EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Lionel Hollins doesn't agree with all the verbal jabs being hurled Deron Williams' way and took umbrage with how the face of the Nets' franchise has been portrayed.
Williams' status for Monday night's Game 4 against the Hawks at Barclays Center is unclear after he got banged up in Saturday's Game 3 win. He bruised his tailbone and also got kneed in the right thigh, further adding to the list of ailments he's suffered this season.
The point guard was not available to comment Sunday and provide an update on how he was feeling after a game in which he scored three points and went 1-for-8 from the floor. He spent the final 14:58 stuck to the bench while Hollins went with Jarrett Jack. But Hollins, whose team trails Atlanta 2-1 in their Eastern Conference first-round series, certainly let his thoughts regarding the constant criticism swirling around Williams be known.
He's not very pleased.
"I'm disappointed in how everybody's coming down on Deron and trying to treat him like he's a pariah," Hollins told reporters. "Deron's a good person, he's a good player. Now, is he on the level that you guys think he should be? That's your fault for thinking that somebody should be something."
Hollins, in his first season as Nets coach, wasn't around when the club was wooing Williams in the months leading up to its move to Brooklyn in 2012. The Nets did whatever they could to persuade Williams to stay and anchor the franchise's journey to the other side of the Hudson River, essentially giving him the red-carpet treatment.
At that point, it was a two-man race between Williams and Chris Paul for the league's best point guard, and the Nets thought they had acquired the better of the two once they lost out in the Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes in 2011. Williams re-signed in July 2012, getting a five-year, $98-million megadeal. But in the eyes of many, he hasn't lived up to the lofty expectations created by that contract. He has had an injury-ravaged tenure, shot a career-low 38.7 percent from the field this season and has struggled in the postseason. Williams is averaging 6.0 points and is shooting 26.9 percent (7-for-26).
Hollins believes people are too caught up in the hype that surrounded Williams when he initially blew into the metropolitan area.
"That's four years ago," Hollins said. "We're now. No player is the same as he was four years ago. All I'm saying is the guy has played well and somebody picks out that he has two points. So what? He played well. It's not just about the scoring. There's a lot of teams that would be better because they have some guys who score a lot of points. But it's about winning, it's about doing the right things for the team. And I'll defend Deron till the end on that and all my players to the end.
"If you think that just because a guy makes a lot of money and is supposed to be on some level because everybody put him on that level -- whether it be the organization or whomever -- it's still where we are now and we have to deal with now. And I support him 100 percent."
Although Williams said Thursday that he could play better after scoring two points and going 1-for-7 in Game 2, Hollins isn't interested in any of that. He's tired of people piling on his point guard.
"I don't care what he said," Hollins said. "I'm saying what I said. You talk to him all you want and you can get whatever answers you want. I'm talking my perspective regarding Deron and what I read in the press. I think it's totally unfair."
Williams has been wearing a sleeve on his right knee since the Nets' April 8 regular-season loss to the Hawks, and Joe Johnson said he has been trying to fight through some tendinitis. Williams won conference player of the week honors in November, but it's obvious that he has lost whatever explosiveness he had earlier in the season.
"I think at different times of the season, we have knickknacks or injuries," Johnson said. "I know tendinitis has pretty much been my Kryptonite and I know he has a severe case of that, so you know, it's tough, man. It's tough. But we have all got his back."