In just one half of basketball Saturday against the Orlando Magic, Deron Williams reminded everyone why he is the poised point guard the Dallas Mavericks need.
Williams only played 16 minutes during the Mavs’ 112-80 runaway win over the Magic. But he had a steady hand in the blowout, scoring seven points, distributing four assists and picking up three steals.
This was Williams’ first game after he missed the previous eight with a sprained left big toe. And in his first game back in the saddle, the 12-year veteran showed his ability to settle things down whenever they’re going awry.
“It’s only been a couple of weeks, but I felt really good,” Williams said. “The legs felt good, the wind felt good, there were no setbacks.
“I’ll still be sore for a while. (But) I wish I could have played a little bit in the second half.”
Because Williams was under a minutes’ restriction, playing in the second half wasn’t open for discussion.
“They just told me I wasn’t playing in the second half,” Williams said. “I tried to fight them a little bit, but it didn’t work.”
While Williams was away dealing with his injury, YogiMania struck Dallas as rookie point guard Yogi Ferrell led the Mavs to a 5-2 record. That includes impressive wins over San Antonio, Cleveland and Utah — and against Portland, when he scored 32 points and made 9 of 11 shots from 3-point range.
“He played well, highlighted by that Portland game, the Cleveland game as well,” Williams said. “I thought he did a great job of just making his mark in this league and showing he belongs.
“And I thought he did a great job (against Orlando), even when I came back. So it’s good to see him still being aggressive and still playing well, even though I was back.”
Ferrell contributed 10 points and a game-high seven assists against the Magic. But the Mavs, who are 11-5 in their last 16 games, know there’s no substitute for experience in this league.
Besides, starting Williams and then having Ferrell with his lightning speed and quickness coming off the bench is sort of like a baseball manager starting a knuckleball pitcher and then inserting a fastball pitcher.
“It’s huge to have Deron back,” forward Justin Anderson said. “He did a terrific job with the pace.
“With Yogi coming off the bench with that bounce and that energy, that’s tough for teams to handle.”
Williams’ skills at running the point is why his name keeps popping up in trade talks. But the native of The Colony dismisses all the trade rumors.
“I don’t really worry about any of that stuff,” Williams said. “Half the stuff you read nowadays is all (nonsense) anyway.
“You guys have your sources. I don’t know what those are, but half of the time it don’t mean anything.”
From the Mavs’ perspective, what is meaningful is having Williams back and shredding defenses with his mind. That was all on display when he collected five points, two assists and two steals in the second quarter when the Mavs outscored the Magic 32-12 to go up 61-35 at halftime.
“D-Will being back helped,” forward Wesley Matthews said. “And it was good to see him back on the court.”
Williams also said it’s good to see the Mavs back in the playoff conversation. Yet, he steadfastly insists they were never out of it, although a rather embarrassing 120-89 loss at home to the Sacramento Kings on Dec. 7 dropped the Mavs to a woeful 4-17.
“As bad as we started the season we were never out (of the playoff picture) by more than four or five games,” Williams said. “And that was kind of promising, because we knew we could play a lot better than we have been, especially if we could get healthy.
“We still haven’t really (gotten completely healthy). But we’re definitely playing more consistent basketball and playing a lot better, and I think, figuring out an identity.”
The Mavs (22-32) will continue figuring out their identity when they host the Boston Celtics (35-19) at 7:30 p.m. Monday at American Airlines Center. That will be a strong test for Williams and company in the Mavs’ final home game before the All-Star break.
“We’re playing really well right now,” Williams said. “I think we have a tougher test Monday to see where we’re at against the number two team in the East — another playoff team.
“It’ll be a good measuring stick for where we’re at.”