Deron Williams, the point guard who was a frustrated rookie spending what he thought was too much time on the bench, now has a green light from coach Jerry Sloan to make his own decisions on the court.
"Yeah, he has a lot more leeway than what I gave him probably the first year or so," said Sloan about Williams, who is entering his third season. "If he has something he feels good about it, I don't have a problem with it."
Sloan and power-forward co-captain Carlos Boozer credited Williams for dictating much of the tempo Tuesday night at Golden State. The Warriors like to push the pace like the Phoenix Suns, and the Jazz have in the past had tendencies to try to keep up.
"He kept us in our offense, and he went through a stretch where he had some opportunities for himself to score (24), and he did a great job of that," said Sloan. "He's a terrific young player, and the experiences he's had, the desire he has to want to succeed he just kind of keeps growing with it."
"He did a good job of slowing it down when we had to," said Boozer at Wednesday's practice. "Instead of getting the ball out fast, just take a couple slower dribbles, put us in our set. That's what he did. He did a good job of speeding it up when we had to to get huge opportunities and of taking his time and putting us in the right sets to be successful."Williams' ability to control things was apparent in the playoffs last spring and keeps evolving "That was part of our (playoff) success, but it's something he's been able to grow with," Boozer added.
LEADING: Williams and Boozer are in mid-season form. "Those guys picked up from where they left off, and we're trying to follow their lead and keep up with them," said sophomore starter Ronnie Brewer. Brewer wasn't overly happy with himself despite 18 points Tuesday. "I feel like I owe D-Will like two or three assists where he gave me wide-open shots, and I just didn't knock it down for him."
ALL OK: Trainer Gary Briggs said Wednesday that all Jazz players are eligible health-wise to play in the home opener tonight against the Houston Rockets at 7 in EnergySolutions Arena. That includes Matt Harpring, who missed the preseason recovering from knee surgery and put in his first eight minutes Tuesday, apparently without ill effects. Harpring had one point and attempted no field goals."Matt's still trying to find out what he's doing," Sloan said. "I mean, he hasn't played the timing, and all that stuff, trying to run an offense, and what he does in the game. You know, he's got to move without the basketball and try to figure out where he's going to get open."
KICKER: For the second time in a week, Memo Okur was called out for kicking his leg out. He got an offensive foul against the Warriors Tuesday. Last week, Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant accused Okur of kicking out.
Okur said he thought he was the one who was fouled by Golden State. "I just thought it was a foul. I thought he was going to run at me, and that's why I opened my leg a little bit. I think I did too much."Sloan agreed Okur has inadvertently kicked, even in practice with no one playing him. "Yeah, I thought he did it," he said. "I'm not trying to bail out on the guy, but he has a tendency to do that when he shoots the ball when there's no one around him at times. He's just got to shoot the ball like he's always shot."
FLASH PARTY: The Jazz's new NBA Development League affiliate, the Utah Flash, will host a draft party tonight starting at 5:45 at its main practice facility, the Pinnacle Security Gymnasium in Utah County, 1290 Sandhill Road, Orem.
Fans can get an up-close look at how a pro basketball draft works by peeking into the team's work room, where general manager Dave Fredman and coach Brad Jones will be working. Flash expansion draft selections Brian Jackson and James Lang also are expected to be on hand for photos and autographs, and food will be available.
The 10-round draft will be conducted via conference call from D-League draft headquarters at the NBA TV studios in New Jersey and at locations in each of the minor league's 14 cities. It also will air live on NBA TV, with pre-draft coverage beginning at 6 p.m.
The Flash, who open their inaugural season Nov. 24, pick 10th in the first round and fifth in the second round.Additionally tonight, the Jazz's game against Houston will be shown on a theater-sized big screen at the facility.
ALUMNI UPDATE: According to a report earlier this week in The (Ill.) News-Gazette, court documents reveal that ex-Jazz center Keon Clark "had been in a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program" when he was arrested Oct. 18 by U.S. marshals in Houston.
Clark, who played two games for the Jazz during the 2003-04 season, faces prison sentences tied to multiple cases in his native Illinois.
The newspaper reported that an Oct.10 letter from the program to the courts "stated that Clark's treatment was ongoing and that Clark was current on his medication for seizures and would be evaluated by a medical doctor for possible depression and bipolar disorder."
The letter was signed by Gus Gerard, chief executive officer and program director of Extended Aftercare Inc., a Houston-based rehabilitation clinic. Gerard is a former NBA player himself whose career ended when he released by the Jazz (without ever playing a regular-season for Utah) in 1981.HE SAID IT: Sloan, on the Jazz: "Our guys, I don't know, they're not a real jump up-and-down emotional-kind of guys, I don't think. They try to come play and go home." ... Andrei Kirilenko on getting a rebound with three opponents hanging on him Tuesday "Well, once in a while you should do that."
QUAKE TAKES: The Jazz didn't notice Tuesday night's 5.6 Bay Area earthquake. "I didn't know anything about it," said Sloan. "(Strength coach) Mark McKown said he thought he had, what is it when you lose your balance? He thought he had vertigo. He said, 'Do you have vertigo?' I said I didn't think so." Sloan recalled a Southern Illinois quake in the 1960s, about a 6.0, that damaged his home.
"People were telling us, and we had no idea," Brewer said of the shake. "We thought people were telling us how loud the fans were."Boozer said, "See, now I thought 5.6 was huge, and they said it wasn't." Though Alaska recorded 239 earthquakes in the last week, the Juneau resident said, "We don't have earthquakes, or if we do, I just didn't feel it that much when I was there." He recalled some quakes in Los Angeles, "but they were 3s, 4s."