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Deron Williams opens up about his time in Brooklyn, almost quit playing basketball

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Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Deron Williams had a rough time as a member of the Brooklyn Nets. He was a franchise player who, at times, played as if he was the third or fourth best player on his own team. He was a franchise player who, at times, garnered little to no respect from his teammates. He was a franchise player who, mostly, hated being in Brooklyn.

These things we know to be true, have written about them and put them to rest a countless number of times, yet they were once again front and center on Monday after Williams sat down with Michael Lee of Yahoo! Sports, where he opened up about his tenure in Brooklyn.

The key takeaway -- the headline of the piece -- is that Williams had thought about never playing basketball again once his contract with the Nets was over with.

He told Lee:

"It took a lot out of me, man, those three years. Some of the hardest in my life," Williams told Yahoo Sports of his time in Brooklyn. "Made me question if I even wanted to play basketball when I was done with that contract."

Williams admits that the pressure was a two-way street. Partly put on him, partly on the organization and the market.

"It’s cool. There’s a lot of people, I guess, who aren’t built for New York," Williams told Yahoo. "New York is not for everybody."

[...]

"I wish I wouldn’t have been hurt. I wish I would’ve played better and people didn’t feel like I was just stealing money. That’s the last thing I want people to feel like," Williams told Yahoo. "It didn’t work out the way anybody had hoped."

Williams wishes he would have played better in Brooklyn -- but he didn't. He wishes things would have worked out -- but they didn't.

I feel for Williams in a sense. It's hard when your body doesn't, well, work. When it breaks down on you and it doesn't allow you to be the athlete you're supposed to be. Or so I imagine. In that sense, though, I feel for him.

On the other hand, though, I disagree wholeheartedly with his sentiment on the organization and, in particular, the coaching situation.

Take, for example, the following:

"I wanted to be somewhere where my coach was going to be there. It wasn’t going to be up in the air, year after year. You see here, he’s not going anywhere," Williams told Yahoo, nodding in the direction of Carlisle. "I’ve heard a lot of great things about him as a coach, and that was a big part of it. The system has definitely been great. Still learning but it’s definitely helped me, helped my confidence."

Williams was as much of the problem as anyone in terms of the constant coaching changes in Brooklyn. To that end, the team actually did a great job of guarding him and telling a side of the story where Williams is more innocent bystander than coach killer.

He wasn't, however, even able to muster the act that is protecting your coach in public. Not even a "thank you for your concern about my head coach." The dysfunction was as much Williams' doing as it was management's.

I do feel bad for -- in the general sense -- someone being stuck in a job or with an organization that they detest. That I can feel for. However, the situation as it played out before our very eyes was not solely the fault of the organization.

Williams does acknowledge that things didn't play out as he would have hoped, but he downplays all too much that he was a big part of the problem -- not just his body breaking down, but his unwillingness to have fun on the basketball court.

As the situation played out, I don't fully feel sorry for Williams, so much as I feel sorry for the fans who relied on Williams to at the very least put on a good face and pretend like he's having fun making a king's ransom for playing a child's game. He chose not to make the most of the situation. In fact, he chose to do the one thing no NBA player should do -- take his job and the fans who support him for granted. He made it easy for Nets fans to turn on him, because he had no intention of fighting for their respect and admiration.