It’s been more than two weeks since the Nets organization’s world was turned upside-down (in a good way) and Deron Williams was acquired for Devin Harris and Derrick Favors (and picks). I recently answered some questions about Harris and Favors for Kevin Malphurs, a blogger for the True Hoop Network’s Jazz blog, Salt City Hoops. He’s nicely returned the favor, giving us some perspective on Deron going forward:
After the Nets-Jazz trade, a lot of the media reports indicated that the Jazz front office had grown tired with Deron Williams. How do fans view Williams? Is he considered the “bad guy” for the resignation of Jerry Sloan? Is the fanbase happy to be rid of him?
Deron Williams was always supposed to be the next great point guard of the Utah Jazz. I remember seeing Williams at Illinois during the 2005 NCAA tournament and thinking he would be a perfect fit for Utah. The Jazz at the time were a bad team that was going to have a top lottery pick. When they traded up and drafted Williams, it seemed like the fates aligned to provide a team that needed a point guard with a young, talented one. Jazz fans thought his size, shooting ability and most importantly passing ability would translate well in the Jazz system.
He went through some growing pains in his rookie year, but by his 2nd year it was clear he was going to be a special player. The Jazz were an up and coming team with Boozer, Okur, Kirilenko, Brewer and Millsap. At that point Jazz fans had nothing but great things to say about Williams. We (myself included) would defend Williams against any accusations that the Jazz should have drafted Chris Paul. The thought being was that while Paul might put up better numbers, Williams was still the better pick for Utah.
However, things started going sour last year. Over the course of three years, the Jazz went from reaching the conference finals, to conference semi-finals, to losing in the 1st round. They were a team going downwards and when things started going poorly, Williams didn’t act like the leader he was when things were going well. He started expressing his dissatisfaction, and in retrospect, he planted the seeds for the eventual trade. For the longest time Jazz fans made excuses for his negative behavior.
However, the Jerry Sloan thing was the final straw. Coach Sloan is a legend in Jazz fans eyes and the fact that he decided to quit due in part because of his relationship with Williams was a huge negative. Once that happened, I think Jazz fans started noticing the negatives. His attitude was terrible, and the way he interacted with new players (namely Gordon Hayward) left a lot to be desired. His Jordan-like competitiveness once was considered a positive, but now he was being viewed as stubborn and the wrong leader at this time. The Jazz needed a Steve Nash-like leader, who would help nurture the young talent and not someone like Kobe Bryant constantly asking for more help.
When Williams was traded I was at first shocked, but then after that the fan base was for the most part happy with the trade. The Jerry Sloan thing helped remove the rose-colored glasses Jazz fans viewed Deron Williams through. He was no longer the perfect point guard.
Since coming over, Williams has been dealing with a tendon issue in his left wrist. How serious was this injury earlier this season and did you notice a drop in his performance from previous years because of any injury issues this year?
I didn’t notice much of a decline in play because of the wrist injury. It seemed like he was still shooting the ball well and wasn’t adjusting his style of play, like for example the way Chris Paul has adjusted this year. The only thing I could notice while watching the game was that he would grab his wrist after certain shots. It seemed like he was having difficulty with it, but the results of his play didn’t seem noticeably different. I checked some of the stats on shooting and it looks like my opinion is backed up there.
A criticism of Deron’s since coming over was he felt the Jazz playbook was “antiquated.” Any insights on to that?
Deron Williams played well in a fast-paced game. The Jazz drafted him thinking that with his size he would be perfect for a half court game, but in reality his size made him better suited for transitions. In some way he was like LeBron James when out in transition. His size would allow him to absorb the contact and still make shots. With his speed and size it was hard to stop him on a fast break. With that I think his criticisms of the Jazz regimented play calling were valid. The Jazz should have sped things up a little bit and worked on improving that aspect of their offense.
Do you think the Jazz front office could have done more to surround Williams more talent? Did he ever voice his displeasure about the personnel surrounding him?
Yes, the Jazz should have done more to surround Williams with more talent. Also, yes, he did voice his displeasure for the talent level surrounding him. He was angry when the Jazz traded away Ronnie Brewer last year and I can’t really blame him for that. The Jazz have made some questionable moves that have left them with below-average wing players. It seems like every move they made (signing Okur to an extension, trading for Jefferson, resigning Millsap) was made to improve their frontcourt, but not their backcourt. Every move they have made for their backcourt (drafting Hayward, signing Bell, not signing Korver or Brewer) has been a failure. Williams was the only reliable backcourt option on the Jazz team.
It got so bad that one of the Salt City Hoops writers suggested moving Williams to shooting guard to try and help out there. It is as if the Jazz needed him to play both point guard and shooting guard to field a decent team. Maybe Williams could have gone about voicing his displeasure another way, but make no mistake about it – the Jazz have some of the worst wing players in the NBA.