EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - That forgettable performance by Deron Williams in the second game of the Nets' playoff series against the Heat in May elicited many opinions.
Even Kobe Bryant chimed in, questioning whether Williams "psyched" himself out after clanking his first nine shots, causing him to shy away from taking shots the rest of the night.
In response Sunday, Williams cited the difference in the positions they play, making it crystal clear that hoisting a bevy of shots when his stroke is off doesn't exactly equate to success in his world.
"I'm a point guard," Williams said. "If I'm 0 for . . . 9, I'm not shooting 20 more shots. Not going to happen. I'm a point guard. I'm going to find somebody else. Kobe Bryant, that's what he's supposed to do. He's got that mentality. That works for him. I got my mentality, it works for me."
According to a Sports Illustrated piece, the director of an upcoming documentary on Bryant titled "Kobe Bryant's Muse," told a story about being with the Lakers superstar and watching the Nets fall, 94-82, to Miami in Game 2. Director Gotham Chopra wanted to get Bryant's take on Williams' state of mind and that's when, according to Chopra, Bryant said it had become mental.
"Kobe was like, 'I would go 0-for-30 before I would go 0-for-9,' " Chopra recalled Bryant saying. He also reports that Bryant said, "Zero-for-9 means you beat yourself, you psyched yourself out of the game, because Deron Williams can get more shots in the game. The only reason is because you've just now lost confidence in yourself."
However, Nets coach Lionel Hollins has a vision for Williams, and Bryant's hypothesis isn't it. Hollins is doing his best to ease the burden on Williams' shoulders.
"I understand Kobe and all those guys . . . ," Hollins said. "That's great confidence, but it doesn't matter if you don't make the next shot. I just want Deron to play good basketball. There are a lot of expectations on him. I don't know the reasons why -- the status he had when he was playing here, the contract.
"Whatever it may be, Deron Williams is a very good basketball player and Deron Williams is going to prove that this year with this team. And you guys are going to love him. Or respect him."
Williams is the face of the franchise, the guy with the max $99-million contract and the person the Nets built things around in teaming him with Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson. He's had two injury-plagued campaigns in the Nets' first two seasons in Brooklyn and is coming off his worst statistical season since his rookie year in Utah in 2005.
He's the Nets' lightning rod, attracting the most criticism and drawing the burning ire of the team's fan base. Hollins doesn't think it's all warranted, and is putting the onus on Williams' teammates to consistently do their part.
"When you have a good team and you have multiple players, I just want him to do his job as I want each individual to do their jobs," Hollins said. "It seems like, from what I'm gathering from people around is that it's about Deron. If Deron doesn't do this, we can't win . . . It's not about Deron. It's about the Brooklyn Nets and this whole team.
"Deron's a big part of it, as well as Joe is, as well as Brook is, as well as all these young guys that are on our team."
When Williams has his confidence -- and a pair of healthy ankles -- he's proven just how difficult he can be to guard. Having a coach in Hollins who's showing belief in him paired with his offseason ankle surgery has Williams looking for that bounce back year.
"I'm healthy, man," Williams said. "When you can walk, you can run, it feels pretty good . . . You can't attack the rim when you can't jump."
Williams looked at a reporter and said: "You probably jumped higher than me last year. There's a reason I had one dunk on the year, and I don't know if it even counts as a dunk."
Notes & quotes:Andrei Kirilenko didn't practice because of tightness in his back and might be out for a week to 10 days as a precautionary measure. Kirilenko, who sat out a bulk of the preseason a year ago and missed 26 games last season, had said he was healthy in the weeks leading up to camp. He spent time working on his core with Nets strength and conditioning coach Jeremy Bettle, but just didn't feel right Sunday. "Not a big concern but I guess it's unavoidable," Kirilenko said. "Like once, twice a year it kind of fires up a little bit. It's a little bit tight, but no major soreness like I had last year, so I don't know. It could be seven days to I don't know how much." Health is one of the biggest keys for the Nets this season, and having Kirilenko sidelined on just the second day of training camp isn't exactly getting things off to a good start. "I mean, I'm trying to be positive," Kirilenko said. "If I can get it out right now, there's a whole season in front of us . . . It's better now than in the middle of the season when you start missing games."