Raised in the Dallas area, Jazz point guard Deron Williams grew up watching Jason Kidd run the Mavericks.

His interest now, however, has grown far beyond wondering how the Mavs will fare with Kidd having returned to Dallas via a recent trade with New Jersey.

"I'm interested in beating the Mavericks with Jason," Williams said. "That's what I'm interested in."

Williams readily concedes that the Mavs are a different team with Kidd in the lineup — and the Jazz will get a firsthand feel for that new look tonight, when the Mavs visit EnergySolutions Arena for the first time since the Feb. 19 deal went down.

Key components in the multifaceted swap included young point Devin Harris and two future first-round draft choices going to the Nets.

"He changes it up," Williams said of Kidd, who was not only his boyhood hero, but also is his teammate on USA Basketball's men's senior national team.

"They really had not had a pass-first point guard," Williams added. "(Current Mavs guard Jason Terry is) a scorer. Devin is a scorer; he can contribute, but he's a slasher-scorer. So it just gives them a different look, and a guy that can get everybody involved and can dominate a game without having to score five points."

HE SAID IT: Memphis Grizzlies coach and ex-Jazz forward Marc Iavaroni, on the Jazz's chances in this season's NBA playoffs: "I think they can make a serious run. Any team who was in the Western Conference finals last year can make a serious run for it this year as long as they stay healthy. They are staying pretty healthy. They will go through ups and downs, like all good teams. Right now they are a little above. New Orleans went through three (losses) in a row, and then spanks Phoenix and (Utah). For those teams at the top, they going to go through that — but they still are going to be 15-to-20 games above the water line."

ABA MEMORIES: With the new Will Ferrel/Woody Harrelson movie about the ABA, "Semi Pro," having opened this past weekend, Jazz coach Jerry Sloan was asked recently about his memories of the long-defunct league.

Sloan revealed that early in his career with Chicago of the NBA, he was offered a contract by the Oakland Oaks — an ABA team that lasted just two years in the San Francisco Bay area, had singer Pat Boone as its majority owner, eventually had NBA All-Star Rick Barry as one of its young star players and had Bruce Hale, Barry's father in-law, as its coach.

Sloan turned down the offer, but did parlay it into a few more bucks from the Bulls.

"I was already in Chicago, and it was 300 miles from my home," he said. "Changing and going to California? (Staying) made more sense for me and my family."

HELPING A FRIEND: Eric McMahon, who dresses as the Memphis Grizzlies' regular mascot, is being treated for Hodgkin's Lymphoma, so various mascots from teams throughout the NBA are filling in for him on a night-to-night basis.

The Jazz's "Bear" mascot is scheduled to perform in Memphis on April 8.


E-mail: [email protected]