Spurs 106, Nets 96
SAN ANTONIO (AP)
He's kept a sense of humor since his stunning trade to New Jersey. And after his debut with the Nets, a 106-96 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Friday night, owner Mikhail Prokhorov began courting his new superstar to stick around in New Jersey beyond next season.
Prokhorov's sales pitch? It began by interrupting a Vancouver ski trip and flying to San Antonio to see his new All-Star point guard - the first time Prokhorov has traveled for a Nets road game.
''It was good to see him. It meant a lot,'' said Williams, who had 14 points and 12 assists.
Manu Ginobili had 26 points for the Spurs, who despite being the NBA's winningest team, spent the game overshadowed by the 17-win Nets with Williams playing his first NBA game in something other than a Jazz uniform.
Even the Spurs seemed eager to see Williams. Tony Parker, who had 13 points and 10 assists, took Williams to lunch before the game at an Italian restaurant. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who had Williams on his West best last weekend at the All-Star game, shared a few laughs with the two-time All-Star before tipoff.
''He looked really good calling plays and running the show,'' Ginobili said.
Williams was dealt by Utah on Wednesday in a blockbuster deal before the trade deadline that none saw coming. He went 5 for 13 and played 41 minutes, and helped the lowly Nets keep it interesting against the team with the league's best record.
''It was different at first. I wasn't really nervous or anything,'' Williams said. ''It's just good to be back on the court. I'm excited for this opportunity and to play for these guys and coach (Avery) Johnson, and to make the most of it,'' Williams said.
Anthony Morrow led the Nets with 25 points.
The Nets led at halftime before the Spurs nearly doubled-up New Jersey in the third quarter, outscoring the Nets 35-18. DeJuan Blair and Tim Duncan finished with 17 points apiece for the Spurs, who pushed their home record to 27-2.
Johnson said before the game they'd have to ''wing it'' in the first game with Williams, who New Jersey wants to make the long-term face of their franchise. Williams has made no commitment beyond 2012, when he can opt out of his contract.
Williams met after the game with Prokhorov; he said the two will continue talking in London, where the Nets will play Toronto twice starting March 4.
''He was telling me how excited he was, and he wanted to see me in person,'' Williams said.
Prokhorov did not speak with reporters.
New Jersey shipped point guard Devin Harris, rookie forward Derrick Favors, the No. 3 pick overall in the draft; two first-round draft picks and $3 million in cash for Williams, who had spent all six of his NBA seasons with the Jazz.
The NBA's third-leading assist man didn't look as comfortable once the game started. Williams missed four of his first five shots and weathered the expected handful of broken plays, like a bounce pass Brook Lopez didn't see coming and skipped untouched to the scorer's table.
Williams headlined the 13th different Nets starting lineup, which also included rookie forward Damion James, who played for the first time since Dec. 9 after breaking his right foot.
James, making his second career start, finished with seven points and four rebounds in 20 minutes.
''We're a work in progress, but it's exciting with the possibilities of our future,'' Johnson said after the game.
The Spurs (48-10) moved within two wins of tying their number of victories from last year, during what is so far San Antonio's best regular season in franchise history.
Notes: Williams blamed his poor shooting on again tweaking a strained tendon in his wrist that has bothered him for weeks. ...Rookie Spurs F Gary Neal didn't play after feeling headaches and sensitivity to light following the morning shootaround. Neal banged his head hard on the baseline in Wednesday's win over Oklahoma City but still returned to finish that game ... The Nets haven't won in San Antonio since 2002 (nine games).