The Brooklyn Nets have already been quite active in advance of Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET trade deadline, dealing for Marcus Thornton and trying to deal for Jordan Hill in an effort to strengthen their bench scoring and rebounding.
But ultimately, the best move the Nets can hope to make by then is adding a healthy, rejuvenated Deron Williams for the stretch run.
A healthy, rejuvenated Deron Williams would certainly be a massive upgrade over the injured, struggling Deron Williams they’ve had for much of the last two seasons.
The good news for the Nets: On Wednesday night, in their first game following the All-Star break, Williams looked (mostly) healthy and rejuvenated, and ended up getting his first-ever victory over his former team at EnergySolutions Arena.
“It was great. I was 0-2 in this building, so it was good,” Williams told YES Network after scoring 19 points, dishing out seven assists and grabbing four rebounds in the Nets’ 105-99 victory over the Utah Jazz.
“It was good to get a win here, it feels really good.”
In 36 minutes, Williams, wearing a wrap on his right hand, shot just 6-for-15 from the field -- 2-for-7 from 3-point range -- but finished with only one turnover.
Williams, continually bothered by ankle injuries, was averaging 11.3 points and 4.5 assists on 36.6 percent shooting in four games prior to the break.
His confidence was waning, and he needed a rest just as much as anyone in order to clear his head.
“This is about as good as I’ve felt this year,” Williams told reporters in the morning. “I’m definitely happy with that and ready to go.”
Williams bookended a 10-1 fourth-quarter run with a long jumper and a 3-pointer after the Jazz had gotten within 89-88. He avoided a potential scare with 3:27 remaining when he got struck in the face by Alec Burks’s elbow. Williams told reporters he thought he’d broken his jaw, but he remained in the game.
Like Williams, Joe Johnson also looked much healthier, scoring 27 points, the first time he’s scored 20 or more points in nearly a month (Jan. 20). Johnson, who had been dealing with tendinitis in his right knee, had averaged just 10.2 points on 38.5 percent shooting in his previous 11 games.
“I don’t have the pain that I have when I bend down to go into my shot or make a move, so I felt a lot better,” Johnson told reporters, according to Newsday.
Johnson had nine of his points in the third quarter, as the Nets erased a 13-point deficit with a 20-4 run.
“Joe was Joe,” Nets coach Jason Kidd told reporters. “He was an All-Star tonight; we needed that.”
Brooklyn’s backcourt looked $40 million good, and the Nets turned it over a season-low seven times. Still, the addition of Thornton will only help, and they could certainly use Hill, given that they were outrebounded once again, this time 46-33.
“One of the reasons I came here was because of Reggie, to be able to play alongside him,” Garnett said, according to the Bergen Record.
Garnett, of course, understands it’s a business. And the Nets, who would have an NBA-record $211 payroll (including $105 in luxury-tax penalties) if they traded for Hill, are in the business of winning a championship.
Owner Mikhail Prokhorov has shown a willingness to spend as much as is humanly possible to achieve that goal.
But at the end of the day, for all the moves the Nets can make, the best one would be getting a healthy, rejuvenated Deron Williams.
And that’s exactly who they got on Wednesday night.