Orlando, Fla. • A year ago, Deron Williams was in the middle of a storm. Jazz coach Jerry Sloan had recently resigned. Utah was falling apart. Williams was deflecting national rumors about his desire to trade Salt Lake City for New York.
Sunday, D-Will found temporary peace on the court. Despite missing a potential game-winning 3-pointer with 8.9 seconds to go during the Western Conference’s 152-149 win in the 2012 NBA All-Star game at Amway Center, Williams teamed with Miami’s LeBron James to key the Eastern Conference’s near-comeback. The ex-Jazz point guard drilled 8 of his 11 field-goal attempts, hit 4 of 7 3-pointers, and finished with 20 points in just 18 minutes and 8 seconds.
It was classic D-Will, and the magic took place on a worldwide stage.
“That’s what this weekend is about. Just in general, the weekend is about the fans,” Williams said. “That what coach [Tom Thibodeau] said: The fans come out to see the best players in the world playing on one court. And it means a lot to me. I love coming and being a part of All-Star weekend every year.”
The New Jersey guard is now linked to constant rumors involving Orlando’s Dwight Howard, and he acknowledged it’s impossible to tune out the noise.
“It’s part of the game. It’s part of our job. Trades happen,” Williams said.
What can the Nets do to keep Williams around?
“Improve,” he said. “I don’t know if we’re going to do it right now.”
Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant’s record night didn’t come without a price.
Bryant entered the game in fourth place on the NBA’s all-time career scoring list in All-Star games. By the time he’d poured in 27 on the way to passing Michael Jordan for first place, ending with 271 points, Bryant had risen above legends such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson.
But while Bryant’s fast-break slam with 4:57 left in the third quarter set the mark, an in-game collision with Miami’s Dwyane Wade also left an impression. Bryant suffered a bloody nose due to the blow, and he suffered postgame headaches severe enough to prevent him from speaking with the media.
Howard spent All-Star weekend deflecting talk about his uncertain future and trying to enjoy the hometown spotlight. But Superman forgot his cape Sunday.
Howard was held to nine points in 31:10, and even his co-game high 10 rebounds lacked their normal punch.
Howard appeared tired and mentally unfocused during the contest. But he said the city and its fans were “on fire” during All-Star festivities, and he credited the people who want to keep him around with temporarily lifting the weight off his shoulders.
“I haven’t seen the city like this since the [2009 NBA] Finals, so it was great to see,” Howard said.