For whatever reason last year, Deron Williams deferred team leadership to Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and later Joe Johnson. It might have been his injuries. It might have been Pierce and KG's Hall of Fame credentials or Johnson's superior season. But every indication now is that the Nets want him back as their leader.
Lionel Hollins seemed to make that clear the other day at Yankee Stadium making it clear that D-Will is his starting point guard and by implication the team leader. It may take him some time to get into basketball shape after spending much of the summer in walking boots after double ankle surgery, but Hollins seems hopeful.
Mike Mazzeo writes Saturday that Williams needs to step up for the Nets to succeed, that the pressure is on him.
"But if the Nets are going to make any noise this season, Williams has to be the one to lead them on the court.
With Paul Pierce gone, the Nets become Williams’ team again," Mazzeo writes. "Sure, Joe Johnson will be counted on as usual for his steady scoring and clutch shooting at the end of games. But Johnson is not the vocal type. KG is still around to provide the vocal leadership but his playing time might be reduced from last season."
Nets executives say that Williams' mental state was severely hurt by his physical injuries and hope that, as he did in Utah and his early days in New Jersey, Williams can rise to the occasion. Because if he doesn't, the season is in jeordardy.