Tom Smart, Deseret News
NEW ORLEANS — As he's pointed out, Mo Williams enjoys being a villain in NBA arenas around the league.
The visitor switched roles for Friday night's road game at New Orleans Arena.
The point guard, whose hometown is only a couple hours away, teamed with fellow Magnolia State product Al Jefferson to host 40-plus members of the Mississippi National Guard at the Jazz-Hornets game.
"I have a soft spot in my heart for the Army," Williams said.
He has two close-to-home reasons, too.
Williams' father was in the Army and his brother, Michael, played football at West Point and served his country for six-and-a-half years.
Williams has included the National Guard in his foundation for the past year, and inviting a big group to travel down from Mississippi for an NBA game was a small payback.
"The biggest thing," he said, "is for them to come, be entertained, professional game, get outside of their normal grind and grit of their day and enjoy themselves."
A small group of National Guard members gave the Jazz keepsakes and visited with the team in the locker room after Utah's tough 88-86 loss to the Hornets.
Despite the team's disappointment, clapping could be heard emanating from behind closed doors. The National Guard contingency emerged out of the locker room shortly before Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin exited for postgame interviews.
"It was about them more so than anything. They did a great thing for us and gave us all (something) we can keep forever. It was all about that," Williams said. "What they do is much greater than us playing a basketball game. What we do is entertainment and what they do is, they protect us as human beings."
Though the military members live much closer to New Orleans than Utah, the Jackson, Miss., native made sure they were in his new team's corner.
"Oh absolutely," he said, smiling. "That was in the contract."
HOMECOMING: Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey is traveling with the team and will make his first visit in an official capacity back to his old stomping grounds in San Antonio tonight. Lindsey was Spurs general manager R.C. Buford's assistant for five years before replacing Kevin O'Connor, who stepped down to focus exclusively on being Utah's executive vice president of basketball operations.
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