Maybe it was because they had been working the phones for weeks, trying to make a deal to get Deron Williams in a Jazz uniform and were exhausted. Or because, with 30 minutes left before the deadline on trading draft picks, the arrangement still hadn't occurred. It wasn't until eight minutes to go, at 11:52 Tuesday morning, it finally clicked — the Jazz had moved up three spots, to No. 3 in the draft.
Come to think of it, they did seem a bit incredulous.
Whatever the reason, when the Jazz finally did make their pick, the announcement was succinct. Team president Dennis Haslam took the podium at the Delta Center, moments before the pick was announced in New York, and simply said, "Thanks for coming out tonight, folks. Deron Williams."
That was it. All of 10 seconds. It was shorter than a John Stockton acceptance speech. The Jazz's highest pick since 1982 — the year they drafted, then traded Dominique Wilkins for cash that saved the franchise — was in the books.
For once the Jazz had exactly what they wanted, perhaps for the first time since landing Darrell Griffith in 1980. It's true they were happy with other picks over the years, such as John Stockton, Karl Malone, Thurl Bailey and Andrei Kirilenko. But those players were the best the Jazz could get at where they picked. In Stockton they thought they had landed a suitable backup to Rickey Green, not the future NBA assists and steals leader. In Malone they felt they had secured a guy who could give them size and rebounding down low, not the second-leading scorer in history.
They took Wilkins the last time they had a No. 3 pick. But they did that just so they could trade him for cash.
But to get precisely what they needed with their pick — and to have their choice of two outstanding point guards — was rare if not unprecedented. In selecting Illinois' Williams over Wake Forest's Chris Paul, they got a player almost sure to fill a desperate need. Unlike some college players, Williams won't need to learn the art of passing first. He already knows that. Nor will he need to be ordered to play defense. But he will want to master the nuances Jerry Sloan's system — which usually involves throwing his body in path of danger on a moment's notice.
The other stuff will come in due time.
That the Jazz would wind up with a high enough pick to get Williams was a major achievement. Late Tuesday morning they traded with Portland to get the No. 3 pick, in exchange for their own No. 6 and 27 spots. It had been a long, torturous process.
"I've got (Portland G.M.) John Nash's number memorized," said Jazz basketball operations director Kevin O'Connor.
It wasn't just that the Jazz needed Williams. They also needed a coup. Lately, their picks haven't done much to fire the imagination. Not since selecting Andrei Kirilenko in 1999 has a first round pick of the Jazz's become a major contributor. And they had to wait two years to get him to America. Sasha Pavlovich, Raul Lopez, DeShawn Stevenson, Jacque Vaughn and Quincy Lewis didn't exactly set the house afire. Greg Ostertag was a whole lot of enigma.
Wednesday's event, though, was a different situation. The Jazz weren't taking what was left. They weren't even taking a risk. They were claiming, essentially, their choice. Whether the Jazz would have taken Williams at No. 1 instead of Utah's Andrew Bogut or North Carolina's Marvin Williams is a hypothetical question, Haslam said, and because of that it's "one we don't have to comment on."
As it was, he continued, "We got ourselves in a position where we couldn't lose. "
Was it the right move? Of course it was. Keith Mc Leod will never be the Jazz's permanent solution at point. Williams, a fine passer, is strong enough, defensive enough and teachable enough to work in the Jazz's system. Paul, who went No. 4 to New Orleans, is smaller and more shot-oriented, less likely to be content in Sloan's team-oriented attack.
What happened, though, was a match made in draft heaven.
Thus ended one of the more interesting nights in franchise history. It meant the Jazz could well be secure at the point guard spot for years to come. It also meant they intend to be back in the playoffs, posthaste.
But nearly as important is that it gave them a chance to show just what they can do when they really have their druthers.