Since the NBA lockout ended late last year, there has been a constant stream of rumors that the Nets hoped to pair Deron Williams with Dwight Howard.

But now that the window for dealing for Howard has at least temporarily closed after the Nets re-signed Brook Lopez on Wednesday, Williams is looking forward to watching Lopez prove his doubters wrong this season.

"I expected big things from him last year," Williams said Saturday after Team USA practiced at the D.C. Armory. "Unfortunately, the injury bug got him. This year I know he's working out hard, he's ready to go and we definitely expect him to be a big force for our team. We need him in the middle."

The Nets need Lopez in the middle because they were unable to use him as the centerpiece in a Howard trade, something they have attempted to do several times over the past few months. But now that Lopez is signed, the Nets are lining up behind him and expect him to bounce back after missing all but five games last season with a pair of foot injuries.