EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Seeing point guard Deron Williams take part in practice Thursday had to be a sight for sore eyes for the struggling Nets.
"He looked good. He looked confident,'' center Brook Lopez said of Williams. "The most important thing is he is moving well.''
Williams has been out since Jan. 7, when he left that night's loss to the Celtics with what later was described by the Nets as fractured rib cartilage. The Nets are 2-8 in the 10 games he's missed and have not won a home game in six tries in January. They close out the month's schedule with a home game Friday night against the Atlantic Division-leading Toronto Raptors.
Williams won't play Friday night and wouldn't say when he might return, calling his recovery a "day-to-day'' process. He did say it's hard to watch the team struggle so much without him.
"Of course I want to be out there,'' he said. "I want to be out there with my team, and we've been struggling and it makes it even harder to sit out and watch. That's why I'm just trying to get back as fast as I can, get healthy and get back out there playing.''
The Nets (18-27) are a half-game behind Charlotte for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. There have been trade rumors involving Williams, Lopez and Joe Johnson, plus a report that coach Lionel Hollins is being evaluated by team management.
Hollins seemed a little testy Thursday while answering questions about how he is dealing with the team's prolonged struggles. Asked if he has considered changing his approach to coaching, he defiantly said no.
"Do you change your approach when life doesn't go the way you want it?'' he shot back.
"There's some people that change their approach -- they go kill themselves,'' he added before quickly explaining the context of his remarks. "We're trying to compete and play. I'm not trying to equate basketball with life and death, but still, there's adversity, and you have to fight through it.''
Hollins seemed to take heart from a strong performance in Wednesday night's 113-102 loss to the Hawks, the top team in the Eastern Conference.
"That game, the way we played, we could have beaten quite a few teams,'' Hollins said.
Notes & quotes: Mason Plumlee missed practice for personal reasons but the Nets said he will play Friday night.