So there's a lot of concern about Deron Williams coming back.
The Brooklyn Nets' hope, GM Billy King said during a recent radio interview, is that their franchise point guard returns as early as Monday, when the team faces the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
Williams has missed five games since having his second cortisone shot/PRP injection combo in both ankles in as many seasons. He has already missed 16 games this season due to a variety of ankle injuries.
The Nets (16-22), of course, have been on a hot streak lately, having won six of their last seven games.
I detailed their offensive resurgence in Friday's Starting Five blog.
Since going small -- moving Shaun Livingston into the starting lineup, Paul Pierce to power forward and Kevin Garnett (reluctantly) to center -- the Nets have been able to exploit matchups and dictate pace.
Basically, with Williams out, they haven't lost a beat, and the Livingston-Alan Anderson-Joe Johnson-Pierce-Garnett lineup has been quite effective. So effective, in fact, that since Jan. 2, only the Los Angeles Clippers' five-man lineup of Darren Collison, Jamal Crawford, Jared Dudley, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan has a better net rating (minimum 50 minutes played together).
Livingston-Anderson-Johnson-Pierce-Garnett: plus-21.1 points per 100 possessions in 53 minutes (five games, 102.2 offensive rating, 81.1 defensive rating)
Collison-Crawford-Dudley-Griffin-Jordan: plus-27.9 points per 100 possessions in 67 minutes (five games, 119.8, 91.9).
This all leaves many to wonder: Is Williams going to screw this whole thing up? Are the Nets going to regress?
The answer is simple: We don't know.
What we do know, however, is this: 1. Williams was averaging 25 points on 63 in his last two games before getting hurt and 2. He was rejuvenated after getting the cortisone/PRP combo last season.
Fact is, this whole hot streak doesn't start without Williams.
The Nets were down 10 in Oklahoma City with 6:54 remaining. The 14-0 run that followed -- capped by D-Will's 3-pointer and tough fadeaway jumper -- was basically the best stretch of basketball they've played all season.
Williams was at his best that night, scoring a season-high 29 points, dishing out four assists and swiping a season-high five steals in 41 minutes. This coming shortly after he revealed he was playing through an injury, without disclosing what it was.
Throughout the course of the season, Williams leads the team in on-court net efficiency rating (plus-2.2 points per 100 possessions).
Williams on court ratings: 105.6 offensive, 103.4 defensive
Williams off court ratings: 100.9 offensive, 107.1 defensive
Williams, since the New Year, also played well in a small sample size (17 minutes over one game) with Livingston, Johnson, Pierce and Garnett, putting up a 50.6 net rating (109.1 offensive, 58.5 defensive), so that group has excelled together.
Again, we have no clue if Williams is going to be the same guy that averaged 22.9 points and 8.0 assists on 48.1 percent shooting in the final 28 regular season games after he had the procedure last season.
But, assuming he's healthy or close to it, the stats above seem to indicate that Williams isn't going to screw everything up. A rejuvenated Garnett and Pierce should still be a rejuvenated Garnett and Pierce, you'd think, anyway.
Now, the question of why he didn't have surgery in the offseason after being diagnosed with bone spurs before the 2012-13 campaign? Well, that's another story, and perhaps something Williams will be able to answer, assuming he practices Sunday.