Checking in with ex-Illini in NBA
Another NBA regular season is in the books for former Illini Deron Williams and Meyers Leonard. Here is staff writer Bob Asmussen’s take on how they performed for the Nets and Blazers, respectively. And what he thinks about the upcoming NBA playoffs:
The eight-year pro had his worst season scoringwise since his rookie year. His average dropped from 18.9 to 14.3, and his assists fell, too. Four years after averaging 12.8 assists, his total didn’t hit half that many this season. He sat out the regular season finale with a bum ankle and didn’t play in 17 other games because of bad wheels. The Nets are concerned as their star player struggles to return to past form. Once an elite point guard, Williams can no longer be mentioned with the league’s best. He has undergone treatments, looking for a long-term fix.
In his second year, the Robinson native’s problem is playing time. After a promising rookie season in which he averaged 17.5 minutes and 5.5 points, Leonard’s numbers dropped to 8.9 and 2.5. He played in 40 games, down from 69 his first year. Though he played 16 minutes in the finale, it was the first time he hit double figures in a month. He could have been finishing his career at Illinois. Instead, he was holding down the bench for the playoff-bound Blazers. Defensive shortcoming has been his biggest problem. He has vowed to make the necessary steps during the offseason to become a part of the Portland rotation.
The NBA playoffs start Saturday. Some viewing tips courtesy Asmussen:
One series I’m watching
Clippers vs. Warriors
They split four games during the season, and both know how to light up the scoreboard. In the playoffs that can be rare.
One series I’m skipping
Hawks vs. Pacers
Not unless Dominique and Reggie Miller are suiting up. Bor-ing. Hawks have the worst record in the 16-team extravaganza.