SALT LAKE CITY — From personal experience, Mo Williams knows all about the rivalry Utah Jazz fans have with the Los Angeles Lakers.
"I'm fully aware of it," he said after today's shootaround session. "It was like that my rookie year and I'm pretty sure it hasn't changed."
Jazz fans will be pumped up for the Lakers' only visit to EnergySolutions Arena (7 p.m., ROOT), but Utah's starting point guard also will be stoked to face Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and crew. After all, Williams has a shared sentiment with the fans who won't be wearing bandwagon yellow and purple at tonight's game.
"I don't like the Lakers. I always want to beat them, I always have," Williams said. "You always want to beat the top dog. They've always been great."
Bryant, meanwhile, has had his own little rivalry with the Jazz.
"We've had some epic duels in this building. Obviously, when I first came in the league, they were getting the better of us pretty much every single time, every year," Bryant said. "Things kind of turned around for us and it started becoming a little more pleasant to see them."
That hasn't been the case yet this season. The Lakers bring a 1-3 record into Utah, having also lost all eight exhibition contests. "We just keep chipping away at it. When it happens it happens," Bryant said after the Lakers' shootaround at ESA. "There will probably be peaks and valleys like every season there is. We can't win 70 games like the Bulls did. Like most seasons, it's kind of up and down."
Tell the Jazz about it. They're also just 1-3 after an unsuccessful three-loss road trip.
"We know the problem. We just need to fix the problem and get back to Utah Jazz basketball and I think we'll be OK," Jazz center Al Jefferson said. "There's no need for us to panic and get to worrying ourselves about pointing the fingers and blaming it on whatever. We need to just take care of our business."
Other short shots from shootaround (Jazz and Lakers):
— Gordon Hayward on the Jazz returning home for a rare game at ESA against L.A.:
"It's a great test for us, especially coming off a of a road trip that we felt we could have done a lot better on," he said. "It will be good for us to be in front of our own fans and get back on track."
— Bryant on the Jazz's starting shooting guard and wings:
"I like Hayward a lot. I'm a big fan of his," Bryant said. "Mo, Marvin (Williams) and those guys, I think they do a fine job."
— Jefferson on which Jazz players would be elected for locker room leadership roles:
"I have to go with Mo Williams for the president. He talk a lot," Big Al said. "Vice president would probably be Paul (Millsap) because he don't talk at all."
— Jefferson on what Jazz need to do differently to return to their wining ways:
"We've just got to out and do what we do best. We've got to get back to that running, fast-breaking up-tempo offense," he said. "I think that would be a great way to put them on their heels. They're a little older team and I don't think they like to run as much all the time, during the whole 48 minutes. "
— Backup Jazz guard Randy Foye on whether the Jazz have an advantage with Steve Blake filling in for the injured Steve Nash (leg):
— "It's big, but Steve Blake is a really good player. He pushes the tempo. He can shoot the 3-ball really well," Foye said. "In this league when someone goes down it's just an opportunity for someone else. He's proven throughout the years that he's a great point guard."
— New Laker center Dwight Howard on his team's slow start:
"It's all about how you finish. There's never a time to panic," the former Magic superstar said. "You just always have to stay focused."
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