May in Jazzland involves waiting for the NBA’s draft lottery, wondering about the team’s coaching search and rejoicing in Deron Williams’ struggles.
Not necessarily in that order.
Williams’ scoreless production in Game 2 of Brooklyn’s playoff series with Miami was the source of considerable glee in Utah. That’s understandable to some degree, because his troubles serve to lower the level of trader’s remorse and delight those who will always blame him for Jerry Sloan’s departure from the Jazz bench.
Sorry to spoil the fun, but cheering against D-Will is not going to make the Jazz win a playoff game any sooner.
And he responded well in Saturday night’s Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals in Brooklyn, as the Nets took a 104-90 victory. Williams shot poorly again, but otherwise played solidly with 11 assists.
Brooklyn’s performance was impressive, coming after two losses in Miami that followed a seven-game battle with Toronto — the franchise’s first series victory since Williams’ arrival.
The Jazz have gone four years without winning any playoff game, since Williams helped deliver a clinching, Game 6 victory over Denver in a 2010 first-round series. The Jazz were swept by the Los Angeles Lakers in the next round, Williams was traded to the Nets the following February, and the team’s rebuilding project presumably reached its bottoming-out point this season.
In dealing D-Will, the Jazz have netted Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Marvin Williams (via a trade for Devin Harris) and "half of Trey Burke," to use general manager Dennis Lindsey’s expression, after the team used another draft pick in moving up to take Burke last June.
That sounds like a nice return for Williams — the kind of trade a team might make even without the concerns about being able to re-sign him. And the deal appears more favorable, amid Williams’ playoff inconsistency and inability to elevate the Nets as the face of the franchise.
The problem is there’s no way the Jazz can say they’ve benefited by subtracting Williams. Only if some combination of Favors, Kanter and Burke rise to an All-Star level will the trade genuinely have a lasting, powerful impact.
There’s a difference between a lack of lament and a true gain. The Jazz are not at that point yet.
Portland already can celebrate having profited from a Nets trade, landing former Weber State star Damian Lillard with a draft pick after trading Gerald Wallace. But the Jazz are lumped in a future category with Boston, which last summer sent Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry to Brooklyn, primarily for three first-round picks.
The Celtics’ payoff is coming. Boston executive Danny Ainge is appearing shrewd because Garnett is looking too old to be of much value, although he performed better Saturday.
So did Williams, after his 0-for-9 shooting in Thursday’s Game 2 was costly. Considering how the Nets were within two points in the last four minutes, any scoring contribution at all from a player with a $100 million contract might have enabled them to win that game.
Fans and the media already had ripped him during the series vs. Toronto, which he helped the Nets salvage. Williams bounced back again in Game 3 against the Heat, as Brooklyn showed signs of making this a competitive series.
There’s not much chance of the Nets actually advancing to the East finals, which will keep Jazz fans from having regrets about the past. But hoping Brooklyn loses won’t necessarily make the Jazz’s future any better. That part is strictly up to them.
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