Deron Williams is more than just the Nets' leader. He became the centerpiece of the team's rebranding campaign since agreeing to stay with the organization for $98.7 over five years instead of returning home to Dallas. His intention, like the rest of the Nets, is to rule New York basketball and perhaps one day the NBA.
I liked the attitude Brooklyn Nets point guard Deron Williams showed late in an otherwise meaningless preseason game against the Washington Wizards, the team's first since moving to Kings County. What made the night significant was that it was Nets' first game in their new Barclays Center home and how Brooklyn's floor general made it clear he wasn't putting up with any nonsense.
Williams nearly got into an altercation with Wizards reserve A.J. Price in the fourth quarter, which didn't stop Price from starting the trash talk. Price, who played high school ball in Amityville, N.Y., and had a collection of family and friends in attendance, kept telling Williams, "I'm home." Williams didn't let boys be boys. He ripped Price after the game. The message sent was, not in our house.
"I hate when people just start talking for no reason," Williams said. "That's pretty much what he did. Maybe he had some boys in the crowd he wanted to improve while he can with the limited minutes he's going to get this year. [I told him] it's my home now."
The Nets had a brief flash of life without arguably their most indispensable player on Friday when the team announced Williams received an injection for an inflamed tissue in his left ankle. Williams will miss two days of practice, but will return next week according to head coach Avery Johnson. D-Will is more than just the Nets' leader. He became the centerpiece of the team's rebranding campaign since agreeing to stay with the organization for $98.7 over five years instead of returning home to Dallas. His intention, like the rest of the Nets, is to rule New York basketball and perhaps one day the NBA.
The first step was not taking any flak from a bit player. The second was to declare that anybody on the court not wearing Jay Z's fresh black-and-white color scheme aren't his friends. That includes New York Knicks players Ronnie Brewer (from Williams' Utah Jazz days), Iman Shumpert (a high-school attendee of Williams' basketball camp), Team USA teammate Tyson Chandler, and close buddy Jason Kidd.
"Come November 1 (the Nets' season opener vs. the Knicks in Brooklyn), we'll be ready for them," Williams said. "They're not my friends anymore."
The Knicks were the object of Long Island's affection on Wednesday during a preseason game with a postseason atmosphere. Williams knows more Knicks fans will sneak into the Barclays Center next Thursday, but is also confident Brooklynites will this time dominate the decibel war. Early in training camp, Williams requested Nets fans to chat "Brooklyn" slowly and deliberately during games, which he first heard while playing the Philadelphia 76ers in Atlantic City.
"I like that ‘Brooklyn' chant," Williams said. "Hopefully that's a motto this year. That was only 2,000 fans (in Atlantic City). Imagine 18,000."
Any Knicks-to-Nets conversion won't happen overnight, but Williams is giving good reasons to jump on board, the biggest emerging as a leader in the heat of battle and the Big Apple turf war.
Follow Jon Lane on Twitter: @JonLaneNYC