BOSTON — The Nets travel north to play the final game of their six-game exhibition schedule Wednesday night against the Celtics, one in which most of their regulars will see little to no time on the floor. Nets coach Lionel Hollins even went so far as to say his goal for the game was simply for everyone on his team to “not be hurt” by the end of it.
Hollins ensured Deron Williams won't have any issues in the final preseason game, leaving him back in New York to rest, and confirming the main story to come out of the preseason for the Nets is the point guard looking like his old self again.
Monday's game against the 76ers in Brooklyn, in which Williams finished with 13 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals in 27 minutes, was just the latest sign he is feeling healthy and confident on the court after undergoing offseason surgery on both ankles following two seasons' worth of frustration because of ongoing problems with them.
“The fact that he is healthy has been the highlight,” Hollins said. “He's a good player, he's played well.
“For me, it's just the fact that he is healthy, that is able to move, he is able to push and attack. I am happy for him.”
This training camp was the first since Williams was traded to the Nets in 2011 that he entered both healthy and with a normal preseason schedule. His first camp was in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season, while he was slowed by ankle troubles each of the past two seasons.
But none of that was a problem for him this time around, as Williams entered camp healthy and in terrific shape, hoping to finally get back to the player considered to be one of the best — if not the best — point guards in the league during his Utah days, and who continued to impress in his early days with the Nets.
“I'm still getting there, I'm still getting my feet under me,” Williams said. “I've only been running since Sept. 1, so it's still getting there.
“It's still a process, there's still scar tissue in my ankles, and I'm just working through it. But I feel good, I feel a lot better than last year, so I just continue to get my lift back, game by game.”
Where Williams is physically likely will determine the ceiling for the Nets. With a system using many of the same motion principles from his days in Utah with plenty of offensive firepower around him, the stage is set for Williams to have the kind of season he and the Nets are hoping he still can.
And, if he does, this team could be in position to surprise in a packed middle class in the East.
In addition to Williams, Kevin Garnett and Markel Brown didn't make the trip, as they continue to fight a stomach virus. Brook Lopez also remained home as he will still be out for at least another few days — and likely will miss the season opener here next Wednesday — because of his right midfoot sprain.
Garnett has been sick since the Nets returned from China late last week, while Brown missed both Sunday's loss to Boston and Monday's win over Philadelphia after falling ill.
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