'Mo' leadership just what the Utah Jazz needed

Published: Thursday, Oct. 4 2012 7:00 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — With such a young Utah Jazz team featuring several players who are still in their early 20s with limited NBA experience, one thing this ballclub can definitely use is more leadership.

Make that Mo leadership.

Yes, with nine-year NBA veteran Mo Williams taking over as the Jazz starting point guard this season, that's one thing that everybody from head coach Ty Corbin all the way down to the ball boy are counting upon heavily: Mo's leadership.

"He's a leader," Corbin said Thursday morning following the first two days of training camp in preparation for the 2012-2013 campaign. "He's a leader, he's an attacker. He's a great communicator with the guys on the floor in a good way, and they seem to listen and follow what he's saying."

With a roster that features four key contributors from last season — Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Alec Burks and Enes Kanter — who are all between the ages of 20 and 22, the Jazz need someone to step up and take on that responsibility.

And it's a role that Williams, who came to the Jazz as part of a four-team trade last June, certainly won't shy away from.

"It's just me; it's just my personality," said Williams, who spent the 2003-2004 season with the Jazz, then landed a free-agent deal with the Milwaukee Bucks and has also spent time in his career playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Clippers. "I've been a guy, especially in the NBA, that's had to work hard and kind of grind to get what I deserve, so I always try to help people when I can, because I know what it takes.

"I know sometimes it gets tough and it feels like it's unfair, but you can't hold your head. You've just got to continue to go hard and play hard, because nobody's gonna feel sorry for you. So I try to get that message across as much as possible."

Nobody's gonna feel sorry for you? Quickly now, who does that sound like?

If you said former Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, the guy who was running the show when Williams was selected by Utah in the second round of the 2003 NBA Draft, give yourself a pat on the back for being exactly right.

Sloan is a guy that Williams has the utmost respect for, and Williams feels that Corbin — who was an assistant under Sloan for seven seasons before Sloan abruptly retired in March 2011 — possesses a lot of the same admirable qualities as his Hall of Fame former boss.

"I've got a lot of respect for this organization, I've got a lot of respect for obviously for Jerry and Phil (Johnson) and Gordie (Chiesa), the other coach that was here when I was here before," Williams said. "Those guys I love dearly and they helped my career a lot. They got it jump-started and, without them, I wouldn't be in the position that I am today."

In the summer of 2004, Williams was working out with the Jazz in preparation for possibly playing in the Rocky Mountain Revue when the Bucks came calling with a lucrative free-agent offer he couldn't refuse.

But he got acquainted at that time with Corbin, who joined the Jazz coaching staff that summer, and now they find themselves working toward the same goal: trying to make the Jazz a better team.

"We spent part of that summer together," Williams said. "I didn't get to know him really well, but we (were) together at the gym and when you've got two-a-days, you get to know a coach. We stayed in touch and, when we saw each other over the years, we always spoke to each other — not knowing that we would get back to this point."

"He's very straightforward, which I love," Williams said of Corbin. "I love a straightforward coach who's not scared to tell people what's on his mind and what's right or wrong. I think that's the best way to get a message across, regardless (of) even if it's positive or negative. But at the same time, he'll pick you up, too, and I think that's more important.

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