Forgive us, golf insiders, for sharing this little secret with the rest of the world: Tiger Woods likes red shirts. He sports a brand new one, Nike swooshes swooshing, on the final day of every tournament, partly for good luck, but mostly because his opponents tend to bleed a lot. Red also looks pretty snappy underneath a green jacket, no matter how many times (four and counting) Woods wears that combination.
It was hardly the performance of a franchise player, but it was good enough, and if was not an aberration, a fleeting tease, never to be seen again in Brooklyn, then good enough should be good enough because maybe great should no longer be expected from Deron Williams.
But this Deron Williams, running the show with Jason Kidd’s mind, was every bit as important as those 15 3’s, every bit as important as keeping LeBron James out of the paint, every bit as important as the bench, to the Nets winning Game 3 over the Heat.
And it was every bit as important to the Nets trying to hold serve in Game 4 on Monday night and sending the series back to Miami all even.
In what was for all intents and purposes another Game 7 for the Nets, Barclays Center would have signed up for the Game 3 Deron Williams in Game 4 Monday night.
When Kidd was hired with zero-coaching experience, even skeptics acknowledged that if nothing else, it was certain to have a beneficial effect on Williams. And yet here we are, in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoffs, and the days of Williams being mentioned in the same sentence as Chris Paul remain a distant memory.
Given the friendship and bond between Kidd and Williams, given Kidd’s everlasting genius as a Hall of Fame point guard, the days of D-Will being disparaged as D-Won’t were supposed to be over.
There certainly couldn’t have been a better mentor to navigate Williams through the playoff wars than Kidd.
And then Kyle Lowry happened in the first round.
And then Game 2 happened in Miami.
When Deron Williams played 36 minutes and scored as many points as Kidd. Or Ian Eagle.
Not exactly the kind of bang Mikhail Prokhorov and Brooklyn were expecting for the owner’s $98 million bucks.
So when Williams dished out 11 assists in Game 3, when he showed up as the attacking facilitator who made the quick decisions and teammates better, it was, if nothing else, a moral victory worthy of ignoring a 3-for-11 shooting night that made him 3-for-20 in the previous two games.
“I realize if my shot’s not falling, I can impact the game in other ways and I’m going to do so,” he said.
So maybe it would be a good idea to lower the expectations for Williams, starting here and now.
Because maybe it is no longer realistic for us, for the Nets, to ask Williams to carry them past LeBron and the Heat. In truth, for whatever reason, Williams is that kind of player only every so often, and not nearly often enough.
Some of his decline can be attributed to his problematic ankles, and the cortisone injections and platelet-rich plasma therapy they have required. It may also be true that he has struggled under the pressure of living up to that contract, under a microscope in a city without pity. Maybe he isn’t mentally tough enough to be anything more than an enigma in this market. Maybe the window for him to be The Straw That Stirs The Drink has closed.
But if he could execute the game plan the way Kidd wants it executed, if he could move the ball faster than the Heat can rotate to it, if Mirza Teletovic and Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce could stay hot and knock down their 3’s, if Andray Blatche could be a force in the paint, if the Nets could play team defense and control the boards, if there truly was no fear of the Heat, if the Nets truly believe they can beat the Heat, then maybe there is a chance. Or maybe, in the end, there are too many ifs to knock off the two-time defending champs.
But Williams has offered little evidence that he can be a closer in the fourth quarter, or that he even wants the ball in his hands in the moments of truth. The swagger with which he entered the league has dissipated. Clyde Frazier might tell it to us this way: Shaking and baking has given way, too often, to aching and quaking. This was supposed to be his team, and his time.
Until proven otherwise, Game 3 Deron Williams will have to do.
Only four years ago, then-Bobcats coach Larry Brown was referring to Williams, then with the Jazz, when he said, “I don’t think there’s a better player in the league.” On the day Nets general manager Billy King acquired Williams, he said: “I feel Deron is the best point guard in the NBA.” After the Knicks acquired Carmelo Anthony, and the Nets landed Williams, then-GM Donnie Walsh kicked himself for not thinking that the Jazz might trade Williams. Then-Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni was rebuffed in his efforts to trade Anthony to the Nets for Williams.
