Jackson finds fit in Charlotte (cont.)
Notes from around the league
Talk about a rec-league nightmare. When Jason Williams retired from the NBA before last season, he stayed in shape by playing twice a week in a local Miami-Dade community league. His teammates? Tim and Penny Hardaway.
"We won the championship," said Williams.
Shocking. Back in the NBA with Orlando, Williams hasn't missed a beat. Filling in for the injured Jameer Nelson, Williams leads the league in assist-to-turnover ratio (5.15) and is averaging 10.5 points in 10 starts this season. In Tuesday's game against the Clippers, Williams outscored Clippers guard Baron Davis 11-4 in the first quarter to set the tone in the Magic's 97-86 win.
"Sometimes when you have a long career you like it and you appreciate it, but I think it goes to another level when you have a year off," said Magic coach Stan Van Gundy. "He really wanted to come back. The thing we liked with him, which is a lot like what we liked with Rafer [Alston] last year, is that we had a pretty good confidence level that if needed, he could play big minutes. He just always had one of those motors that he could go a long time."
As an undrafted free agent out of Marquette, Wesley Matthews found himself in a dogfight just to make the Jazz roster in October. Two months later, he's become a fixture in Utah's starting lineup. Matthews, the son of nine-year NBA veteran Wes Matthews, was a fill-in starter when Deron Williams was forced to miss two games for personal reasons last month and has stuck ever since. Utah is 9-4 with Matthews as a starter and Jazz coach Jerry Sloan likes Matthews' versatility and ability to defend several positions.
"[Being a starter] was definitely something I aspired to do," Matthews said. "I just didn't think it would happen this early. I'm a competitor though. I want that responsibility. Coach wants me to play defense. I'll take the shots when they are there, but I need to bring energy on the defensive end every night."
In reporting a story on Houston's Chuck Hayes for this week's Sports Illustrated, I was reminded repeatedly of his competitiveness. Rockets strength coach David Macha told me how Hayes would come into the weight room after practices and ask how much Carl Landry or Luis Scola could lift. And then Hayes, whose favorite line is "I eat weights," proceeded to best the mark.
Shane Battier talked about the argument he and Hayes have been having since last year's playoffs about who should be credited for a game-changing play on Blazers guard Brandon Roy in Game 4 of their first-round series with Portland. With 10 seconds left in the game and Houston clinging to a two-point lead, Hayes stepped in front of a driving Roy and drew a charge. At the same time Roy elevated, Battier came over and swatted the shot away.
"We argue about that play to this day," said Battier. "He thinks he deserves the credit but I say even if he wasn't there I would have blocked the shot."
Good natured arguments aside, Battier knows that the Rockets would be nowhere without Hayes, who despite giving up at least five inches a night has done a superb job keeping opposing big men in check all season.
Said Battier, "There's not a center in this league that Chuck can't match up with."
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