Now on a struggling Nets squad, the uber-competitive and emotionally charged Williams is more thankful than ever for all of the wins the Jazz racked up when he was the team's No. 8.
If there's any leftover bitterness or regrets about his 5 1
2 seasons with Utah — more specifically how it ended — Williams isn't publicly sharing them.
"I have no hard feelings. I have nothing but great things to say about the organization," Williams said. "They gave me my first chance in the NBA. They gave me my first big contract in the NBA. ... They're a well-run organization. I just thank them for everything they've done for me."
And the fans.
He loves Utah's fans.
Heck, Williams remains a fan of those Jazz fans who used to roar when he made tricky passes that led to Kyle Korver 3-pointers and Boozer dunks, or when he tripped up a defender with his cross-over dribble or when he exploded over an opponent en route to the rim or, well, when he simply played for their team.
Asked what he misses most about being with the Jazz, Williams talked about "playing in front of the fans" — the 19,911 who filled the arena with electricity, passion and, in his opinion, a vibe unparalleled elsewhere.
Williams caught himself and chuckled after saying "we," and continued.
"They have the best fans in the NBA, I believe, game in and game out," Williams said. "They support the Jazz no matter what the record is, how we're playing, who we were going up against. They just always had our back."
Moments before stepping on the court Friday morning to prep for the Suns with four former Jazz players also sporting Nets gear — Mehmet Okur, Sundiata Gaines, Kris Humphries and DeShawn Stevenson — Williams smiled while revisiting the past.
D-Will's heart gets all warm and fuzzy when he remembers being on an up-and-coming Sloan-coached team with Boozer, Okur, Matt Harpring, Derek Fisher, Andrei Kirilenko, Ronnie Brewer and Paul Millsap.
His best Jazz memory?
"Winning that Game Seven in Houston and then going to the Western Conference Finals," Williams quickly answered.
Good times in 2007.
"Great times," he said, emphasizing the word "great."
There are people who will be excited for his return.
Old teammates, especially his buddies C.J. Miles and Millsap.
Fans who appreciate his immense talent and overlooked his surliness or sourness.
Parents of autistic kids and diabetic children, low-income families, families of deceased and injured military members and other beneficiaries from the massive amount of charity work he did in the state with his Point of Hope Foundation.
People who either don't blame him for Sloan's departure or who forgive him for his role in the resignation. (Williams, by the way, hasn't spoken to his old coach since leaving Utah, but said, "I would like to at some point.")
Whatever the reaction is tonight, Williams is happy his Utah reunion has finally arrived.
Unfortunately for him, the Nets won't arrive in Salt Lake City until the wee hours of the morning, and they'll depart for Los Angeles after the game, not leaving much time for relationship rekindling.
"I'd like to have the day off so I could go to a restaurant with my family, friends," Williams said. "It's not going to be hard for me to go back. I don't get fazed and affected by stuff like that. I just think it's going to be fun."
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