Can we give Deron Williams a break, please?
The Brooklyn Nets, going into yesterday's game losers of five straight, weren't in any position to look down their noses at a win.
So a struggle against a Toronto Raptors team dressing just nine players, missing two starters, and entering the game 4-18 on the season is beside the point. The Nets played well for essentially a quarter-plus and won, 94-88. Losing streak over.
"We'll take a win any way we can get it right now," Deron Williams said following the game. "It's good to get back on a winning track. It's something we needed in the worst way."
Williams, it must be said, wasn't great, at least by the standard he set for himself before this season. He had 12 points on 5-for-16 shooting, four assists and three turnovers in 38 minutes of play.
This isn't particularly surprising, though: Williams is playing through a ton of injuries.
What's more surprising is that coach Avery Johnson hasn't reduced his minutes any, let alone given him some time off to heal ahead of the months that constitute the N.B.A.'s marathon season.
Williams has a capable backup in C.J. Watson. And perhaps Watson's game on Wednesday night will force Johnson to consider more time-sharing between the two guards until Williams is healthier.
In 24 minutes, Watson scored 16 points, made all four of his threes, grabbed six rebounds and two steals, dished out three assists, and did not commit a turnover.
Over his last four games, Watson is shooting 11-for-22 overall, 8-for-13 from three-point range, with nine assists and no turnovers.
When both are healthy, Williams is a significantly better player than Watson. But only Watson is healthy right now.
So the question facing the Nets is this: just how much of an advantage is playing a compromised Deron Williams for them right now? There's no question it is a short-term move, with a long season and, presumably, the playoffs to follow.
The very essence of the team general manager Billy King built this summer was a roster filled with capable replacement parts, to weather things like injuries. That the Nets aren't taking advantage of this is hurting them now, and probably down the road as well.