Newark, N.J. • By the end, there were boos. Heckling mixed in with callouts. A meaningless last six minutes punctuated with a fan yelling that Dirk Nowitzki is waiting in Dallas.
This is Deron Williams’ NBA life 13 months after being traded by the Jazz.
The former face of Utah’s franchise was part of another professional embarrassment Monday during the Jazz’s 105-84 victory at the Prudential Center.
Just 10,310 fans were announced, and the mark was generous.
The only time Williams looked like D-Will came during the third and early fourth quarter, when the Nets (16-35) finally started caring, erasing a 17-point halftime deficit to pull within 72-69 after the All-Star point guard sank an 11-foot turnaround jumper with 11:02 to go.
It was as close as Utah (27-23) allowed New Jersey to get, and as good as Williams looked.
The man who owned Salt Lake City finished with 17 points, a co-game-high 11 assists and four rebounds in 40:18.
Occasionally he was slick, smooth and cool. Williams tossed off brilliant no-look passes, burned Devin Harris a couple of times and collected 10 points and five assists during the third quarter alone.
At his sharpest, Williams drew “oohs” and “aahs” — perfect reminders about why the increasingly shaky Nets gambled their future on Feb. 23, 2010, trading Harris, Derrick Favors, the rights to a 2011 first-round pick that eventually became Enes Kanter, a 2012 first-round selection and $3 million in cash just in the hope D-Will will stick around.
But for 22 of Williams’ 40 minutes Monday, he looked lost and uncomfortable. Stuck on a horrible team. Surrounded by little talent. Forced to play out the string during a lockout-shortened season that’s only 15 games away from being over.
How Williams’ world has changed.
While a resilient Utah squad fights for a Western Conference playoff spot, D-Will is stuck in no-man’s-land. An Olympic presence temporarily wasting away in Newark. Less than four months away from either relocating to Brooklyn or making a career-changing decision that’ll take his talents to some new, pricey promised land.
But all that mattered Monday were the numbers and the facts.
During two games against the Jazz this season, Williams is just 10 of 36 from the field with 10 turnovers and two losses.
Utah? Four games over .500, winners of seven of eight, only getting better. And after falling in quadruple-overtime to Atlanta during a heartbreaker Sunday, the Jazz again used their depth and youth to overcome the opposition.
“They’re playing really well. … I feel like they’re going to make the playoffs,” Williams said.
Thirteen months after Utah intentionally shipped away its biggest star since John Stockton and Karl Malone, New Jersey is dragging Williams down.
He was his upbeat old self before tipoff. D-Will joked with teammates, engaged a reporter and smiled wide while exchanging pleasantries with and shaking the hand of the man who traded him: Jazz General Manager Kevin O’Connor.
Then the game began. And Williams was again adrift.
Deron Williams vs. Jazz
Monday, Utah 105-84
FG 3pt Reb Ast TOs Pts.
7-21 1-7 4 11 5 17
Jan. 14, Utah 107-94
3-15 1-4 3 5 5 16