Under a new coach, Deron Williams plays like a new man

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Deron Williams. (NBA.com)
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It was striking to hear Brooklyn Nets' coach P.J. Carlesimo talk on Thursday about continuity from the Avery Johnson era, considering that Johnson was fired late last month and replaced by Carlesimo, triggering a significant change in the team's fortunes.

“The system is a very good system that Avery put in, that some of these guys have been running for a couple of years," Carlesimo told the New York Post Thursday. "I’m a big fan of that same continuity. I like less changes and more continuity."

It was Johnson's system that drew the public ire of Deron Williams shortly before Johnson was fired. 

But if the system is the same, the results are markedly different. The Nets are 6-1 under Carlesimo, driven largely by the play of Williams.

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Prior to Johnson's firing, Williams was shooting less than 40 percent from the field, less than 30 percent from three-point range. A career 45 percent shooter overall and just below 35 percent from three had ceased to be an efficient offensive option, too often settling for jump shots over dribble penetration. The resulting team offense suffered accordingly.

In his seven games under Carlesimo, his shooting touch has returned, with Williams at 45 percent overall and from three. He hasn't been penetrating as much as he did when when starring for the Utah Jazz, but he's been more effective when he has.

“Our system hasn’t changed much, our defensive principles haven’t really changed much," Williams said Thursday, by way of explaining. "It’s just how we practice and how we prepare is just a different style."

There may be something to what Williams said. For whatever reason, the Nets didn't seem to be giving Williams much time to rest in practice or games, despite a significant number of injuries. That's no longer the case.

“I’ve been doing a lot more treatment and being smarter about my minutes in practice and things like that," Williams said earlier this week. "I’m taking a lot less pounding, and I feel a lot better.”

In addition to some reduction in practice time, Williams has seen his minutes per game drop from 36.9 under Johnson to 34 under Carlesimo. Even that fails to fully account for the change, since it includes a 46-minute outing made necessary by a two-overtime game against the Washington Wizards. In his other six games under Carlesimo, Williams is averaging less than 32 minutes, or a drop of about 14 percent from his toll under Johnson.

It makes for a fascinating pair of approaches. Both Johnson and Carlesimo knew that the team's fortunes, and therefore their own, depended on how effective Deron Williams was, first and foremost.

For Johnson, that meant a maximum amount of Williams, with corresponding poor results. P.J. Carlesimo decided to try and get more production from Williams through a little less of him.

So far, the results are exactly what the Nets hoped for.