How this mighty has fallen. Williams, good as gold as an Olympian, got back up in Game 3. But if you were asking him to stand as tall as he used to, starting with Game 4, you probably won’t like the answer.
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Byline: Patrick Mason
But the large crowds and big stage of the actual tournament made Campbell think about everything but his golf game, as he put too much pressure on himself, and didn’t play the way he wanted to. “Those two rounds, I shot a 90-90,” Campbell said of his 18-over each day. “The crowd and the realization that this was the state meet just got to me.” There was a par-5 that particularly stuck out, and still bothers him even as he prepares for a new season, his eyes scanning the Emerald Hill course Thursday. He carded an 11 on the hole. He knew it was mostly mental, but didn’t know how to get out of the rut.
Once the season ended, Campbell’s father bought him a book. It was titled, “Don’t Choke” written by golf legend Gary Player. Campbell knew that his skill allowed him to go out and have good rounds, but when he started to lose it on the course, he wasn’t mentally tough enough to battle through the hardships and rebound, leading to the high scores. Campbell read the entire book, which was filled with tips on how to perform in pressure situations. He enjoyed the read so much that he took to the internet and scoured its depths, in order to find passages from other golfers on how they handle pressure situations at majors and other tournaments. “I read a lot, so many books and stories about the mental game,” the senior left-handed golfer said. “Some from Phil Mickelson and some other guys.
That’s always been my struggle, the mental aspect of it.” Campbell, as one of two returning players from last year’s ninth-place state run with teammate Ryan Hurley, hopes to take those tips and his newfound mental toughness to the course this season, as Sterling will try to return to the state’s biggest stage. Hurley, likely the Golden Warriors’ top golfer, is expecting a strong year from Campbell and himself, and the two hope to lead a young group to state as seniors. At the varsity level, there isn’t a lot for strong players to learn swing-wise, and the two Golden Warriors seniors know that being able to be mentally strong and rebound from a tough hole will be the key to making another deep playoff run in a season that is more like a sprint than anything else.
Practice began Wednesday, and the postseason rounds begin in early October, leaving little time to work out any shortcomings. “Most of it’s mental and trusting yourself and your swing,” said Hurley, who carded a score in the low 30s during Wednesday’s practice. “There is no reason that all of the guys shouldn’t be under 45 all the time. It’s just between the ears. “Your swing can get more consistent, but just having the mental stability to push through is what it’s about. Especially when you’re playing well, if you think about not messing up, then that’s when it all falls apart.” The two have played in numerous tournaments over the summer months in hopes to be in mid-season form by the start of the season.
Hurley hit a lot of range balls over the summer and worked heavily on his short-game, often putting buckets of balls. Campbell worked on playing by himself. The senior said that he would always play better when a teammate was in his group, as he felt more relaxed.
But once tournaments and state came along, everything became serious, and he didn’t have that teammate to joke with as a pressure-release valve during the downtime. “The big one for me is to play good by myself,” he said. “When I focus and get serious, that’s when it gets to me, those bad holes. I’ve taken a big step this year in trying to relax and have fun.” Hurley’s improved short game and leader-of-the-team attitude, along with Campbell’s improved mental game, will be on display when Sterling opens its season against Rock Island Aug. 25 at its home course, Emerald Hill. Rock Island, usually a Class 3A team, will be a good early test for the Golden Warriors, who have high hopes for this season. “They have always been a strong team,” Sterling coach C.J. Wade said of Rock Island. “But we have the advantage of Emerald Hill, which is tricky to play.” The season also hopes to be a showcase for Hurley, who has aspirations of playing golf in college next season. “Knowing that I’m looking to play golf in college,” Hurley said, “I know this will be an important year for me. “You just have to keep level and work hard and take advantage of the things you can do to get better, and hopefully it all pays off.”
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