Tonight the Utah Jazz (16-10) host the not completely down, but most certainly already out Dallas Mavericks (6-19). Dallas is the worst team in the Western Conference and have tied for worst in the NBA with the Philadelphia 76ers. Tonight will also be another opportunity for Deron Williams to play in front of the fans who were his most ardent supporters for year — Utah Jazz fans.
Deron was drafted #3 in the 2005 NBA Draft by Utah — after they had moved up pre-draft to secure a Top 3 selection. And while Williams is now in his 12th season in the NBA, his most productive half (5.5 years) was his first half. His half under head coach Jerry Sloan (and a few games under Tyrone Corbin). Deron was the last Utah Jazz player to make an All-Star team or All-NBA Team for the franchise. And he was the driving force that won nine games in the post-season — another feat that has not been replicated since his departure.
What do we choose to remember him for? His 20 / 10 games while having the sickest handle in the entire NBA? Or do we continue to hold a grudge against him for our conjecture that he is who ushered legendary coach Jerry Sloan into retirement. (And honestly, if you think a 26 year old point guard is strong enough to upstage that stubborn relic of a coach then you greatly underestimate Sloan’s tenacity and perseverance.)
While it is true, he did not part ways with the organization on perfect terms, never once did he say anything negative about the Jazz after leaving. He didn’t burn any bridges either, frankly the GM was in Deron’s corner more than he was in Jerry’s as far as I can tell from what happened back then. He did get his big market experience for the New Jersey / Brooklyn Nets — where he would also be an All-Star for one season. But a string of playoff flameouts for their squad now has Williams, 32 years old, playing for his hometown Dallas Mavericks.
He was someone who killed the other team in Dick Motta’s FLEX offense. Outside of it, not so much. Deron did get the label of a coach killer, Avery Johnson, P.J. Carlesimo, Jason Kidd, and Lionel Hollins all say “hi”; but I don’t know if that’s all on him.
With Dallas this season he is still starting, but averaging 12.5 ppg and 6.5 apg. He’s shooting a career low 30.5% from deep. It’s not his best season. He’s not ‘done’ yet as a player. But I think we fans should be ‘done’ with booing him. Over his career Williams is now 2-3 in Utah as the visitor. (4-7 overall)
And he really hasn’t put up big numbers or played the role of the goat. He lost the first two trips, won two in a row, then lost his most recent visit. His 18.2 ppg, 7.6 apg, 3.0 rpg, 0.8 spg line is fine. But it’s not like he has been some throne in the side of our clubs.
The visiting Deron, who is booed every time he touches the ball and gets blocked by random players in Jazz jerseys, is not the Deron I wish to keep as “The Deron” in my mind. “The Deron” is the guy who wore our jersey, helped the team win something like 18 home games in a row one season, and powered the team to the playoffs while guys around him were always getting injured.
In a world were Toronto Raptors fans can celebrate Vince Carter, someone who did so much more damage, I think we can be civil to Williams.
But I’m probably just a nostalgic old man. But old enough to remember the point guard situation after John Stockton and before Deron Williams. It rivals the mess AFTER D-Will left. And in a way, that further underscores just how good he was as a Jazzman.