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Follow the Nets' return to New York with Newsday's Rod Boone.

Deron shocked at Avery's outster

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Deron Williams said he was stunned when Billy King approached him at the Nets' training facility Thursday and delivered the news that Avery Johnson had been fired.

"I was shocked. I didn’t expect it," Williams said after Friday's shootaround. "I was over there riding the bike, and Billy came in and told me he let Avery go, and it caught me off guard because he was just coach of the month last month.

"We did struggle the last 13 games or so, but I felt like we have a great team, we had a great coach, we’ve had some good wins and we just need to get back to playing the way we were playing in November and forget about how we’ve played in December."

Williams said he felt partially responsible for Johnson getting cut loose, but that's more due to his struggling play on the court. He said no one ever checked with him before Johnson was fired. 

"I don’t feel responsible as far as I never was consulted," said Williams, who added that he texted Johnson Thursday upon learning the news. "Nobody ever asked me what they should do with Avery. If they would’ve asked me, I would’ve said he needs to be our coach because he was a big reason why I stayed here.

"But as far as responsibility, I feel if I would have played better as player that we would have won a lot more games and he would still be here."

Williams said that's what's tough to swallow. If his production wasn't down, Johnson's job wasn't been in jeopardy. He's shooting just 39.8 percent from the floor, 29.5 percent from three-point range and is averaging just 16.6 points and eight assists per game.

"Yeah, definitely," he said. "Nobody feels worse about the way I’ve been playing than me. Every day I go home, I’ve been just trying to figure out how to get it going, how to play like I’m used to playing and how I used to play and it just hasn’t clicked yet. My confidence is gone right now. I just have to play my way out of it, fight my way out of it.

"It definitely was a sad day yesterday for everybody, for the organization, because we all appreciated what coach brought to this team, his work ethic. He’s one of the hardest working coaches I’ve ever been around as far as his preparation for games, getting us prepared. The time he spent watching tape on the plane, we saw all of that stuff."

Shaquille O'Neal and Charles Barkley, among others, were pretty critical of Williams after Johnson's firing Thursday, indicating he's the main reason Johnson is gone. Asked about that perception, Williams suggested he's being scapegoated.

"That’s how things go nowadays," he said. "As soon as something happens, somebody has to take the blame and I guess that guy is me. I can’t fight everything that’s being said and I’m not going to try. I know my teammates have my back and like I said, I wanted to be here with coach Avery.

"I’ve said it many times. He’s a big reason I came back here. I wouldn't have came back here if I didn’t like him as a coach because I knew he was going to be my coach, I thought he was going to be my coach."

As for those comments about Utah's system better suiting his style of play than what the Nets were running, Williams said had smoothed things over with Johnson.

"I apologized to him and made sure he knew I wasn’t trying to belittle him," he said. "I felt we had a good offense. I thought at times, we didn't run out offense and that’s on me, that’s on the players not just on the coach."

King indicated during Thursday's press conference that one of the reasons Johnson was let go stemmed from him not reaching the players any longer. Williams, though, said they just haven't had that same mentality that was prevalent when they were 11-4.

"I just thought we all as a team, we didn't have confidence," Williams said. "I didn't have all that swag in November, when we went on those two five-game win streaks, where we felt like when we came on the court, we were going to dominate. It kind of feels like we don't have that, individually and as players.

"We’ve got to get that back."

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