DALLAS — Deron Williams had been through this before: the dreaded first game against his old team.
It was Jan. 14, 2012, and Williams returned to Utah as a member of the Nets to face the Jazz. It was emotional for Williams, who started his NBA career with the Jazz, and he shot only 3-for-15 as the Nets lost.
Fast-forward to Friday night. Williams played in his first game against the Nets after being unceremoniously bought out by the team in the offseason and signing with Dallas.
Williams shot poorly Friday, too, just 3-for-14 and scoring eight points with six assists. But his team won this reunion as Dallas led throughout in a 91-79 victory.
Chandler Parsons had 19 points and 10 rebounds for Dallas, which overcame a quiet night from Dirk Nowitzki (12 points). Zaza Pachulia added 16 points and 12 rebounds for the Mavs.
Brook Lopez led the Nets with 28 points and 12 rebounds. The other starters all scored in double figures, but the Nets received two points from their bench — a fourth-quarter basket by Andrea Bargnani.
Williams was injured when the Mavs visited Brooklyn on Dec. 23. That was fitting, since injuries marred Williams’ time with the Nets after he signed a $98.5-million contract extension following his Feb. 23, 2011, trade from Utah.
Williams’ arrival with the Nets was part of what the organization hoped would become a push to NBA supremacy. It didn’t quite work out that way and now the Nets are without a general manager and full-time coach after the firings of Billy King and Lionel Hollins.
Williams was emotional when he went back to Utah. Probably not so much Friday as the 31-year-old point guard surveyed the wreckage of his former franchise.
“I figured they’d be a lot better,” Williams said. “But I know they’ve struggled with some injuries and things like that that have definitely hurt them, and the coaching change and Billy getting let go, so there’s a lot of things going on over there right now.
“I was a little surprised, because Lionel’s only been there a year and a half. I thought he’d get a little bit more of a chance, but that’s the nature of this business. You see how things are going around the league, not just there. You look at David Blatt got fired and he was supposed to be coaching the All-Star Game, so it’s just the nature of this business.”
Williams’ unhappiness in New York and with the Nets was well-known and well-chronicled. Some players can tune out the constant swarm of change and attention. Some can’t.
“It’s definitely tough,” Williams said. “Every year you’re learning a new system, a new philosophy on offense, on defense, players are being cycled in and out on top of that. It makes chemistry tough, it makes consistency tough. When there’s that much change going on, it definitely affects you.”
Williams went into Friday averaging 14 points and 5.5 assists for Dallas. Including Friday, he has played in 41 of the Mavs’ 50 games.
He’s healthier, and he’s happier, in Big D.
“I think it’s just been a good situation for me,” he said. “Top-to-bottom, the organization’s been really great, and the coaching staff and players, it’s been a situation where I just feel like I’ve come in and fit really nicely. I think the system, it definitely fits my style. It’s a little more free-flowing, a little more movement on offense and they put me in a lot of great positions on the court offensively.”