So far, so good for Williams' ankles

NEW YORK -- This is how Brooklyn Nets point guard Deron Williams set the tone for what was to come in Monday night’s home opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder:

On his team’s first offensive possession, Williams passed the ball to small forward Joe Johnson on the left wing and ran a UCLA cut off the left elbow toward the basket. Williams then curled back toward the right elbow, where he set a screen for center Brook Lopez. Thunder point guard Reggie Jackson, who was chasing Williams, got caught up amid the screening action, which allowed Williams to get free for an open catch-and-shoot 3-pointer from Johnson at the top of the key.

On his team’s next offensive possession, Williams ended up isolated with Jackson inside the 3-point arc. Williams used his left-to-right-hand crossover dribble to gain separation, then threw in a nice pump-fake to get Jackson in the air and draw a shooting foul. He knocked down the ensuing free throws.

The two possessions epitomized D-Will’s night: He looked as healthy as he has since the 2013 NBA playoffs and was able to make explosive movements without wondering whether his once-balky ankles would give out on him yet again. Williams finished with 17 points and nine assists in the Nets’ 116-85 rout of the Thunder at Barclays Center.

“I’m not thinking about it too much,” Williams said before the game when asked about his ankles. “Some days are better than others right now, I’m not going to lie. Some days it’s stiff, it’s sore. But they feel way better than last year, so that’s the most promising thing.

"Being able to play 40 minutes in two games and being able to walk is great, so as far as [a timetable is concerned], it’s a process.”

Williams is averaging 39 minutes per game through the first three games of the season. In his past two games, he’s amassed 15 assists to just two turnovers. He has hit all 15 of his free throw attempts. The Nets currently rank second in the NBA in offensive efficiency, dropping in 113.9 points per 100 possessions.

On Monday night, Williams was not wearing the tape on his right thumb and wrist that may have led to his starting the season 13-for-35 from the field. He connected on 4 of his 8 shots against the Thunder.

Bottom line: The Nets need Williams and center Brook Lopez (foot) to stay healthy throughout the course of the season. They are 57-44 with both players in the lineup, 67-90 otherwise.

Williams has called himself a “system player” in the past, and the system the Nets are running under new coach Lionel Hollins -- very similar to the flex/motion system he ran in Utah under Jerry Sloan -- suits the three-time All-Star’s skill set to perfection.

It’s a small sample size, but you get the feeling that if Williams stays healthy, he’ll have a big season.