Former Utah Jazz star Deron Williams has reached a crossroad in his sometimes spectacular, often injury-plagued NBA career.
Williams, who will be 30 next summer, is starting his ninth professional season. He’s beginning his third full year with the Brooklyn Nets, who play host to the winless Jazz on Tuesday night at Barclays Center.
With Brooklyn’s billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov spending over $180 million in salaries and luxury tax to build the supporting cast around him, Williams finds himself in the brightest of spotlights.
The Nets are expected to contend for a championship and Williams, armed with a five-year, $98 million contract he was given two years ago to keep him in Brooklyn, is their leader.
If the Nets falter, Williams will likely be held more accountable than anyone, including rookie coach Jason Kidd or anyone on the list of high-profile teammates.
After acquiring Jason Terry, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce from Boston and signing free agent Andrei Kirilenko last summer, Prokhorov told the New York Post, “I have done what I can. Now I think it is high time for the team to do the rest. ...
“When I bought the team, I promised to create a championship contender, a team worthy of Brooklyn, I’ll be proud when we win the championship.”
So far, the Nets have struggled.
Although it has defeated LeBron James and the reigning champion Miami Heat (101-100), Brooklyn has lost to Cleveland and Orlando.
Williams, who missed most of the preseason with an ankle injury, averages eight points and eight assists while playing restricted minutes (25.3).
Against Utah, Williams and the Nets must rebound from a difficult-to-explain 107-86 loss to the Magic.
“Man, it’s tough,” he told reporters. “We talked about it before the game. The win against Miami doesn’t mean anything if we come in here and lay an egg, and that’s what we did.
“These are tough games to get up for, but if we want to be one of the best teams in this league — the best team in this league when it’s all said and done — we’ve got to perform better in these situations.”
Of course, it’s been a turbulent 21/2 years for Williams.
After being taken by Utah with the No. 3 pick in the 2005 draft, Williams quickly made himself part of any best-point-guard-in-the-NBA discussion, earning multiple All-Star and Olympics team berths along the way.
Williams became a familiar face to all basketball fans, even though he played in one of the league’s smallest markets.
Midway through the 2010-11 season, however, Jerry Sloan abruptly resigned after 23 seasons as coach of the Jazz. He cited weariness, though public and private clashes with Williams contributed to his decision to walk away.
Two weeks later, the Jazz stunned everyone — Williams included — when they traded him to the Nets.
Amid the flurry of activity surrounding Sloan’s resignation, Utah management sought a long-term commitment from Williams, who was headed toward unrestricted free agency in the offseason.
When Williams failed to give the Jazz an indication he planned to return, they traded him rather than let their cornerstone player walk way without compensation.
Injuries have hindered Williams during his 2 1/2 seasons with the Nets, although he helped them win 49 games last season.
Brooklyn lost to short-handed Chicago in the first round of the playoffs, however. The quick exit triggered the massive — and expensive — roster overhaul.
Still, the Jazz have first-hand knowledge of Williams’ ability.
“I’ve seen him make play after play for himself,” coach Tyrone Corbin said. “He can get other guys involved, too. He can attack. He can come off and hit a three. He can post up a guy. ...
“A guy with that much talent, when he gets in the flow, everybody feeds off of it. He’s the kind of talent that can control the whole game.”
Jazz at Brooklyn
P At Barclays Center
Tipoff • 5:30 p.m.
TV • Root Sports
Radio • 1280-AM, 1600-AM, 97.5-FM
Records • Jazz 0-3; Nets 1-2
Last meeting • Jazz, 116-107 (March 30, 2013)
About the Jazz • They have won seven of their last eight games against the Nets, going back to 2008. ... G Alec Burks averages 18 points a game. ... F Gordon Hayward leads them in assists (5.0). ... They are only 15 of 61 from the 3-point line (.246). ... As a team, they make only 69 percent of their free throws.
About the Nets • This will be Jason Kidd’s home debut as head coach. He missed the first two games because of a suspension for an offseason DUI charge. ... They shot 38 percent and got to the foul line only 15 times in Sunday night’s 107-86 loss at Orlando. ... C Brook Lopez averages 18.3 points and 5.7 rebounds.
D-Will with Nets
Deron Willliams’ statistics since being traded by Utah to the Nets:
Year Games Minutes FG% 3% Points Rebounds Assists
2010-11 12 38.0 .349 .271 15.0 4.6 4.8
2011-12 55 36.3 .407 .336 21.0 3.3 8.7
2012-13 78 36.4 .440 .378 18.9 2.7 7.7
2013-14 3 25.3 .360 .333 8.0 2.7 8.0
Jazz road trip
All times MDT
Tuesday • at Brooklyn,5:30 p.m.
Wednesday • at Boston,5:30 p.m.
Friday • at Chicago, 6 p.m.
Saturday • at Toronto, 5 p.m.