"All my family and friends was asking me whether I was going to be back in time," he said. "I kept telling them I don't know. I'm just going to wait it out. Now I'm here for the game."
Williams will also be there for the game, but he won't be able to play against the team he spent the first seven seasons of his NBA career with because of right knee inflammation. At one point, he repeated the word "very" three times to describe how much he was looking forward to playing in Atlanta again.
"That's definitely frustrating," said Williams, who was traded to Utah this offseason for Devin Harris. "I kind of thought to myself, 'Of all times to be hurt, the one game I was kind of looking forward to playing, playing against my old teammates, playing back in Philips Arena.’ ”
Even sidelined, Williams said he'll make the most of it.
"It's definitely going to be a fun time to make a trip back. It's unfortunate that I can't play," the small forward said. "But at the end of the day, I've been around long enough to know it's about the bigger picture. I think that's what the coaching staff and the trainers are worried about right now."
Williams expressed appreciation that he was still able to travel with the team on this cross-country journey that includes this Georgia pit stop. Traveling with his new team still has its advantages even if he can't suit up.
"I'll get to see everybody once again, which will be really exciting for everybody," he said. But, he added, "It isn't what I wanted it to be."
The Jazz have multiple other connections to Atlanta. Utah coaches Tyrone Corbin (1994-95; '96-99) and Sidney Lowe (1984-85) played for the Hawks. Point guard Jamaal Tinsley owns a home in this Southern hotspot. Former Jazz small forward Matt Harpring, now the team's TV color commentator, still lives there.
On top of that, the Hawks have two former Jazz players on their squad, including former fan favorite Kyle Korver and Harris, the other point guard in the Deron Williams deal.
All of which adds to the intrigue of this particular game.
"You want to see our guys play well in their home city or against their previous team," Corbin said. "It's a good feeling when you win a game, first of all on the road, but when you win against your former team or in your home town, it feels a little bit better."
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