EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - As a new season begins and he peers at the talent around him, Deron Williams can reflect a bit on his travels.
After the ups and downs of eight NBA seasons, Williams can appreciate the situation he's in as he prepares to take the floor Wednesday night to lead the new-look Nets in their season opener in Cleveland.
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"You take things for granted," Williams said Tuesday. "You take players for granted that you played with. You start nitpicking at what people can do instead of what they can't do. So you definitely take it for granted. I think a lot of guys have to go through that to really understand. I've never been one of those guys who wanted to be the man or needed to be the man.
"My problem in Utah was I wanted to win so badly and letting that get the better of me. So I'm excited for this group right now. It's a great group to be a part of."
After a headline-filled offseason -- which included the surprising hire of Jason Kidd as their coach, a blockbuster deal landing Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, and reeling in Andrei Kirilenko -- it's officially time for Williams and the Nets to see how far they can take this thing.
They're eager to get it going against Kyrie Irving and the youthful Cavs, ready to tip it off after spending the better part of October playing the getting-to-know-you game, doing their best to build some cohesion on and off the court. Garnett's transition into one of the Nets' leaders has been seamless, and he genuinely appears to be pleased with the vibe flowing with his new teammates.
"We have a bunch of good guys, I mean personality-wise," Garnett said. "More importantly, we communicate very well. A lot of guys have similar backgrounds in here. We have some international guys, but it's a good mix. At the end of the day, we all work hard, and the locker room, I always call it a TV show.
"Obviously, the cameras and things aren't involved, but if you guys could be a fly on the wall in there, it's one of the better locker rooms I've been in."
That, in part, is why Garnett seems so sure there won't be anyone with a personal agenda, getting in the way of the Nets keeping their eyes on a championship.
"When you give yourself to the team and to what you're talking about as the common goal, you don't have that being a problem," Garnett said. "I can attest to that. I've been a part of a group of talented guys like this team here, and usually when you have problems where you're head-butting and stuff, it's because guys can't get over their egos or whoever they think they are, or someone has been continuously telling them who they are."
Perhaps that's why on the cusp of a season the Nets dream ends with a championship, and having a guy like Garnett to help keep everyone in line, Williams can exhale in a sense. Everything, he feels, is in place for him and the Nets. No single player, including Williams, has to shoulder that sometimes burdensome load affiliated with being "the guy."
"I know I can't do it by myself. There's no way," Williams said. "I'm not LeBron James. I'm not a 6-8 dominant force. I'm a point guard who if I have shooters with me and I have a good big man, I can get the ball, I can facilitate and I can score when I'm needed. And so, that's how I've played, that's how I like to play, and now I can get back to playing like that . . . This team is kind of built for me. Not built for me [per se] but it works out for me."
Notes & quotes: Andrei Kirilenko (back spasms) said he felt good after returning to practice in full, and although he's making the trip to Cleveland, he'll likely sit out Wednesday night. Barring any setbacks, he's hopeful he'll play in Friday's home opener vs. the Heat after missing the final five games of the preseason. "I think so. Right now, it's too early to say, but I'm aiming for the home game," Kirilenko said. "We'll see tomorrow, the day after tomorrow how it's going to get stronger." . . . Kidd, suspended for the season's first two games for his DUI incident, still wouldn't divulge who'll serve as the interim coach against the Cavs and Heat.