Williams averaged 13.0 points during the 2014-15 season, but he shot a career-low 38.7 percent from the field. He also missed 14 games due to a variety of injuries.
General manager Billy King confirmed Wednesday his commitment to sign Lopez if, as expected, he opts out of his contract in favor of unrestricted free agency in July.
"For us to get in the playoffs that stretch, [Lopez] was the guy who carried us," King told the New York Post. "He was our best player. Without Brook Lopez, there's no way we even get to where we go to this year.
"I'll say it again: We want him back. I want him back, [coach] Lionel [Hollins] wants him back, ownership wants him back. We've all said it. There shouldn't be any more doubts about it."
King, however, is open to trading Williams and Johnson.
"We're going to explore all options, as we have [previously]," he added. "Will there be a trade? There could be, but I'm not sure."
Though his numbers were down from the previous year, Lopez was particularly productive as the Nets fought for and won a playoff spot. He finished the season averaging 17.2 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.
His team finished under .500 and lost in the first round of the playoffs despite boasting such talent as Johnson,
"I don't see us coming back as the same team," Johnson told the New York Daily News. "This is my third year here. I could see if we were getting better each year, but it's been kind of the opposite. So to not even be a .500 ball club in the East, it's disheartening and I don't know. I think everyone in the locker room is unsure of the future here."
The Nets have no cap space and pick 29th in the draft. Lopez and
Hollins was still complaining Saturday.
"I thought we had a higher basketball IQ as a group than we did," he said. "That was a big thing. I thought we had more toughness and all of that. But as a coach, looking from the outside, that's what I always say until you come in and coach a team you don't know for sure. I thought the skill level was better ... but we worked around it and that's part of coaching."
Williams declined to to speak to the media as he and his teammates gathered their bags and took off.
"He's not a franchise player anymore," Hollins said during his exit interview Saturday morning, per ESPN. "He's a good player, he's a solid player, but I don't think he's a franchise player anymore. That's just my opinion. He's a good player. I'm proud of the way he's bounced back and played, and there's so much pressure on him to be a franchise player, and everybody talks about a franchise player, but we need to have a franchise team.
"That means we have everybody going out there and playing hard, playing together, sharing the ball. If a guy is open, he makes a shot. If a guy is not open, he passes to another guy and he makes the shot. To me, that's what basketball is about. It's not about a franchise player. I mean, those guys come along once in a lifetime, and everybody doesn't get a chance to coach one. When you don't have one, you can't say you can't win. There are teams that have won championships without franchise players, what everyone considers a franchise player. I'm not worried about that. That's something you guys talk about and worry about. I worry about us going out there and playing hard, playing together and trying to scratch and claw to win a game. That's what it's all about."
This isn't the first time Williams has been criticized for his inconsistent play and his injury-riddled run with the Nets over the past three seasons. Future Hall of Fame forward Paul Pierce spoke candidly back in April about his disastrous season with Williams and the Nets a year ago, calling it "horrible."
"Before I got there, I looked at Deron as an MVP candidate," Pierce said in an ESPN interview with Jackie MacMullan. "But I felt once we got there, that's not what he wanted to be. He just didn't want that. ... I think a lot of the pressure got to him sometimes. This was his first time in the national spotlight. The media in Utah is not the same as the media in New York."
Williams lost his starting role to Jarrett Jack from late December to early February this season while he recovered from a rib injury. He also dealt with a severe case of tendinitis throughout the season and finished his 2014-15 campaign averaging a career-worst 13.0 points, 6.6 assists and 3.5 rebounds in 68 games (55 starts).
The Nets entered the postseason as an eighth seed and were bounced out of the first round by Atlanta. Williams was held to only 11.8 points and 5.5 assists while shooting 39.1 percent from the field in the series.
The Nets were a five seed in last season's Eastern Conference playoffs but fell to No. 8 this year, losing in the first round to the Hawks.
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