So seeing more black-and-white than blue-and-orange in the stands on Monday night at the sold-out Barclays Center was certainly different.
A lot different.
“It was just a total 180 from what we saw last year (in New Jersey), when it was mostly Knicks fans,” Williams said after the Nets struck first in the East River rivalry with a 96-89 overtime victory over the Knicks on Monday night. “All the chants and all the cheers were for them. It’s great to feel that we have that home-court advantage finally.”
Ever since he signed a five-year, $98 million contract to remain in Brooklyn, D-Will has tried to stay away from fueling New York’s fire, preferring to let his play do the talking. So it came as no surprise that he downplayed the significance of this particular early-season victory after posting his team-leading sixth double-double of the season (16 points and a season-high 14 assists) to go along with six rebounds and three steals.
“It’s one game. It’s a good win for us, but we still have to play them three more times, and maybe in the playoffs. We can’t just be excited like we won the championship,” Williams said. “We didn’t win the championship of New York. We won a game against a division rival and it was a great win for us. That’s about it.”
Still, D-Will couldn’t deny that one of the reasons he decided to stay with the Nets was to play in a raucous environment like this one with city bragging rights on the line.
“This was what (the organization) talked about (when they were trying to convince me to stay). I think this is what they visualized was games like this,” he said. “This was a playoff-type atmosphere. You could definitely feel it on the court, and it was a great game to be a part of.”
D-Will didn’t shoot well (6-for-17) again -- he revealed he’s been playing through a sprained joint in his right shooting wrist -- but made the plays required of a franchise point guard in crunch time that allowed his team to prevail.
“Deron is a big stage player,” Nets coach Avery Johnson said. “He really dominated the game. I thought his pick-and-roll coverages were good, good assists, on-time and on-target passes. You know Deron did an outstanding job.”
The Nets (9-4) haven’t been in first place this late in the season since Jan. 30, 2007, when they were tied with the Toronto Raptors at 22-23.
As for Williams?
“I’ve never been in first place in the division, that’s for sure, since (my days with the Utah Jazz),” he said. “We’re riding high now, but we have a Boston team that’s probably looking for payback (on Wednesday night) from the game we played them here.”
Johnson said after the game that “this was what we have been dreaming about since I have been here.”
D-Will didn’t say as much. But he didn’t need to after the “BROOK-LYN!” chants, the “M-V-P!” chants and beating the Knicks.
After all the losing he endured in the Garden State -- this was worth it.