As the Brooklyn Nets began training camp over the weekend, the focus was on a new system being installed by new head coach Lionel Hollins.
But for Deron Williams, the system isn’t all that unfamiliar.
During the offseason, Hollins spent time offseason studying the offense Utah utilized by Jerry Sloan when D-Will was with the Jazz, and the new Nets coach has introduced many of those concepts into the offense he’s installing in Brooklyn.
“He has definitely incorporated some of Utah’s offense into what he’s doing here, but some of his stuff as well,” No. 8 said. “So it’s similar, but different.”
Nets guard Jarrett Jack even noted that D-Will is so familiar with the look of the scheme that he has been helping his teammates comprehend the ins and outs of the system Hollins has implemented.
“He’s helping walk a lot of people through it who aren’t familiar with it,” Jack said after Monday’s practice. “He knows a lot of tricks and little backdoors to it.”
Deron noted that, so far, the tenor of training camp has presented two specific goals for the Nets to achieve as they attempt to get ready for the season.
“We put in some offense, and just forming good habits really,” he said. “I think that’s what this training camp is about, forming habits on both ends of the floor and coming together as a team, as one unit, as quickly as possible.”
Deron on #Nets first practice: “It was good. It was fun. It’s always fun to start training camp, especially when you missed it last season.”
— Rod Boone (@rodboone) September 27, 2014
Deron just hoisted a three in a scrimmage as the shot clock was about to expire and yelled, “Layup” after he let it fly. Hit nothing but net
— Rod Boone (@rodboone) September 29, 2014
Lionel Hollins: “Deron is a very good basketball player and Williams is going to prove that this year. And you guys are going to love him.”
— Stefan Bondy (@nydninternets) September 28, 2014
More Hollins on Deron: “It’s about the Brooklyn Nets and this whole team. Deron is a big part of it as well as Joe is as well as Brook is..”
— Rod Boone (@rodboone) September 28, 2014
But for D-Will, familiarity with the system is a welcome change of pace. Over his three-and-a-half seasons with the Nets, the franchise has turned over a coach nearly every year.
Particularly, since the team parted ways with coach Avery Johnson early in the 2012-13 season, the franchise has run through coaches at a staggering clip with interim coach P.J. Carlesimo giving way to Jason Kidd last season and then Kidd’s departure for Milwaukee forcing another move. Deron is hopeful that the latest hire, Hollins, will bring some stability to the team.
“It’s the fourth[coach] in three years,” he said. “So maybe this will be the right voice. Hopefully, it’s the right voice.”
Hollins has discarded the principles implemented by Kidd last season, when the Nets struggled out of the gate but found their rhythm late in the season before a second round playoff ouster at the hands of the Miami Heat.
When he was hired, Hollins made a commitment to starting fresh and continued to work along those lines as camp opened.
“We’re trying to develop a foundation of what we’re going to be defensively, and what we’re trying to be offensively. It’s all the same. It’s not like I have some special magic that I’m trying to get them to do,” Hollins said. “You create a mentality, you create a culture of being aggressive and being tough. Anything you do in life, it’s all about doing it every day until it becomes who you are.”
Hollins believes that starts with forging a new identity for his squad in the days before the season even begins. He spoke to the media about his plan and vision for the franchise and how he plans to implement principles that will become habits for his squad. The coach also noted that the Nets personnel at the start of this season will be fairly different from how the team ended the 2013-14 season, so it wasn’t a difficult decision to begin anew.
“I wasn’t trying to watch what they did because it’s really not the same team and what I want to do is different from what they did in the past,” Hollins said. “So, it wasn’t like I was trying to figure out what they did (last season). I had a vision of what this team could look like with the personnel we have.”
Although all the talk around the team has been about the offense, D-Will believes that the team will create the identity Hollins sees in them on the other end of the floor, and if they don’t it won’t matter what offense they run because without a sound defense, they will come up short once again.
“We gotta be a defensive-minded team first,” Williams said. “We wanna push the ball. We wanna be a tough team. And we just gotta play with a lot of energy, a lot of passion for the game. We’ve gotta believe that we can win every time we step on the floor. I think we’re a veteran group and we realize that we have to be a good defensive team if we wanna win, point blank.”
CONFIDENCE AND CLARITY
While Hollins is focused on cultivating a successful team in Brooklyn, not just one successful player, he also made it clear in some of his opening statements that the principles he’s putting into action for the Nets are designed to best utilize his star point guard and put No. 8 in position to be successful.
