Deron Williams had some choice words for Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant.
In a feature with Sports Illustrated over the summer, Bryant referenced Deron Williams’s 0-9 game against the Miami Heat in Game 2 of the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, the worst shooting performance of Williams’s career. Bryant said Williams, who dealt with ankle injuries all of last season, “psyched himself out“. “‘I would go 0-30 before I would go 0-9,” Bryant said. “0-9 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.’”
Williams fired back Sunday afternoon.
“I’m a point guard,” Williams said about adopting Bryant’s mentality. “If I’m 0-for-f**king-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.”
Williams wasn’t directly attacking Bryant for the comments, but wanted it clear that he’s a point guard, and his role isn’t to take shots from his teammates. He added that he doesn’t use last year as motivation.
“I don’t really care (what people say),” Williams said, half-joking. “I don’t read the papers for a reason. I read the Daily News, I stop right when I get to the sports section.”
Coach Lionel Hollins also defended his star point guard, saying he doesn’t want him to keep shooting for the sake of shooting. “I already told him, we’re never going 3-for-23,” Hollins said. “If we’re going 3-for-23 from the 3-point line, then I got a problem. 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,” he added. “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.”
Williams has struggled with confidence issues since being traded to the Nets in February 2011, saying “I psyched myself out of a lot of games last year.” He attributed that to his balky ankles, which he says feel “great” so far in training camp.
“I’m healthy, man,” Williams said. “When you can walk, you can run, it feels pretty good. … You can’t attack the rim when you can’t jump. You probably jumped higher than me last year,” he said to an unathletic reporter. “There’s a reason I had one dunk on the year, and I don’t know if it even counts as a dunk.”
His shots inside have declined in recent seasons. In his peak years in Utah with the Jazz, Williams took over 34 percent of his shots from within three feet of the basket, about 4.8 attempts per game. Since joining the Nets, under 27 percent of Williams’s shots have come from within 3 feet, or 3.8 per game. He also averaged only 3.4 free throw attempts per game last season, a career-low since Williams became a full-time starter, and an indication of Williams’s aversion to contact.
Hollins is looking to instill some of Utah’s principles with the Nets to help Williams return to All-Star form. Williams and Hollins met numerous times before the season — common in the NBA between point guards and coaches — drawing up different plays that came from Jerry Sloan’s offense with the Jazz. “He’s definitely incorporated some of Utah’s offense into what he’s doing this year, but some of his stuff as well,” Williams said.
Hollins likes the comparison to Sloan, who he understatedly called “a pretty good coach, and welcomed Williams’s input. “Deron’s a smart guy, contrary to what you think,” Hollins joked. “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 has to say. They’re out there playing and I want to show them something and see where they think it could be better.”