Williams, Paul renew rivalry

Friends off court, the 2 guards battle hard on it

Published: Monday, Feb. 4 2008 12:00 a.m. MST

Their most-recent individual matchup was a dud.

Deron Williams had 12 points and seven assists, but because of foul trouble he played just 29 minutes in a Jazz blowout win over New Orleans last November.

Chris Paul — taken one spot behind Williams in the 2005 NBA Draft, at No. 4 overall — had 15 points and six assists, but shot only 5-of-12 from the field.

Next meeting of the league's two hottest young point guards comes tonight at EnergySolutions Arena, and this installment has ratcheted stakes that could replace the fizzle with bona fide sizzle.

Paul deservedly was named a first-time NBA All-Star last Thursday, tapped by the Western Conference for one of seven reserve spots when the Feb. 17 showcase unfolds in the Hornet point's very own New Orleans.

Williams, though deserving in the eyes of some around the West, was not, losing out as a sub selection not only to Paul but also two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns.

"I'm disappointed because he didn't make it," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said.

"But, you know, that's the luck of the draw. Their (32-win) team is probably a little farther along. They were ahead of us two weeks ago," added Sloan, whose 30-18 Jazz have won eight straight and lead the NBA's Northwest Division. "That's the way it works. You're a victim of circumstances sometimes, and you can't do anything about it."

Except perhaps take out some frustration on the floor.

"That matchup's a big matchup for him," said Jazz power forward Carlos Boozer, who was selected as West reserve — as was Hornets power forward David West. "You know, he always thrives when he plays against Chris Paul — and Chris Paul obviously plays against D-Will."

It may currently be, in fact, the NBA's most scrutinized individual matchup.

After All-Star Game picks were named, TrueHoop/ESPN.com's Henry Abbott boldly asserted that "magnificent as Williams is, he's no Chris Paul."

"Hopefully New Orleans and Utah can meet in the playoffs to figure out who has the better team," Abbott wrote. "As individuals, however, Paul is making a strong case for MVP, Williams is not. This is the season when Williams suffers from bad PR merely because the two have long been compared."

Similar banter was shared back in November, before they faced off for the first time this season. It's continued throughout the All-Star selection process, as merits of the two have been bandied about by everyone and their brother.

"I think Deron Williams is better than Paul, but Paul is doing more with less," wrote ESPN NBA analyst Jalen Rose, an ex-NBA player. "And since his Hornets host the All-Star Game, what better guy to usher in his NBA colleagues and the fans to the Big Easy?"

"Look, don't get me wrong: I like Williams. He's an All-Star-caliber player. ... That said, the oft-echoed opinion that Williams is equal or superior to Paul is totally indefensible," ESPNInsider.com statistical analyst John Hollinger wrote. "It's not like Williams is better at some things and Paul is better at others. It's more like Paul is better at everything. ... Basically, the only items in Williams' favor are that he has a slightly better true shooting percentage and, um, he's bigger. Like I said, I like Williams as a player and don't mean this as a rip on him. But because of the vast disparity in media coverage between the two over the past year, especially during Utah's playoff run last spring, I don't think people quite understand just how good Paul has been, or how wide the chasm is that separates these two."

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