Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — By now, it’s not a big deal for the Utah Jazz to be playing a game against former Jazzman Deron Williams.
Williams starred for the Jazz from 2005, when he was taken with the No. 3 pick of the NBA Draft, until February 2011, when he was shockingly traded to the New Jersey Nets.
The Jazz played twice against Williams last season, winning both times, and will meet again Tuesday night when the Jazz take on the team that is now called the Brooklyn Nets in their sparkling new Barclays Center arena.
After two double-digit losses following a four-game winning streak, the Jazz are just looking to get back on the winning track at the start of a four-game road trip rather than worrying about a match-up with Williams.
“I don’t care who we’re playing, Deron and Brooklyn is the next team up,’’ Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said at Monday’s practice before flying back East. “I thought he had a great run here, unfortunately it came to an end. We’re not going after him, we’re going after the Nets.’’
Only five players who played with Williams in Utah remain — Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, Gordon Hayward, Jeremy Evans and Earl Watson.
Jefferson said he doesn’t look at the game as having any “extra hype or anything’’ but wonders if Williams might.
“He probably looks at it that way because this is his old team and he was here for many years where he did a lot of great things,’’ he said.
Especially after what happened last year when the Jazz won both games against Williams and the Nets, taking a 107-94 victory in Salt Lake and a 105-84 win in New Jersey.
Millsap, who was a teammate of Williams longer than anyone else on the team, sees nothing special about playing against his old teammate.
“He’s an opponent, he’s not our teammate any more, so we’ve got to go at him,’’ he said. “We’re friends, but when the ball goes up, it’s a different story.’’
So far this year, Williams has struggled with his shooting, making just 38.8 percent of his shots and just 29.9 percent from 3-point range. Through 23 games, he is averaging 17.0 points per game and 8.3 assists.
The Nets come into the game in second place in the NBA's Atlantic Division at 13-10. After starting hot with an 11-4 mark that kept them on the heels of the New York Knicks, the Nets lost five straight and six of their last eight.
Brook Lopez leads the team in scoring at 17.9 points per game and is second in rebounding at 6.8 rpg. Former Jazz player Kris Humphries is the leading rebounder at 7.2 rpg and also scores 7.3 ppg as a starter. Other starters are former Atlanta Hawk Joe Johnson, who averages 16.8 ppg and Gerald Wallace at 11.3 ppg.
Corbin spent the most time in Utah with Williams as an assistant coach for five years before being his head coach for just two weeks.
He said it “will be good to see him’’ but he’s wary of what he can do on the court against the Jazz.
“He’s a tremendous player,’’ he said. “We have to make sure we pay attention to how he’s going, because he’s capable of having big numbers on the floor for himself and getting his teammates involved. He can break your defense down, he can post up guys — as he goes they go.’’
However, Corbin is more concerned about his own team than Williams and the Nets after seeing the Jazz come out flat against Phoenix Friday night in a 15-point loss and then lose to Memphis by 13 Saturday night.
“We’ve got to understand the sense of urgency,’’ he said. “We’ve got to make sure we get off to a good start on the road in the beginning of the game, and we’ve got to play 48 minutes. The last two games weren’t our best basketball.’’
After the Brooklyn game, the Jazz will play at Indiana Wednesday night. The team then gets two days off before playing defending NBA champion Miami Saturday night and conclude their trip with a game at Orlando Sunday.
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