With Deron Williams hurt, Shaun Livingston proving his worth

Josh Newman, Field Reporter

NEW YORK – Deron Williams suffered a sprained right ankle and a bone bruise during a mid-September workout in Utah. The All-Star point guard was expected to be ready when training camp opened on Oct. 1, but that didn’t happen and now, Williams’ camp-long absence raises questions.

With the preseason winding down, if Williams does not play or even practice over the next week, is that going to be a major hindrance to a Nets team expected to contend in the Eastern Conference?

“We want to get everybody back healthy,” backup point guard Shaun Livingston told SNY.tv following the Nets’ 86-62 win over the Heat at Barclays Center. “We want Deron to be all-the-way healthy and obviously, we don’t want his injury to linger into the regular season.”

With Williams on the shelf, Livingston has started the first five preseason games and has proven to be a capable option if Williams cannot open the regular season on Oct. 30 in Cleveland. The ninth-year pro out of Peroria (IL) Central High School has been very solid, showing the ability to effectively quarterback a team without having to carry the load offensively with so many other options. Livingston’s best game this preseason was a 17-point, 9-rebound, 8-assist effort in a 127-97 win at the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday.

“That’s the beauty of a deep team,” Livingston said. “My job is to facilitate obviously and that’s what I feel like I’m the best at doing. At the same time, I have to stay aggressive in looking for my shots because that’s gonna open up passing lanes as well as the offense.”

The Nets appear at least comfortable with Livingston if Williams can’t go, but at some point, Williams is going to return to the lineup. When that will be is still a mystery, but it stands to reason everyone would feel a little better if he found a way to get on the floor inside the next week.

The Nets will practice Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday with an off-day Monday in between. That’s five days of no games before the preseason ends Wednesday at the Boston Celtics and Friday at the Heat.

Nets head coach Jason Kidd has already opened the door to the possibility of the regular season opening without his starting point guard and arguably the roster’s most important player. Still, no one seems all that concerned. Williams has gone through multiple workouts over the last week and there have been no issues to report. However, based on Williams’ previous injury history, maybe everyone would feel better if he found a way to get on the floor inside the next week.

Last season, Williams was also hampered in the preseason by ankle trouble. He took cortisone shots in both ankles multiple times and eventually went for platelet-rich plasma treatment during the All-Star break. The PRP treatment did wonders for Williams, who averaged 22.9 points per game and shot 48.1 percent from the field post-treatment.

It took Williams half a season to get himself together and with these new ankle issues so close to the regular season, those same fears are not unwarranted.

“This is what we do, you have to be ready to step up,” Livingston said. “This is professional sports and injuries happen. The stakes are a little higher with this team and you have to be ready to go out there and play if and when your number gets called.”