A combination of the endless defeats and the postgame vibe in the Nets' locker room last season had Deron Williams bubbling over.
At times, Williams couldn't hide his disappointment with the Nets' continuous ineptitude, feeling as if he were being sucked into a vacuum with no chance of escaping. The Nets finished 22-44 in the lockout-shortened season, and Williams grew weary.
"It was hard," the All-Star point guard said Tuesday after the Nets' first practice of the season at PNY Center in East Rutherford, N.J. "I've never been in that position before. So at times, I've showed frustration, but I think anybody would have. I think no matter who it is, if you were there every day and you saw what was going on in the locker room, you'd be ---- off, too, sometimes.
"You're getting your ---- kicked and then you're in the locker room laughing about the game afterward. I don't think that stuff is funny. That's what we had to deal with last year. But I don't think we're going to deal with it this year, because just talking to the guys, that's not what we're about. We're talking about not losing two games in a row. We were just trying to fight to win two games in a row last year.
"It's night and day last year to this year, what we have in training camp."
The Nets retooled their roster during the offseason, giving them some depth and versatility. The additions, highlighted by shooting guard Joe Johnson's arrival, have Williams perked up, ready to try to rack up some truly meaningful wins for the first time since getting traded to the Nets in 2011.
Those frowns are gone, replaced by toothy grins.
"There's no negative body language," coach Avery Johnson said. "There's no frustration with the roster. There's no frustration with losing. It's all new. [Williams] had a lot of pressure on him in terms of free agency. That's not there.
"A lot of things aren't there. It's a different team, different year. He doesn't have to talk about trade rumors with other players. So I think his body language has followed the type of attitude that he has and how he feels about this team and this year."
Williams knows how to have a little fun, too. During their scrimmage Tuesday, swingman Gerald Wallace fouled C.J. Watson on a three-pointer, sending the guard to the line for a trio of free throws. Williams ribbed Wallace, smiling while busting on him a bit about the gaffe.
But really, he appears to be trying to take on more of a serious leadership role, vocalizing things to teammates on the first of two scheduled practices for the day. Johnson welcomes his floor leader essentially putting a whistle around his neck and turning into a coach on the court.
"Love it," Johnson said. "Love it. It really helps me focus on other things when he's taking the reins there. He's confident. He knows the systems. He's been a part of two gold medal-winning teams, and that gives him a lot of confidence. He knows his role. It's a big responsibility, but he's embraced it and I love it."
Notes & quotes: Rookie guard Tyshawn Taylor was limited in practice with a strained right quadriceps.