“I just want Deron to play good basketball,” Hollins said. “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.”
But the way Hollins feels about Deron in that regard is not unique.
The Brooklyn coach believes the same can be said about every player on the roster from top to bottom, and is encouraging each of them to learn and thrive in the roles he has set forth for them.
“I just want him to do his job as I want each individual to do their jobs. 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. If Deron doesn’t play, he’s hurt. 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.”
After a few days of practice under Hollins, Deron is feeling not only as healthy as he has in years, but also as confident. He admitted once again this week that the ankle injuries that plagued him last year were a deterrent both physically and mentally.
Hollins told reporters that he believes what happened to D-Will last year was human nature.
“To say that nobody has doubt, nobody ever thinks that things are not gonna work out are untrue because we’re all human and we’re not perfect humans,” the Nets coach said. “So I really would hope that as we go along that you guys — we’re talking about embracing (expectations) or not embracing — I would hope you guys would embrace Deron for his play on the court and that be all it is without the expectations that he’s supposed to.
For his part, D-Will noted that the offseason surgery on his ankles has allowed him to put those concerns from last season behind him and look ahead with confidence.
“I’m healthy. When you can walk, you can run, it feels pretty good. You can’t attack the rim when you can’t jump. There’s a reason I had one dunk on the year, and I don’t know if it even counts as a dunk,” he said. “I psyched myself out of a lot of games last year. [But ] I’m not worried about last year. Last year is behind us. This is a new year, new team, new day.”
Deron Williams: “If we’re healthy, I think we can do anything. That’s the main thing.”
— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) September 27, 2014
Deron Williams to a reporter: “You can’t attack the rim when you can’t jump. You probably jumped higher than me last year.”
— Andy Vasquez (@andy_vasquez) September 28, 2014
Deron Williams said he heard Kobe’s comment that he psyched himself out of Game 2 vs Miami. Deron: “I psyched myself out of a lot of games.”
— Andy Vasquez (@andy_vasquez) September 28, 2014
Deron: I’m a point guard. If I’m shooting 0-for-(bleeping) nine, I’m not shooting 20 more shots. Not going to happen.”
— Andy Vasquez (@andy_vasquez) September 28, 2014
If Deron Williams’s health is reflected in his looseness, he’s going to have the best year of his career.
— devin kharpertian (@uuords) September 28, 2014
But although he is looking ahead, Deron isn’t about to make any predictions for the coming season. Instead he has placed a renewed emphasis on playing the game he loves to the best of his ability, and having fun at it again.
“I just got to get back to playing basketball, man. 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.”
- Deron catches on quick with new Nets offense (The New York Post, Sept. 29, 2014)
- Hollins: D-Will as confident as ever (ESPN New York, Sept. 29, 2014)
- Hollins on Williams: You Guys Are Going to Love Him, Or Respect Him (BrooklynNets.com, Sept. 29, 2014)
- Deron Williams addresses his role and reputation (Wall Street Journal, Sept. 29, 2014)
- Williams says he bulked up ‘a little bit‘ this offseason (The Brooklyn Game, Sept. 28, 2014)
- Nets offense starts looking like Jazz (Nets Daily, Sept. 28, 2014)
- Deron Williams: Last year is behind us (ESPN New York, Sept. 28, 2014)
- Deron Williams says he won’t push the issue when he’s struggling (NY Daily News, Sept. 28, 2014)
- Deron Williams says scoring not only point (Newsday, Sept. 28, 2014)
- Deron Williams practices and feels good (ESPN New York, Sept. 27, 2014)
- Newly confident Deron Williams jabs back at Kobe Bryant (The New York Post, Sept. 27, 2014)
- Hollins happy with Nets on Day 1 of camp (ESPN New York, Sept. 27, 2014)
- Lionel Hollins implements new system one step at a time (NY Daily News, Sept. 27, 2014)
- Lionel Hollins looks for a complete reboot (Nets Daily, Sept. 27, 2014)
- Nets undergoing a ‘total reboot‘ (The Brooklyn Game, Sept. 27, 2014)
- Nets look for stability with new coach Hollins (The New York Post, Sept. 27, 2014)
- Lionel Hollins wants Nets to develop new tough attitude (Newsday, Sept. 27, 2014)
- Again, Nets’ New Season Brings With It New Coach (NY Times, Sept. 26, 2014)