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Strained right wrist hampers Williams in debut

New Jersey Nets point guard Deron Williams re-aggravated the strained tendon in his right wrist during the first quarter of his new team’s 106-96 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Friday night at the AT&T Center. He briefly came out of the game, but returned midway through the second quarter.

“It’s been hurt for a month and a half now,” Williams said during an interview on the YES Network’s postgame show. “I pushed it [while driving to the basket and making contact with Manu Ginobli late in the first quarter]. It’s gonna hurt until I rest it.”

Williams, who scored 14 points on 5-for-13 shooting and added a game-high 12 assists in his debut with the Nets after being acquired by the Utah Jazz in a blockbuster trade Wednesday, missed four games in late January/early February after straining his right wrist on Jan. 26 against the Spurs.

He underwent an MRI at the time (and also during his physical post-trade), but the results came back negative, and Williams was listed as day-to-day. He returned to action on Feb. 4, but has shot just 39.8 percent from the floor since. For his career, Williams is a 46.6 percent field goal shooter.

“I haven’t shot well since I injured my wrist the first game against San Antonio,” said Williams, who also went 0-for-3 from 3-point range and 4-for-6 from the free throw stripe in 41 minutes. “I haven’t been confident in it. I keep tweaking it. I did it in the All-Star Game, and I did it again today.”

Williams missed his first four shots from the field on Saturday night, and didn’t make his first one until there were 2:00 remaining in the second quarter. Williams went 1-for-5 in the first half, but scored 11 of his 14 points after the intermission, including eight in the fourth quarter.

“It was great to have Deron out there playing with our team,” head coach Avery Johnson said. “Just the way he runs the ball club, his positive energy. He tweaked his wrist out there and felt the affects of it. He just didn’t have his shooting touch.”

Williams seemed tentative early on, preferring to get his teammates involved. But the Nets seemed out of sync, misfiring on 13 of their first 16 shots as the Spurs opened up an 11-point lead.

Eventually, however, Williams began rediscovering the chemistry he had with former Jazz teammate Kris Humphries, and the two began working the pick and pop game to perfection.

“He definitely got me a lot of good looks,” Humphries said. It’s been six years since I’ve played with him. None of these other guys have played with him. It’s gonna have to take a little time to get used to his tendencies. But we were getting things going in the pick and roll and he was hitting me in the pocket.”

The Nets (17-41) held a 54-53 lead at the half, but ended up being outscored 35-18 by the Spurs in the third quarter. They cut a 16-point deficit to just seven in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t get any closer.

“We still have a lot of work to do,” Johnson said. “We’re a 17-win team for a reason. But [Deron’s] a winner. A very successful player. We’re just trying to learn from him. He’s done a great job at helping forwards that he’s played with become the best they can be. I just wanna grow with him.”

Rookie small forward Damion James, who returned to the lineup after missing the last 40 games with a broken right foot, was impressed with Williams’ gutsy effort.

“That’s why he’s an All-Star,” James said. “We know how much he means to this team. He doesn’t wanna wimp it out. He’s an unbelievable player.”