In case mediocre statistics were not a giveaway, Deron Williams’ body language provided a clue. Leadership was out of the question. It’s sort of tough to lead when you can’t walk up a flight of stairs or take the mascot off the dribble.

Welcome to Williams’ world, before the NBA All-Star break.

“I felt like I was hurting the team just being out there playing the way I was,” Williams, who spent the first half of the season suffering through pain in both ankles, said yesterday after the Nets practiced for tonight’s game against Atlanta — a key meeting with possible playoff seeding implications and the final game before the longest road trip in team history, an eight-game, 17-day odyssey.