"Everybody's pretty much written me off," Williams told the team's official website. "People say I'm never gonna be like I once was. I'm on the downhill. And so what pressure do I have?"
Williams finally feels healthy for the first time in three seasons after undergoing offseason surgery to clean out both of his oft-injured ankles.
"I'm a lot more confident," Williams said. "I just didn't have a lot of confidence in my ankles (the last two seasons). They wouldn't allow me to do the things I was capable of doing."
Williams missed 17 games last season due to injury. He averaged just 14.3 points and 6.1 assists -- his lowest averages since his rookie season (2005-06).
In the preseason, he shot 50 percent from the field and had a nearly 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
"I'm just playing, man," Williams said Tuesday. "I can actually play. I can actually run, cut, jump, so it's different."
Nets power forward Kevin Garnett said he feels like Williams has been playing with "a little edge" to his game.
"He has the looks of a man who is out to prove something," Garnett said.
Said Williams: "I expect a lot out of me. I'm excited about this season. I feel like this team, for us to be good, they're gonna need me to play at a high level, and I'm excited about that.
Added Nets coach Lionel Hollins: "Deron has been more vocal, more leading, but that's great. I can't speak to how he was before that, so I'm just going on my first view of him, up close. When he was in Utah, I thought he was a good leader. He just plays."
The Nets need their veterans to stay healthy if they're going to finish in the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference.
Last season, Williams, Garnett, center Brook Lopez, who is doubtful for Wednesday night's game due to a right midfoot sprain, and reserve forward Andrei Kirilenko missed a combined 148 games. A lineup that was constantly in flux contributed to the team's 10-21 start.
Hollins has installed some of the same "flex/motion" plays that made Williams such a successful player under Jerry Sloan with the Jazz.