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Utah Jazz: Williams' 'skills' are 2nd to Nash's

DALLAS — Suffice it to say his loss to Phoenix Suns All-Star Steve Nash in the Skills Challenge at NBA All-Star Saturday night is not exactly a big blow to Williams' career.

Asked jokingly how it compared to his University of Illinois team losing to North Carolina in the 2005 NCAA title game, in fact, the Jazz point guard and first-time NBA All-Star readily played along.

"It's similar, you know," Williams said.

"I'm somewhat devastated right now. It will take me a while to get over this one."

Williams actually won the made-for-TV event two years ago in New Orleans, setting a course record of 25.5 seconds on an obstacle layout that includes an opening layup, some dribbling exercises, a bounce pass into a basket, a jump shot, an outlet pass into yet another basket, more dribbling around cones and a closing layup.

He made it through a four-man field (including Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook, replacement for injured defending champ Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls, and Milwaukee Bucks rookie Brandon Jennings) and into the two-man finals Saturday night at American Airlines Center here with a first run of 34.1 seconds.

Williams then watched fellow former champ Nash finish his second run in 29.9 seconds — despite having to dodge a cameraman and his assistant, and with only one missed jumper slowing him down.

"I wondered if they wanted me to jump over them first," Nash joked. "I'm just lucky that I didn't hurt myself . . . so it was nice that they moved."

Williams seemed on his way to a second win until getting to the outlet pass obstacle, where it took him five tries before he could finally on.

"Both rounds I thought I had the (outlet) pass (on the first try) and started running off," he said, "and it hurt me."

Canadian citizen Nash felt no pain despite spending Friday night in Vancouver helping hockey great Wayne Gretzky light the Winter Olympic torch at Opening Ceremonies for the 2010 Winter Games.

He said he got only "a couple half-hours" of sleep, and did not arrive in Dallas until about 7 a.m. Saturday.

"Got to the hotel a little after that, got a little bit of sleep before practice this morning," Nash said. "Then got back to the hotel for another hour of sleep before this.

"But it makes it OK," he added, "when you win a resume builder like this."

Williams, for his part, was not at all ashamed to lose to someone who just 24 hours or so earlier was lighting Olympic fire in Canada.

"I don't know which one's a greater accomplishment for him," Williams laughed, knowing that the real fun comes when tonight he makes his NBA All-Star Game debut.

e-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com