With healthy ankles, Nets' Deron Williams bounces back

Deron Williams of the Nets controls the ball

Deron Williams of the Nets controls the ball against the Orlando Magic. (Jan. 28, 2013) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The contrast is striking, making it almost seem as though he's cloned himself.

He looks like a totally different person, walks with more confidence and has this aura around him that surely wasn't there a month ago when he was hobbling around on two bum ankles.

Deron Williams feels like a new man and certainly is carrying himself like one, as evidenced in practice Saturday when he was really vocal to Kris Humphries while the Nets (38-27) were running a set play. He barked at Humphries to wait longer before setting his screen.

As the Nets prepared to meet the Hawks (36-29) Sunday night before embarking on their eight-game, two-week road swing, Williams talked about the pain he endured before undergoing treatment on his ankles before the All-Star break.

"Like, I could not walk. I could not get up my stairs without it not killing me," Williams said. "It would take me 10 minutes to get up my stairs sometimes, especially in the morning. I feel totally different right now. I feel like I have just a whole new energy.''

Williams has received three rounds of cortisone injections in his ankles along with shots of platelet-rich plasma. Since the treatments, his play has been off the charts. In 12 games, he has averaged 23.3 points and 7.9 assists per game and is shooting 47.1 percent from three-point range.

If you ask him, Williams' awful play earlier in the season didn't stem from trying to live up to the pressure of a five-year, $98-million contract in the New York spotlight. That, Williams said, wasn't an issue because his second pact in Utah was a max contract.

Instead, Williams knew he wasn't healthy enough to play at an All-Star level yet understood that he still was expected to be the team leader. That, he said, wasn't an easy thing for him, given his on-court struggles.

"The beginning of the season when I was playing bad," Williams said, "it's just harder to -- I don't want to say feel sorry for myself -- but not be down on myself. Keith [Bogans] was telling me all the time, 'You are being too hard on yourself. You are beating yourself up.'

"I feel like I'm letting people down, letting my team down, letting fans down if I'm playing bad. So that was the biggest thing for me. It wasn't not trying to be a leader. It was staying positive about myself . . . I think it's more my body language on the court because I couldn't do what I wanted to do. I've heard people say I 'look disinterested.' I'm not disinterested. I've never tanked. I've never wanted to play bad. I've never wanted to miss shots. I just couldn't make shots."

When the quick Tony Parker shredded Williams and ran circles around him in the Spurs' 111-86 win at Barclays Center Feb. 10, Williams had enough.

"That San Antonio game was kind of the last straw," Williams said. "I felt like I was just hurting the team even being out there playing the way I was because I couldn't move or couldn't stay in front of anybody, couldn't beat anybody off the dribble, couldn't jump. If I did find some energy to do one move, by the time I did the one move, it hurt so bad that I couldn't even jump to shoot a layup. So it was just painful."

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