“It’s going to be a different team for us this year,” Williams, 26, said.
“Things aren’t going to come as easy as they have in the past. It’s part of my
job to keep the team together and keep the team focused.”
When I saw Deron Williams wig out at Gordon Hayward and read his panic (which he insists was not panic) about getting drubbed in the first two games, my initial reactions were: this is exactly what prevents Williams from being a great point guard/player, what makes Steve Nash so superior, what keeps the Jazz from making progress against the Lakers.
A few days later, my thoughts continued: this is what happens when you hand your team over to a player who has never been The Man before. Yeah, my thinking went on, he's totally inexperienced at being the "undisputed leader" of a team.
At The Colony High School in Texas, Williams was purportedly overshadowed by teammate Bracey Wright, a smooth shooter with a nice game who went on to play at Indiana University and lead the Big 10 Conference in scoring his junior year. Wright was drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves (in the same draft the Jazz took Williams), but played only 26 total games before moving overseas to hoop. (Wright's problem was being a shooting guard who was only 6-foot-3.)
When the University of Illinois made their run to the 2005 NCAA Championship Game, Williams took a backseat to Dee Brown for most of the season. As the season went on, it was evident Williams had the best pro potential, and the buzz got busier after he hit this shot:
Then Williams arrived in Utah with Matt Harpring and Andrei Kirilenko having been good Jazz for three and four years, respectively, and Carlos Boozer as young, up-and-comer who had been with the team for a year. Through he became the best player on the Jazz, Williams hasn't been an assertive leader until this season. In fact, if he were a Ninja Turtle, Williams has been more Raphael than Leonardo.
As my brain turned it over more and more, my opinion began to change. Is it proper to expect perfection from a fellow in a brand new situation, especially this early in the endeavor? No it isn't, I concluded.
He deserves some slack for panicking, and there was nothing wrong with yelling at Hayward, except Williams did it as he walked by instead of doing it face-to-face (but again, he's new at being the alphaperson). What Williams is deserving of critique, and constant ridicule, for is throwing the ball at Hayward -- that was a middle school temple tantrum.
“Everything’s a process,” Millsap said. “Everybody don’t come in just
knowing everything. So he’s been listening. He’s been able to get guys around
him, as far as coaches and players, throughout the years. Deron’s been working
hard to get where he’s at.”
“I think he’s made a lot of strides from where he started,” Sloan said. “The
experience that he has, knowledge, all that stuff — he’s a terrific player. I
think the experiences that you have over the years puts you in a position to be
able to do those things; to be a leader; have the responsibility to get other
players to play better. That’s the bottom line. That’s what leadership’s
--Quotes from The Salt Lake Tribune
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With only four games played and so many new players, it is hard to glean anything about the 2010-11 Utah Jazz from the first week of the season. They haven't even been in a close game yet. One can, however, make observations about each player and what role they might have on the team.
RAJA BELL: The Jazz's best player the first two games. It appeared he was trying to will the team out of its funk. Oddly, he hardly played in Sunday's win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. I wonder if Jerry Sloan will avoid forcing Bell's minutes if Utah is getting good play from Calvin and Kirilenko. Bell is older and coming off an injury. If he isn't needed, he might as well be preserved for when he is.
FRANCISO ELSON: Still seems lost on offense, but he will come in handy when the Jazz face the better teams in the West. Elson won't mind mixing it up, or starting the mix-ups, with the likes of the Lakers, Nuggets and Spurs. He shoots jumpers with confidence.
JEREMY EVANS: Like everyone else does, I find Evans impressive. He puts his athleticism to use by attacking the hoop and aggressively seeking rebounds.
KYRYLO FESENKO: Getting better. His most valuable contributions have been the times he has altered shots, or blocked shots as a help defender. He still loves the in-game promotions.
GORDON HAYWARD: Has shown hustle and smarts. Better yet, he has shown he can score in a lot of different ways, so long as he isn't shooting a three-pointer. If the Jazz get hit with injuries and Hayward has to play 30 minutes a game, his scoring average could reach 13 to 15 ppg. Hayward probably isn't a star, but he should be a valuable role player who scores when needed to score.
AL JEFFERSON: He might be lost within the offense, but he's right at home under the hoop. Like Boozer, he follows his misses. Unlike Boozer, he is able to follow the shot with a combination of power and a soft touch.
ANDREI KIRILENKO: Somehow, he looks more lost than ever on offense. His defense on Kevin Durant was terrific in the third game. His entire game was terrible in the first two contests. AK is Utah's version of JR Smith -- he'll either light it up, or hold the Jazz down.
CJ MILES: Overcame downright failure quicker than he usually does, which could be a good sign. Like Kirilenko, you can't expect anything from him, game in and game out. Hopefully he will show up at opportune times for the Jazz, scoring when the rest of the players are struggling. Sunk three huge 3-pointers against Toronto.
PAUL MILLSAP: Playing exactly like the Jazz need him to. He might not big enough or fast enough to be a go-to scorer, but he forces defenses to keep an eye on him the entire time. He'll either get his points, or open up the lane for his teammates. His jumper keeps improving.
RONNIE PRICE: Finds himself as the Jazz's third-best point guard once again. Might prove valuable at shooting guard against teams with a small backcourt. Could form a good fight-starting duo with Elson.
EARL WATSON: He has been much better than Jason Hart and Brevin Knight were their first month in the Jazz system. Runs the offense well and can hit a mid-range jumper.
DERON WILLIAMS: Nice game against the Thunder. We kind of know what we get from Williams. He needs to control the tempo and maintain order in the midst of chaos.
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