Deron Williams is making progress in his recovery from a fractured rib and could make his return next week, to provide a boost for a struggling Brooklyn Nets squad.

D-Will accompanied the Nets on their recent road trip out West, where he continued his rehab alongside the team. He progressed to the point in that rehab that he was back at practice on a limited basis when they returned home on from the three-game trip.

Brooklyn Nets v Sacramento Kings

He has been integrated back into practice slowly this week, and participated almost fully on Thursday. Afterward, center Brook Lopez commented that Deron looked as good as he has since the injury, a strong sign for the Nets.

“[He] looked good, looked confident,” Lopez said. “The most important thing is he is moving well.”

However, after that practice session, Brooklyn ruled D-Will out for Friday’s game at Barclays Center against the Raptors. No. 8 noted that although he is feeling better, he still hasn’t done enough activity with the team to get back into the lineup.

“It wasn’t like I did a lot,” he said of Thursday’s practice session. “Those guys are playing heavy minutes right now and some guys are banged up, so there’s not much practice we can do.”

Brooklyn Nets v Toronto Raptors

D-Will first suffered the injury to his side in a loss to the Miami Heat on January 4th and missed one game, then attempted to come back on January 7th against Boston but lasted just four minutes before exiting with further discomfort in the side. Additional tests after that game revealed a fractured rib cartilage, a painful injury that has kept him sidelined ever since.

“I didn’t do anything for two weeks,” Williams said. “It wasn’t until the second week that they let me even walk on the treadmill. I couldn’t do anything in the weight room, I couldn’t run. The first week, pretty much anything you did hurt pretty bad. Day-by-day, it’s gotten better.”

While D-Will deals with the pain, his absence has also clearly hurt the Nets. In the 12 games since his initial injury, including the ill-fated and short-lived return attempt against the Celtics, Brooklyn (18-28) is just 2-10, and have dropped out of the top eight in the Eastern Conference. But despite their poor record, the Nets still sit ninth in the East and are hopeful the return of their floor general will get them back on track.

D-Will was averaging 13.9 points and 6.3 assists per game in 32 games this season before suffering the injury. After missing two games in December due to a calf strain, Deron was coming off the bench in the seven games he played before the latest injury halted his progress. But Lopez noted that what Deron brings to the Nets goes beyond his stat line and getting him back could go a long way toward helping the Brooklyn offense start to click.

“He’s such a high-IQ point guard,” Lopez said. “He’s completely willing to share the ball, but at the same time he’s able to score the ball very well. He shoots the ball very well, so the defense really has to play him honest and it opens the floor for everyone else.”

Indiana Pacers v Brooklyn Nets

Center Mason Plumlee, who has been starting with Lopez coming off the bench since Lopez returned from injury, concurred with his fellow big man and noted that the way D-Will spaces the floor for his teammates sets his game apart from Brooklyn’s other point men.

“Deron’s a really good player, so the more good players you have, the easier it makes it for everybody,” center Mason Plumlee said. “He can space the floor as a shooting point guard, and he really puts a lot of pressure on the defense with his penetration. But we’d love to get him back, and get him back healthy, more important.”

That second factor is most important to Brooklyn’s chances the rest of this season, and it’s the reason the Nets have been moving No. 8 along slowly since the fracture was diagnosed. Plumlee and the rest of Deron’s teammates know that D-Will is doing his best to recover and return to help them get back into the hunt as soon as possible.

“Until he says he’s good to go you just don’t know. And you don’t want him to come back too soon and re-injure, hurt himself again. He needs to take his time with that,” Plumlee said. “He seems positive. He knows we all want him back, he knows we all need him. He is doing everything, like he is in here doing treatment and doing everything he can to get into shape.”

For his part, No. 8 is anxious to make his return, but wants to make sure that once he does return, he won’t be held back due to fatigue or another injury.

“I just want to keep progressing and get back in shape at the same time. I’ve been out over three weeks now,” he said. “I want to be out there with my team and we’ve been struggling and it makes it even harder to sit out and watch. That’s why I’m just trying to get back as fast as I can, get healthy and get back out there playing. It’s a pain thing, a tolerance thing. When it feels I’m not feeling the pain when I’m out there playing, then I guess that it’s healed.”

After Friday’s game against the Raptors, the Nets don’t play again until Monday at Barclays Center, when they host the Los Angeles Clippers and Deron’s long-time rival Chris Paul. Tip-off of that game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET and it can be seen on YES Network.

RELATED LINKS