Utah Jazz hope to avoid bumpy road

Published: Thursday, Nov. 1 2012 9:00 p.m. MDT

Utah Jazz point guard Mo Williams (5), center, and Utah Jazz small forward Gordon Hayward (20) high five as DeMarre Carroll looks on as the Utah Jazz play the Dallas Mavericks in NBA basketball Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

NEW ORLEANS — Mo Williams thrives on being an unwelcome guest.

"Everybody hates you, (they) boo you," Williams said. "They've got signs. They're heckling you."

Merely talking about being the enemy in away arenas, while inside the comfy confines of the Utah Jazz's practice facility this week, seemed to stoke a fire in the point guard's eyes.

"I just love it," he said. "I always loved playing on the road."

If that's really the case — and the passion he spoke with is convincing — consider this to be Williams' lucky month.

Beginning with tonight's game at New Orleans Arena, the Jazz will be away from home almost as much as Mitt Romney's been traveling during the presidential campaign.

Tell the team's overworked travel coordinator about it. The Jazz will be on Williams-approved trips for eight of their next 10 games.

"I think it's a plus for us," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "We have to make it a plus because it is what it is."

And that's just the beginning of their journeys.

Utah will be on the road for 12 of 17 games and for 24 of its first 39 contests.

That's a lot of chocolate mints on hotel pillows to start the season.

Then again, it also means the Jazz have plenty of time to get reacquainted with Salt Lake City in the final half of the season, with 26 of their final 43 games at ESA.

"The schedule balances itself out, but you've got to get off to start at it man," Corbin said. "You can dig yourself in a big hole by losing a lot of road games in a row, and the way the West is, it is going to be extremely difficult all year long."

The Jazz can't afford as many road-kill moments as they had during the lockout-shortened season when they only won 11 times in 33 games. In 2010-11, Utah was 18-23 on the road.

The Northwest Division is too tough.

The Western Conference is too deep.

That's why Corbin has preached to his team that this is an area that requires improvement.

"It will be a great test for us early in the season," he said, "to get out on the road and play against some great opponents, so we've got to be ready to go."

No time like the present, with games in the Bayou, Alamo City and Elvis' old stomping grounds in the next four nights.

The Jazz fell flat in New Orleans twice last season despite being a more talented team, and now the Hornets have the No. 1 pick, talented big man Anthony Davis.

Traditionally, the Jazz have experienced about as much success in San Antonio as Democrats do in Utah County elections. The Grizzlies aren't exactly teddy bears, either.

"It's going to be tough. I think it's a reality. We're on the road a lot coming up, so it's going to be a good test," Williams said. "But at the same time, I think the test is feasible. I think we can get the job done. We're going to play against some good teams, but I think we're prepared enough to put ourselves in a position to win."

Now bring it on him, Hornets, Spurs and Memphis fans — with extra heckles, please.

"I relish those moments," Williams said.

Another thing he relishes?

Snapping embarrassing shots of his snoozing teammates on charter flights. On Thursday, he posted a picture of Marvin Williams in slumberland on his Twitter account while the Jazz were somewhere between SLC and MSY airports.

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