Utah Jazz: Deron Williams talks candidly about Jazz's struggles

By Joseph D'Hippolito

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Feb. 19 2011 10:33 p.m. MST

Deron Williams, Jazz, sits on the floor after being called for a defensive foul against Chris Paul of the Hornets at the EnergySolutions Arena. Michael Brandy, Deseret News__BYU guard Jimmer Fredette (32) attempts a shot as TCU 's Nikola Cerina, left, defends in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 19, 2011, in Fort Worth, Texas. BYU won 79-56. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)__Deron Williams says he regrets the way his relationship with Jerry Sloan developed.

Mike Terry, Deseret News

LOS ANGELES — As a child in Texas, Deron Williams won two state wrestling championships. Now, as the focal point of the Utah Jazz, the all-star guard faces the most imposing opponent of his professional career.

Pervasive, unceasing exasperation.

"I've never had a season this frustrating, personally and as a team," Williams said during All-Star Weekend festivities. "Never."

Nevertheless, Williams has averaged more assists (9.7 per game) than all but two NBA players and is on pace to record the best scoring average of his career (21.3).

Despite his statistics, Williams has watched the Jazz stumble during the past five weeks while playing much of the season with a sprained wrist that affects his shooting.

In the past seven games, Williams made just 44-of-110 shots — and missed 27-of-34 from 3-point range.

"I know I lack confidence in my game, and that's translating to everybody else," Williams said. "It was weighing on me a lot.

"I haven't been shooting well. Now, I'm thinking, 'Should I take this shot or should I pass?' I can't play like that.

"In the last couple of games, I've just been trying to play hard and do other things: rebound a little bit more, try to get some more steals, try to do other things to help us have a chance to win while I've been struggling offensively."

The Jazz lost 11 of their last 13 games to fall into a tie with Memphis for eighth place — the final playoff spot — in the Western Conference.

Adding to Williams' burden is the controversy surrounding head coach Jerry Sloan's abrupt resignation Feb. 10, one day after the point guard and the coach argued at halftime of a 91-86 loss to Chicago.

Many have blamed Williams for Sloan's departure; the two had a cantankerous relationship.

"It was frustrating because I felt like — I know — I wasn't the reason Coach Sloan decided to step down," Williams said. "If Coach Sloan calls a play, I'm going to run it.

"There were a lot of reports out there that were false, a lot of 'sources,' as they call them, that had opinions. You know, I can't really control all that.

"There are going to be people who choose to believe the first thing they hear, the first thing they see on 'SportsCenter.' More power to 'em."

Still, Williams regrets the way his relationship with Sloan developed.

"I wish we would've had a better one," Williams said. "I wish we would have talked more. I did whatever Coach Sloan said, offensively and defensively. Sometimes, we'd disagree on things and we'd have an argument.

"You know, I think we're a lot similar and I think that's why we bumped heads a lot. We want to win so badly, and we're both stubborn. I think that cost us a lot in our relationship."

Ty Corbin, appointed to replace Sloan, offers a less intense counterbalance.

"They're a lot different," Williams said. "Ty's 30 years younger and he can relate to us a little bit better. He's a little bit easier to approach."

Yet Corbin has not totally replaced Sloan in Williams' mind. The point guard still calls Sloan "coach" automatically and uses the present tense while discussing him.

"Coach can be intimidating just because of his stature," Williams said. "He's a Hall of Famer, and he's been here for so many years, so it's hard for a lot of guys to approach him."

With Williams facing immediate challenges, confronting free agency will have to wait.

"I can't even think about it," he said. "There are so many different things that weigh on free agency for me. The collective bargaining agreement is the first one.

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