NEW YORK -- Deron Williams is in disbelief over what has happened to the Brooklyn Nets.
The Nets entered this season with championship dreams, but as Brooklyn's $98 million point guard put it, the 2013-14 campaign has quickly turned into a "nightmare."
"I'm even surprised with this season, how it's played out. It's like a nightmare," Williams said after the Nets were blown out on Christmas 95-78 by the Chicago Bulls Wednesday afternoon at Barclays Center.
"The way the injuries have been and the things we talk about every day: the lack of energy, the lack of effort. I didn't see that being a problem when we put this team together."
The Nets (9-19) have now lost four straight games. During that stretch, they've lost All-Star center Brook Lopez to a season-ending foot energy and been called out by their head coach, Jason Kidd, for getting complacent. Most recently, power forward Kevin Garnett said the Nets lack an identity and "we don't know who we are."
The team's veteran players disagreed with Kidd's assessment about them being "comfortable with losing," but they failed to respond.
The Nets went 2-for-15 from the field in the second quarter, were outscored 36-20 in the third quarter and were beaten in the paint (44 points to 34) and on the glass (45 rebounds to 39). After making seven of their first 10 shots, the Nets ended up shooting a paltry 35.2 percent overall.
They trailed by as many as 23 and heard loud boos from the crowd. Some fans chanted "Fire Kidd! Fire Kidd!" throughout the second half.
"I'm very surprised," said Nets small forward Paul Pierce, who is just 2-for-15 from the field in his past two games. "We've just got to be able to weather the storm. We've got to be more mentally tough. You can't get down when things don't go your way. You've got to continue to fight.
"I've played on teams where you've just got to continue to fight, and I've played on teams where you've just got to continue to go, continue to go. I think it's just that we lose confidence, like we are expecting things to go south. But you've got to keep your head up at the end of the day. It's embarrassing to lose on Christmas and in front of millions of people watching, but I'm not going to keep my head down. That's the way we've got to be out there on the court. We've got to continue to keep pushing."
Kidd decided to pull four of his starters -- Williams, shooting guard Joe Johnson, power forward Mirza Teletovic and small forward Alan Anderson -- with 4:26 left in the third quarter after the Bulls converted on consecutive layups to push their lead to 61-52. Chicago ended up ripping off a 21-5 run in the third to take command of the game. By the time many of Brooklyn's starters returned, the rout was on. The Nets have been outscored by 91 points in the third this season and are 0-17 when trailing after three quarters.
"At the end of the day, the coach can only hold you responsible for energy and effort," Kidd said. "If you're not giving it, I have to take you out. If you're missing shots, that's just part of the game. But if you're not giving energy or effort, I've got to take you out."
Williams said the Nets currently have no confidence.
"It's something we need to get back. It seems like once one thing goes wrong, we kind of hang our heads and it just piles on," he said.
The Nets didn't expect they'd be in this spot, with seemingly no hope in sight. Their general manager, Billy King, surrounded a talented core of Williams, Lopez and Johnson with veterans like Garnett, Pierce, Jason Terry and Andrei Kirilenko, and it appeared as though, at least on paper, Brooklyn, with an estimated $190 million payroll, would push the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers for Eastern Conference supremacy. But due to a combination of injuries and horrific play, their season, like Williams said, has turned into a nightmare.
Asked about the boos from the crowd, Johnson said, "It's frustrating, but we deserved it."