EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Brooklyn Nets coach Lionel Hollins is confident that Deron Williams will bounce back in 2014-15 following back-to-back seasons in which the three-time All-Star point guard was plagued by ankle injuries and struggled on the court as a result.
"There are a lot of expectations on him," Hollins said Sunday. "I don't [know] the reasons why -- [whether it be] 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 hasn't been the same player since he agreed to a five-year, $98 million to remain in Brooklyn before the start of the 2012-13 campaign. He underwent surgery on both of his ankles this offseason following a 2013-14 season in which he averaged just 14.3 points and 6.1 assists.
"I don't think about last year," Williams said. "I'm not worried about last year. Last year is behind us. This is a new year, new team, new day."
In a Sports Illustrated article, Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant spoke about Williams' depleted confidence after watching the 30-year-old veteran go scoreless and miss all nine of his shots in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
"Kobe was like, 'I would go 0-for-30 before I would go 0-for-9,' Bryant said, according to Gotham Chopra, director of an upcoming documentary about the future Hall of Famer. "'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.'"
Asked about what Bryant said, Williams responded, "I'm a point guard. If I'm 0-for-f------ -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."
Hollins also weighed in.
"I already told [Deron], we're never going 3-for-23. If we're going 3-for-23 from the 3-point line, then I got a problem," Hollins said. "We're going to try to do something else. I understand Kobe and all those guys, 'I'm going to do this, the next shot is going in.' 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."
Williams said Friday at media day that he isn't 100 percent yet health-wise, but he sounds more confident in that department.
"I'm healthy, man. When you can walk, you can run, it feels pretty good," Williams said.
Last season, that wasn't the case. Williams didn't have his explosiveness. He has dunked just 10 times since 2012-13 (including playoffs).
"You can't attack the rim when you can't jump. You probably jumped higher than me last year," Williams said. "There's a reason I had one dunk on the year, and I don't know if it even counts as a dunk."
The Nets need Williams to rediscover his All-Star form if they're going to make noise in the Eastern Conference. Hollins had his point guard draw up plays before the coach began installing the team's offensive system. Williams and forward Andrei Kirilenko both said some of the sets remind them of the motion offense they ran in Utah under Jerry Sloan.
"Deron's a smart guy, contrary to what you think," Hollins said. "He knows basketball, he knows things that will work and I want to hear what he has to say. I want to hear what Joe Johnson has to say. I want to hear what Brook [Lopez] has to say. They're out there playing and I want to show them something and see where they think it could be better. They have to play, so whatever I do has to be effective for them. So I can put in a whole lot of stuff that doesn't work, so why not talk to those guys?"
Williams sounds confident, which could be a sign of things to come.
"I just got to get back to playing basketball, man," he said. "Y'all want me to predict what the hell's going to happen this whole year, I'm just going to go out and play basketball, have fun, that's all it's about, man. Just having fun."