- Mike Mazzeo, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
On most nights, Williams was surrounded by an injury-plagued and talent-depleted roster as the Nets stumbled to a 22-44 record. As the losses mounted, his frustration began to show in the form of negative body language, so much so that coach Avery Johnson had to call him out on it.
But Williams believes he had every right to be frustrated because his teammates were joking around after losses. And that didn't sit well with him.
"It was hard. I've never been in that position before," Williams told reporters Tuesday, following his team's first day of training camp. "So at times, I've showed frustration, but I think anybody would have. I think no matter who it is, if you were there every day and you saw what was going on in the locker room you'd be pissed off too sometimes. You're getting your asses kicked and then you're in the locker room laughing about the game afterwards.
"I don't think that stuff is funny. That's what we had to deal with last year. But I don't think we're going to deal with it this year, because just talking to the guys, that's not what we're about. We're talking about not losing two games in a row. We were just trying to fight to win two games in a row last year."
Asked about the difference between the two seasons, Williams responded: "It's night and day, last year to this year, what we have in training camp."
Johnson said any concerns over Williams' body language are gone.
"There's no negative body language," Johnson said. "There's no frustration with the roster. There's no frustration with losing. It's all new. He had a lot of pressure on him in terms of free agency. That's not there.
"So it's just a lot of things aren't there. It's a different team. Different year. He doesn't have to talk about trade rumors with other players. So I think his body language has followed the type of attitude that he has and how he feels about this team and this year."
Williams decided to stay with the Nets -- signing a five-year, $98 million contract in the offseason -- because general manager Billy King overhauled the roster, bringing in nine newcomers, highlighted by the addition of shooting guard Joe Johnson.
Only six players remain from last season's roster: Williams; center Brook Lopez (four years, $60 million); small forward Gerald Wallace (four years, $40 million); power forward Kris Humphries (two years, $24 million); second-year guard MarShon Brooks; and guard Keith Bogans.
Gone are Andre Emmett, Sundiata Gaines, Gerald Green, Dennis Horner, Damion James, Armon Johnson, Anthony Morrow, Mehmet Okur, Larry Owens, Johan Petro, Jerry Smith, DeShawn Stevenson, Shawne Williams and Shelden Williams.
It's not clear whether Williams was referring to players who have moved on or current members of the roster. But it's safe to say that overhauling the roster had more to do with upgrading talent than rooting out behavioral problems.
The Nets haven't been in the playoffs since 2006-07, but they look poised to make a run this season. Williams hasn't played in a postseason game since May 5, 2010, when he was a member of the Utah Jazz.
During Tuesday's practice, Williams was extremely vocal and was seen coaching from the bench.
"Love it. Love it," Avery Johnson said. "It really helps me focus on other things when he's taking the reins there. He's confident. He knows the systems. He's been a part of two gold medal-winning teams, and that gives him a lot of confidence. He knows his role, it's a big responsibility, but he's embraced it and I love it."
Said Williams: "I look forward to being that guy that everybody looks upon when things get tight, when things get close. I like those moments."
11hEthan Sherwood Strauss
10hArash Markazi and Ben Alamar
2dAlok Pattani, ESPN Stats & Information
2dDan Le Batard