SALT LAKE CITY — At the beginning of his postgame interview Friday night in Boston, Deron Williams admitted he felt like he was at a loss of words following the Utah Jazz's third defeat in a row.
When reporters didn't stop asking questions and Williams found words to describe his devastation, the Jazz team captain revealed the awkward dilemma he's facing.
Though as competitive and forthright as they come, Williams doesn't feel like he should try to fire up his team with a rip session or by throwing trash cans (or 100 MPH basketballs) around the locker room.
"If I do that then I'm the bad guy, I'm the villain," Williams said. "So, I'm going to keep my mouth shut."
And that statement, mind you, came two nights after the All-Star said he wouldn't knock on Jerry Sloan's door and make suggestions about the struggling lineup.
"Just leave it up to him," Williams said.
This All-Star doesn't like what the Jazz are cooking (now serving: a four-game losing streak with side orders of season-worst play and sluggishness), but he doesn't want to stir the pot, either.
Talk about a conflicting conundrum — and a lot of pressure on the guy everybody's looking to for answers. And D-Will feels it.
"I'm struggling," he said, "to find what to do, what my role is."
Make no mistake. There's no doubt how his teammates, who are also struggling and searching, view his role. As Carlos Boozer occasionally called the two of them, Williams is the alpha dog. He's the man. The leader of this Jazz band.
But teammates don't intend to leave all the burden of resolving obviously deep issues and inefficiencies on his shoulders.
"D-Will's our leader," Jazz center Al Jefferson said, "and we've got a lot of vets on this team. We've been talking amongst each other. We've just got to stay together. Things are going to happen. We can't expect to come out and win every game we play in. We've just got to stay together and try to fix the problem."
Notice how many times Big Al used the pronoun "we" in that quote?
That could be considered a good sign the Jazz realize that it will take a team-wide, renewed effort and revitalized energy to fight out of this funk during which Utah has lost six of nine games.
The good news for Williams, then, is that it's not a "me" thing. It's a "we" thing.
Or is that the bad news?
Starting guard Raja Bell, another leader because of his veteran status and demeanor, also believes one man shouldn't take it on his own to right this sinking ship.
"I think the best way to lead is to go out there and try to lead by example," Bell said. "I think we should all try to be leaders and we should all go out there and do the right thing play after play after play."
That includes doing all of the nitty gritty things the Jazz simply haven't been doing during this losing streak — which has seen them plummet to the sixth spot from third in the Western Conference — or while habitually falling behind early on.
Here's how Bell explained his doing-the-right-thing edict:
"If that means you're supposed to screen, then you screen — and you screen to the best of your ability. If that means you're supposed to pass the ball, you pass the ball — and you do it without reluctancy. If it means you're supposed to shoot, then you shoot.
"But," he continued, "if you're going to go out there and not lead by example, then you can say whatever you want and people won't follow you. So you have to go out there and lead by example."
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