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Utah Jazz: Williams keeps earning praise

SHARE Utah Jazz: Williams keeps earning praise

It is starting to sound like a broken record.

But after he dished 14 assists in Saturday night's 115-101 win over Seattle, those with the 46-25 Jazz could not help but gush — yet again — over the play of late from third-year point guard Deron Williams.

"He's doing a great job of being a floor general, getting everybody in the right spots, hitting them when they're wide-open," All-Star power forward Carlos Boozer said. "That gets the rest of us going, when he makes it easier for us."

Williams has averaged 19.9 points and 12.1 assists per game since the mid-February NBA All-Star Game, an affair for which he was not deemed worthy by enough Western Conference coaches.

He also did what he did Saturday despite a bruised right hand, halftime X-rays on which were negative.

"He's played terrific basketball for us," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "I don't know how far we're off from maybe where we were a year ago (just one win shy through 71 games, actually), but he has come to another level to help us be in a position to be able to compete as much as we have.

"That," Sloan added, "is a tribute to him."

STINKY STARTS: Against the injury-depleted Sonics, they trailed by 12 early in the second quarter. In their loss Thursday to the Los Angeles Lakers, sans injured Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, it was as many as 24 in the second quarter. And in a win last Monday, a sluggish start left the Jazz tied after one quarter with a struggling Toronto team that was missing injured All-Star Chris Bosh.

"This is the third game in a row," veteran forward Matt Harpring said Saturday night, "and it's becoming a situation we've got to correct."

Williams was particularly perplexed by the slow start against the Seattle, especially in light of how Utah was blown out by the Lakers.

"I thought we would have had a better response," he said. "I thought we would have come out with a lot more energy in the first quarter than we did, just because we hadn't lost (much at home) and we wanted to get that edge back."

The Jazz — who did not practice Sunday but will this morning — put their NBA-best 30-4 home record on the line Tuesday night vs. Charlotte, their fourth outing in a five-game homestand that concludes with Friday's game against the Los Angeles Clippers.

HE SAID IT: Ex-Jazz point guard and current NBA television analyst Mark Jackson, as quoted in Sunday's New York Post discussing Williams and New Orleans point Chris Paul: "At best, (two-time NBA MVP) Steve Nash (of Phoenix) is the NBA's third best point guard. ... It blows me away how Paul and Williams are so good so fast."

CAREER FAIR: The Jazz will host their third annual sports career fair from 2-4:30 p.m. Tuesday at EnergySolutions Arena.

Representatives from several local sports organizations and media outlets are scheduled to attend, including the Jazz, the Utah Flash, Real Salt Lake, the Utah Blaze, the Salt Lake Bees, the Orem Owlz, the Utah Grizzlies, the University of Utah, Utah State, Miller Motorsports Park, Larry H. Miller Sports & Entertainment and KJZZ-TV.

Job seekers are encouraged to bring several copies of their resume.

Admission is $25 and includes a ticket to Tuesday night's game against the Bobcats.

E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com