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Utah Jazz notebook: Williams, ankle both feel stronger

Point guard Deron Williams handles the ball for a photo shoot during Jazz media day Friday in Salt Lake City.
Point guard Deron Williams handles the ball for a photo shoot during Jazz media day Friday in Salt Lake City.
Keith Johnson, Deseret News

During the offseason, Deron Williams took a couple of months off to rest his ankle, went golfing, played dodgeball, rode his bicycle, roamed the outfield on a softball team and did some traveling.

Shot a few hoops, too.

Williams also followed basketball-player-turned-bodybuilder Andrei Kirilenko's example by mixing in some serious weightlifting with all of his recreational and R&R activities.

The 6-foot-3 Williams credits pumping iron for helping him increase his weight by five pounds — from 207 to 212 — while keeping his body-fat rate at an uber-low 4 percent.

Williams says he "actually lifted heavier" this summer than he's done since his college days at Illinois.

"I feel a lot stronger," he said. "Hopefully, that will help me throughout the season. Hopefully, I can maintain that."

Williams also focused on increasing the strength of his ankle. It bothered him all last season and forced him to miss the first part of the year after he severely sprained it in preseason. After a two-month rest period following the Jazz's first-round playoff exit, Williams did strength and balance exercises to fortify his weakened ankle.

Williams wouldn't declare his ankle to be 100 percent, but it's close enough that he feels confident about it going into the season.

"I don't know if it's ever going to feel the same as it did," he said. "You know, there's going to be little aches here and there. But it feels good. There's no restrictions on it as far as I'm concerned."

PRACTICE IN SESSION: Relieved to have Friday's media-day madhouse and accompanying interrogations about Carlos Boozer's offseason remarks behind them, the Jazz began fall camp with morning and evening practices Saturday.

Which explains why Jazz coach Jerry Sloan was smiling like a giddy boy on the first day of school.

"It's always good to get everybody back in," he said after the morning practice at the Zions Bank Basketball Center.

NBA rules prohibit teams from having full-contact in both sessions during two-a-days, so Saturday's first workout consisted mostly of running and drills. Only having the players actually scrimmage at night suited Sloan fine.

"The first practice or two you've got to try to acclimate some of the younger guys that (haven't) been here that much and (don't) know what we're doing," he said. "Our older guys, the veteran guys, move right through these (drills)."

The coach admitted that both altitude and apprehension can affect guys — especially newcomers — at the beginning of camp.

"Some of them are young and trying to adjust to just being here because they're scared," Sloan said. "We want them to get comfortable where we can start to really get after them."

Utah has two sessions of practice again both today and Monday.

A NEW SLOAN? Jokingly asked if he had to holler at any players during their first practice, Sloan revealed that he might be changing his ways.

"I don't yell anymore," he said, smiling. "I can't get my breath that high."

Players and referees can only hope that change lasts.

SITTING OUT: The Jazz have 18 players on their camp roster, but two are unable to participate for now. The injured Matt Harpring, of course, is resting up in Atlanta for the next six weeks, and NBA hopeful Paul Harris of Syracuse sat out the session with a moderately sprained right ankle he hurt in a pickup game Tuesday.

TIP-TOP SHAPE: After checking out his team and results from body-fat tests and physicals, Sloan doesn't have any major complaints about his players' physical fitness levels as they reported to camp.

"These guys look pretty good," he said.

The Hall of Fame coach specifically complimented C.J. Miles for being "in better shape than he's ever been in." He also noticed Kirilenko's beefier body and remarked that Boozer appears to be in "terrific shape." Same goes for Williams, Ronnie Brewer, Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver and so on.

"You can go down the line," Sloan said. "All those guys are in pretty good shape, it looks like."