LONDON – New Jersey Nets point guard Deron Williams will play Friday, despite a wrist and hand injury, against the Toronto Raptors in the NBA's first regular-season game in Europe.
Williams, who was traded from the Utah Jazz last week, has a strained right wrist and bruised left hand. "I'm playing," said Williams on Wednesday, who strained his wrist before coming to the Nets, and bruised his other hand on Monday in an overtime loss to the Phoenix Suns.
Nets coach Avery Johnson seemed comfortable with Williams' status for the game at the O2 Arena in London, the first of two "home" games against the Raptors.
"He's in good shape right now," Johnson said.
The Nets have only played one home game since Williams joined the team, and they are giving up two more to be in the British capital this weekend.
"It's not easy necessarily losing home games, and no NBA team necessarily wants to do it," Johnson said. "But you're going to see this happening more and more, and especially with our team with the presence of our owner (Russian businessman) Mikhail Prokhorov."
Both teams have Europeans on their rosters. The Raptors boast Italy center Andrea Bargnani and Spain guard Jose Calderon, two of the best continental players in the NBA.
"I definitely think we have an advantage with Andrea, Jose," Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan said. "People over here have definitely seen them play before. We have the home-court advantage."
Raptors coach Jim Triano sees the trip as a bonus for his team, specifically the European players.
"Just to be just a little closer to home," Triano said. "I know that some of them have family and friends coming that are in to watch them, and it feels like a little bit of a homecoming for them."
Although the Nets will be missing their usual crowd, forward Kris Humphries hopes the fans in London will give the team a boost nonetheless.
"Hopefully, the people of the U.K. treat us like we're the home team," Humphries said. "It probably will be (neutral), but it's an experience and you just got to roll with it."
But more than worrying about the venue, Johnson is interested in finding ways for his new star Williams to contribute. He had 13 points and 18 assists in the loss to the Suns.
"We've got to make sure we have plays that fit his abilities," Johnson said. "He's a really good 3-point shooter, so we got to run more plays where he can shoot 3s.
"A lot of the plays we had just didn't fit his skill level, so again, we just threw them out. They're in the trash can. We kept some of the ones that fit his game."
Besides basketball, there are other pressing issues in the back of the mind of Nets center Brook Lopez.
"I need to get some shopping done," Lopez said. "My family sent me a huge shopping list, a laundry list of things I need to get."