Utah Jazz: Marvin Williams acclimates to Jazz, Salt Lake City quickly
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Marvin Williams made a few observations when he arrived in his second NBA home last month.
Utah's mountain air is thin.
People in Jazzland are friendly.
And as of Wednesday's practice, the new Salt Lake City resident is beyond thrilled to have successfully navigated his way from Point A to Point B without accidentally ending up in Points C, D or Provo.
"I'm excited that I haven't been lost yet," Williams said, laughing. "My first couple of outings in Atlanta were pretty nasty."
The Jazz, hopeful he'll keep heading in the right direction on multiple fronts, have also noticed plenty about Williams, who apparently owes original Salt Lake City developer Brigham Young and a GPS system a big thanks.
"I always liked Marvin," said unrelated but similarly named Jazz point guard Mo Williams.
He's not the only one.
As early as junior high, Atlanta native Derrick Favors admired Williams' game while he rooted for the Hawks.
In high school, Al Jefferson became a Williams fan when the two players got to know each other as prep All-Americans.
Like many basketball observers, Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin has watched in interest as Williams entered the NBA early — and was snatched ahead of Deron Williams and Chris Paul in the draft — after helping North Carolina win a national championship back seven years ago.
"First of all," Corbin said, "he's a great person."
Families of the Special Olympics athletes he's helped over the years, underprivileged kids who received free tickets to Hawks games through Marvin's MVPs club and Senegal citizens he assisted with an NBA program are among those who can vouch for that.
The Jazz will also tell you Williams doesn't look like a guy who fits the underachiever label he's been given his NBA career.
The other Williams — the one who requested old Jazz games on DVD that Marvin ended up receiving by mistake — flashed a big smile when talking about being his teammate.
Mo Williams gushed about the 6-foot-9 player. He stretches the floor. He is versatile, strong and athletic. His last name ain't bad, either.
"I could go on and on about he characteristics I saw," Mo Williams said.
Marvin Williams has primarily played the small forward position, but he'll do spot-up minutes as power forward if needed. Ballhandling was his offseason emphasis.
Corbin hasn't announced starting lineups or rotations, but Williams figures to be in the mix as a starter — perhaps alongside fellow wing Gordon Hayward — or at least as a regular contributor off the bench.
So far, Corbin is impressed by how attentive Williams has been in learning a new system after spending the first seven seasons in Atlanta. To get a jump start for this new adventure and adjust to the altitude, Williams moved to Utah on Sept. 10 — a week before he'd usually return to Atlanta. Camp started Tuesday, but he's been working out for weeks with a group of Jazz players, including Hayward, Mo Williams, Randy Foye, Enes Kanter, Alec Burks and DeMarre Carroll.
"He's paying attention to everything he need to try to get better at to fit into what we're doing. He's excited about being here," Corbin said. "He's going to be a versatile player for us. He can have the ball in his hands some. He can make shots coming off the down screen. He can defend guys, both big and small. He's rangy. We're looking forward to getting him into a lot of situations."
Jefferson has been enthused about the Jazz's move to acquire Williams from Atlanta, even though Utah traded away an All-Star starting point guard (Devin Harris) for the second consecutive year.
"When I found out (Marvin) was coming here, I just thought, 'Wow, another guy with playoff experience who knows what it takes to win,'" Jefferson said. "(He is) a great guy off the court also and a guy that's just got that winning attitude. All that can do is help us."
Williams didn't necessarily want to be traded. To Matt Harpring's liking, no doubt, he admitted, "I love Atlanta." But the 26-year-old is relishing the "fresh start." With career averages of 11.5 points and 5.3 rebounds, Williams is used to hearing about not living up to other people's expectations — an accusation he counters by saying he meets his own expectations and gives his full effort every day.
Being in a place with wide streets, an easy-to-navigate grid system, a playoff-rich history and supportive fans certainly gives him a refreshing sense of renewal.
"I'm going to compete. I'm going to play hard. I play to win," said Williams, who is set to make $8.3 million this year with a player option for 2013-14. "I think at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is to win. Coming into an organization that has been winning for a very long time, I'm really excited to be a part of something like that."
Something else Williams anticipates?
Using the ping-pong table at the Jazz's practice facility.
"I have my paddle in my backpack," the former team tennis table champ said. "Don't tell anybody, though. I'll bring it out when it's time."
Secret's safe with us.
Another thing you might've heard through the grapevine — this new Jazzman, Marvin Gaye Williams, was named after his dad who was named after, you guessed, the Prince of Motown.
Jazz fans will get their first chance to see No. 2 in action at Saturday's open scrimmage, which will take place at 4 p.m. in that big building on the corner of John Stockton Boulevard and Karl Malone Drive.
Here's betting Williams already knows how to get there.
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