But as we look toward the future, it’s easy to wonder: Should we finally be tempering our expectations for this max player, when max players are, for the most part, what win NBA championships?
It’s unfortunate that it’s come to this.
When the Nets acquired Williams in a blockbuster trade in February of 2011, he was one of the top 10 players in the NBA. But injuries have hampered him ever since.
His ankles began bothering him during the 2012 Olympics, and the problem hasn’t gone away. In the past two seasons, Williams has racked up more cortisone/PRP/anti-inflammation injections (unofficially 14) than he has dunks (10).
He has expressed frustration on numerous occasions, the most memorable time back in May of 2013, when Williams said it would take him 10 minutes to get up his stairs sometimes. Injuries have certainly taken a toll on him mentally, affecting his once rock-solid confidence, which has pretty much been reduced to rubble.
Fans got a brief glimpse of the Williams of old during the second half of the 2012-13 campaign -- especially when he threw down a reverse slam in Game 1 of the playoffs. But despite believing back in November of 2012 that he’d need surgery the upcoming summer, it never happened. Doctors said it didn’t need to.
His ankle issues were supposed to be over.
But they weren’t, and 2013-14 was more of the same. Williams was great on some nights, but he was mostly ordinary throughout, and the Nets didn’t pay $98 million for ordinary. They certainly didn’t pay $98 million for their franchise player to go scoreless in a must-win postseason game against the two-time defending champion Miami Heat. But that’s exactly what happened.
And so we find ourselves here, his surgery set for Tuesday, wondering what the future holds for a franchise point guard with what will be two surgically-repaired ankles and three years and $63.1 million remaining on his contract.
At this point, it seems unreasonable to consider Williams a franchise player, even though he’s being paid like one -- which is a huge problem for the Nets, something they never could’ve imagined.
Williams turns 30 over the summer. Both parties could use a fresh start, but what would be a reasonable return for him? Would a team be willing to sacrifice future assets to take a chance on him?
Williams’ quotes last Thursday pretty much say it all.
“I feel like I've kind of let people down, so I don't like feeling like that,” Williams said. “I used to step on the court and feel like I was the best player no matter who I played against, so I gotta get back to that. Even if I'm not the best player on the court, I gotta feel like I am.”
Getting surgery will certainly help. But how much? What can be expected from Williams moving forward? Or maybe better yet: What should be expected from him moving forward? And what is fair to expect?
What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments section below.