs are likely dreading a sequel in April) by converting two “shots” in the overtime.
The first was more of a throw from about 20 feet as the shot clock was about to expire and then, on the following possession, Taylor’s banked in a double-clutch prayer in the paint to give the Nets the lead they would preserve with free throws.
Of course, Taylor was not as successful in his own playground last night, converting on just two of five attempts.
But Watson, as well as shooting guard Joe Johnson, happened to be scorching from beyond the three-point line against exhausted Denver, who was finishing off a four-game road trip in five nights and was missing starters Andre Iguodala and Danilo Gallinari due to injuries.
Watson (25 points and six assists) and Johnson (26 points and nine assists) combined to make 63 percent of their treys. As a team, the Nets shot 59 percent from three-point land.
Much of that success has to be attributed to Denver’s wretched perimeter defense, for it’s been ragged long-range shooting that had King overheating the telephone lines looking for offense in the first place.
The Nets entered last night 22nd in the league in that category, which Is why it was leaked that Charlotte shooting guard Ben Gordon was the focus of King’s initial inquiry.
Lately it’s been rumored that King was looking to upgrade the power forward position. Atlanta’s Josh Smith, Utah’s Paul Millsap and Chicago’s Carlos Boozer have all been mentioned as targets, but I have to believe it would take more than Nets subs Kris Humphries and MarShon Brooks to land a player of such caliber.
Still, the biggest mistake King could make is to do nothing and let this group enter the playoffs with glaring flaws.
Not that he should make a trade, “just to make a trade,” as King described it, which is what all GMs say when they don’t get anything done. Regardless of last night’s aberration, the Nets won’t go far without better three-point shooting. And the Nets won’t have to play offense four-on-five (three-on-five when Keith Bogans is on the floor) if they can land a power forward with better scoring ability than incumbents Reggie Evans and Humphries.
The good news is that the two wins enable King to negotiate from a stronger position, even if the Nets’ excess assets are not all that inspiring to the rest of the NBA.
Humphries shows glimpses of regaining some of the form that made him a double-double player a year ago, but is frustratingly inconsistent. Humphries contributed 14 points and 6 rebounds in 20 minutes coming off the bench last night after a nearly-invisible five-minute cameo in Indiana.
Ironically, Humphries’ greatest value will occur after the season due to an extravagant $12 million salary that expires after 2013-14.
Brooks is even more of an enigma, with the ability to make breathtaking plays but also a habit of following those up with rec-level follies.
Which means that King will have to be a little more creative if he wants to make a move that will yield the required impact.
To reiterate, in no way will that involve Williams, the franchise centerpiece who re-signed last summer for nearly $100 over five years.
Despite his disappointing numbers this season, much of which could be attributed to a litany of injuries, Williams is a proven horse with all the relevant skills you’d want in a lead guard.
Those that want Williams out are the same knuckleheads who think the Celtics should jettison Rajon Rondo just because his injury was followed by a seven-game winning streak.
With that contract, King married Williams for better or worse. King will have to look elsewhere to make a deal that comes up roses.
For a FAN’s perspective of the Nets, Jets and the NHL, follow Steve on Twitter @SteveLichtenst1.
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