SALT LAKE CITY — After spending his first seven NBA seasons with the Atlanta Hawks, Marvin Williams admits he would've been plenty happy playing there — and staying there — for a lot longer.
Well, young man, welcome to the business side of professional basketball, where even all-time greats from Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson to Shaquille O'Neal and Steve Nash have found themselves on the trading block during their storied careers.
No, Williams did not see this trade coming at all. But after being peddled to Utah last week in a deal that sent point guard Devin Harris to Atlanta, Williams expressed his excitement and enthusiasm about beginning the next chapter of his life — this one in a Jazz uniform.
"This is definitely an exciting time for me and my family," Williams, a 6-foot-9 small forward, said Thursday in his introductory press conference with the Utah media. "Obviously (it's) my first time being traded, but to be able to play for an organization like the Utah Jazz really is exciting.
"I'm excited, I'm definitely excited. It's something very new for me. I've been in Atlanta the last seven years, and that's all I ever knew. So a new opportunity, get a chance to play with new guys, play for a new coach, live in a new city, it's all going to be something new for me, so it definitely is an exciting time for sure.
"It was unexpected, obviously," he said. "I have always loved Atlanta. I've loved the fans there, I loved playing there, I loved my teammates there, it's a great city. But I understand the nature of the business — trades happen — and you have to move on and it's time to turn the page to the next chapter."
Williams, the No. 2 pick in the 2005 NBA Draft — he was picked right after University of Utah star Andrew Bogut, taken at No. 1 by the Milwaukee Bucks, and ahead of two guys, Deron Williams (No. 3 by Utah) and Chris Paul (No. 4 by New Orleans) who have gone on to become superstar point guards in the league — has averaged 11.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game in his career thus far.
Now Marvin Williams, 26, is hoping his contributions might help the Jazz, who reached the playoffs as the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference last season, make a move further up the league standings.
"I'm a young guy but I've been in the league, this is coming up on my eighth year," he said. "I've been to the playoffs before so I've won a little bit. Hopefully I can come in and just kinda play my game, and hopefully my game really fits in with the Utah Jazz and that'll help us take this organization to the next level.
"This is a team that's already been established. They made the playoffs last year, so whatever role I have to come in and fill, I just have to try and go out there and do it to the best of my ability.
"They've got a lot of younger guys, a lot of new guys," Williams said of the Jazz. "Al Jefferson obviously is a big-time player down there on the low block. I'm actually a big fan of Gordon Hayward; I think he really plays hard. They definitely have guys that can really come in and play and make things happen. … I've played against (newly acquired point guard Mo Williams) obviously a few times in the Eastern Conference, and that wasn't fun. So I'm glad to be on his team this time."
Many so-called basketball experts consider Marvin Williams, as the second overall selection in the '05 draft class, as a bit of an under-achiever in his NBA career thus far — especially when compared to players like Deron Williams and Paul, who are both members of the U.S. men's basketball team that will be favored to win a gold medal in the London Summer Olympics that get under way later this month.
Marvin Williams won't let himself get caught up, though, in any discussion about whether he has lived up to the high expectations which were placed on him coming out of the University of North Carolina in 2005, when as a freshman he helped lead the Tar Heels to the NCAA championship before deciding to turn pro.
"The only expectations I feel like I have to meet are my own," he said. "I don't play basketball to meet people's expectations. … Anybody that knows me knows that's what I play basketball for. I feel like every day I look in the mirror and the only expectations I have to meet are my own.
"You never meet your own expectations if you want to continue to get better, and I definitely want to get better. So I obviously have a lot of work to still do, and at 26 years old, I'm definitely excited about the road ahead of me.
"I feel like I can do a lot of things fairly well, but I want to get a lot better in a lot of different areas," Williams said. "I think the main thing I really want to become is more consistent. The past few years I've been a little inconsistent sometimes, so I really want to come in and work to be more consistent."
Two areas where Williams might immediately help the Jazz in are perimeter shooting — he nailed nearly 40 percent of his shots, a career-best, from 3-point range last season — and perimeter defense, which has been a glaring weakness in Utah for a long time.
"Obviously it was my best year shooting it from 3, so I was really excited about that," he said. "But obviously I still feel like I can improve in that area as well. So if Utah really needs that, I'm hoping I can come in and kind of help them in that area for sure.
"I just try to play hard," Williams said of his defensive effort. "The one thing I do know is you cannot win a basketball game without stopping your man from scoring. I do take pride in trying to slow my man down; you're not going to stop anybody from scoring in the NBA, period. Your job is to go out there and make it as difficult as you can for them, and I feel like throughout my career I've done a pretty good job of doing that. So hopefully I can continue to bring that kind of toughness to the Utah Jazz."
And though he's not very familiar with members of the current Jazz roster or coaching staff, and hasn't hardly spoken with head coach Tyrone Corbin yet since the trade, Williams knows one thing about the franchise — they've got fantastic (read: loud) fans.
And that's something he's looking forward to experiencing as a member of the home team, rather than when he was a member of the visiting, enemy ballclub.
"This is one of the arenas, I think, around the league that really does show support for their team," he said. "Every time I've come here, it's been very, very tough to try and sneak a win out of this place, man, because it's always so loud, you know, it's always so loud. So any time you get a chance to play for an organization like that, it's really good."
So it sounds like he's glad to be here. And, asked if he had anything left to prove, Williams responded reflectively.
"Some people may say I do. My dream was to play in the NBA — period — and I feel like every day I've been living my dream," he said. "So the only thing I have to prove is something to myself. And that's how I've always felt.
"I've definitely had a blast, and I'm definitely excited with the way things are going. I loved my opportunity and my years played in Atlanta, and I'm a member of the Utah Jazz now, so I'm ready to turn the page on that and get started on a new chapter in my life. (Utah's) a great place; it seems like a nice place. Everyone I've met has been extremely nice. So if that's any reflection on the community, I'm definitely excited to be living here.
"I've had an opportunity to play at this level for a long time, and I'm really excited about it," Williams said. "And as a young guy, 26 years old, I pray that I get a chance to stay for a little while longer. Every day, man, I'm just so thankful to be here, and hopefully I can continue to work to get better and hopefully help this team win games."
If that happens, grateful Jazz fans will be glad if he spends his next seven NBA seasons in Salt Lake City.
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