PLAYERS: F Paul Millsap, G Gordan Giricek, F-G Matt Harpring, G Jason Hart*, G
Morris Almond (R) *New acquisition (R) Rookie
(5th in West) Points scored: 101.5 (7th in NBA) Points allowed: 98.6 (17th)
Coach: Jerry Sloan (20th season with Jazz)
should be satisfied with the run the Jazz made last season, when it won a
division title for the first time since 1999-2000 and reached the conference
finals for the first time since '98. But if he were so easily satisfied, he
wouldn't be the league's best young point guard.
Bracey Wright at The Colony High outside Dallas and by Dee Brown at Illinois,
Williams had to deal with the massive specter of John Stockton when he arrived
in Utah. But just as he has in the past, he quickly made a name for himself.
"I like to prove the doubters wrong," says Williams, 23, who also took
a backseat to Rookie of the Year Chris Paul two seasons ago. "I do that by
winning because that's what a point guard is judged on. That's the most
important thing. I lost eight games in high school, 16 games in college. I
don't like to lose, whether it's on the court, playing cards, Ping-Pong. That's
the way I've always been."
After the Spurs
eliminated the Jazz in five games, Williams lashed out at his teammates,
telling reporters, "There were some guys who were already on vacation.
Point-blank. On vacation. A long time ago."
No one could have
made that claim about Williams, who averaged 29.5 points and 9.3 assists and
shot 53.7% in the first four games of the series. Still, he wishes he had kept
his thoughts to himself. "I was frustrated and probably should have held my
tongue, but it was true," says Williams. "We need to change our focus.
We can be a great team and get back to where we were, but it's going to take a
lot of hard work."
departure of backcourt partner and mentor Derek Fisher, Williams is confident
that his returning teammates won't be making any vacation plans for before
July. "We're a contender, and we're going to build on last year," says
Williams. "Guys understand that now."
team's scout sizes up the Jazz