Slumped on the chair in front of his locker, with packs of ice attached to his banged-up right wrist and elbow, Deron Williams was dejected.
The Nets point guard hasn't played up to his standards for the better part of their first 16 games and is struggling with his shot. A tender wrist certainly doesn't help, but to Williams, that's an excuse.
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"I pretty much hit it or do something every game to kind of aggravate it," he said after the Nets' 102-89 loss to the Heat in Miami Saturday night. "It's not my wrist, man. It's my confidence. I've just got to play better. Injuries or not, I've got to play better. I can't keep having 10 points, not being aggressive. I've just got to find the rhythm. It's tough."
Williams at times has been hesitant to let it loose, passing up open jumpers because he's not seeing the ball sail through the hoop enough.
As the Nets collected 11 victories, getting off to the best start in franchise history through 15 games, Williams has been somewhat able to stomach those poor shooting nights, given that he's averaging 8.9 assists and getting the ball to his teammates. But it's been wearing on him.
"I feel like I'm letting my team down," he said. "I feel like I'm not doing enough to help us win. So when we are winning, I'm happy we won, but I still feel like crap that I played bad, and when I lose, it sits with me for a couple of days."
"I don't want to shoot 38 percent from the field no matter what. Win or lose, I want to be able to do more for my team. I'm not used to shooting the ball like this. I'm not used to not being aggressive like this."
Opposing teams aren't letting Williams establish much of a pick-and-roll, which is a situation in which he flourishes. He has yet to find his shots consistently within the Nets' offense.
"We are still trying to figure this thing out," Joe Johnson said, "how we can get him going, how we can get him in a rhythm. We just have to learn on the fly, honestly. I know he wants to get going and we want to try to get him going so he can lead us in the right direction."
Jerry Stackhouse thinks Williams might have to be a decoy, perhaps even more than in the past. He might have to get creative.
"He's a player that's going to be the focus of everybody," Stackhouse said. "Everybody that we play, they are going to try to take the ball out of his hands. He can't allow himself to get frustrated about that. He's got to trust being the bait guy. It might not be that he's not going to have a huge night scoring or a huge night getting assists. It might be the hockey assists.
"That might be great for the team, where he makes that pass and then somebody else makes it and gets the assist. But it all starts with his greatness being able to go create all that. Once he accepts that and understands that, we go to another level."
Said Williams: "I definitely need to play better for us to make that jump."