SALT LAKE CITY — Forget what the calendar says. To Mo Williams, it feels like the beginning of preseason instead of the middle of March.
The Utah Jazz's starting point guard is still feeling his way back into the swing of things a week and a half after returning from his extended injury absence.
His surgically repaired thumb still isn't back to 100 percent.
His playing rhythm and chemistry with teammates still aren't where he'd like them to be.
Even his body, he admitted, still isn't quite back in NBA playing shape according to his high fitness standards.
That all, of course, is understandable considering Williams missed 2½ months — 32 games in all — after tearing ligaments in the thumb on his shooting hand.
"I knew it was going to be an adjustment," he said. "But being that we're losing games, it's magnified a little bit."
It's also cramping his style.
Williams certainly doesn't deserve all of the blame for Utah losing eight of 10 games — five of which he didn’t even play in — but it's hampered his ability to help the Jazz get back to their smooth-playing selves the way he'd like to do.
"I play at a weight I like to play at, and I'm not there ... being in shape, I'm not there," said Williams, who didn't say what his current weight is but who's listed on the roster as being 6-1, 186 pounds. "I feel like I'm body-wise back at the beginning of training camp. It's a struggle for me in that part."
Williams did have an overall good game in the Jazz's only win since he's been back, scoring a team-high 20 points in Monday's 103-90 victory over Detroit. Incidentally, that’s his only home game since injuring his thumb on Dec. 22 in Miami.
The Jazz managed an 18-14 record without him — even with occasionally spotty point guard play from backups Jamaal Tinsley, Earl Watson and learning-on-the-job Alec Burks.
But Williams' return hasn't had the immediate impact on the Jazz's overall success as hoped and somewhat expected. The team has gone 1-4 with him back in his usual starting role and has lost by 29 points to the Knicks and by 23 to the Thunder.
Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin isn't about to single Williams out as being the cause for the team's recent woes, but he admitted it's been a tough transition.
"It's thrown us off more than I expected it to," Corbin said. "It seems to have thrown us off, and it's not his fault. It's just the way we are right now. We've got to figure out what it is soon so we can get back to winning ballgames."
In his five games back, Williams has averaged 8.6 points and 4.4 assists, down from his season averages of 12.2 points and 6.3 assists. But he's also shot just 37.5 percent and made 18 turnovers.
"My game is predicated on durability, endurance and speed, and I've got to be able to maneuver the way I want to maneuver to be successful," Williams said. "We're chipping at the block."
Point guard play isn't the only thing that needs to get back up to full speed for the Jazz.
Corbin admitted that his team "lost some of the confidence" during this rough stretch, which saw the team go from a solid No. 7 to being entrenched in a eighth-place duel with the Lakers.
The Jazz will need to be on their game tonight at EnergySolutions Arena when they take on the Memphis Grizzlies, who are one of the hottest teams in the NBA.
"We've got to play every play and that's on both ends of the floor. Defensively and offensively, we've got to hold each other accountable to do the right things and we'll be fine," Corbin said. "We've got to give the maximum effort all the time out. Even while we're trying to figure things out to get back used to each other, it's got to be with a lot of energy, and we've lost some of that."
Al Jefferson credited Williams for continuing to be the Jazz's vocal leader despite his personal struggles.
"Mo (is) the best at it," Big Al said when asked about speaking up to keep the team's spirit up. "Mo always say no matter what happens, just stay together. I feel like that's the best outcome for everything."
Williams believes the Jazz are right there. Had a few things gone differently on that 0-4 road trip, Utah would be hearing compliments instead of criticism.
"I don't think there's no need to panic," Williams said. "We're still in a great situation. We're there. If we take care of what we've got to take care of — and we've got 17 games to do it — I think we'll be in good shape."
In more ways than one.
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