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Utah Jazz: Players ‘shocked’ by Deron Williams trade

SHARE Utah Jazz: Players ‘shocked’ by Deron Williams trade

DALLAS — It was a word used often hours after the news unfolded, but "shock" might have been an understatement about how the Utah Jazz felt about the franchise's sudden and stunning end of the Deron Williams Era.

In a trade that nobody saw coming, two-time All-Star Williams was shipped off to the New Jersey Nets on Wednesday in exchange for veteran point guard Devin Harris, young power forward Derrick Favors, and two first-round picks (from the Nets in 2011 and the Golden State Warriors in 2012).

The Jazz, according to national reports, will also receive $3 million in cash from the Nets.

Utah made the deal, according to general manager Kevin O'Connor, because the franchise was "running the risk" of losing Williams when his contract expired at the end of the 2011-12 season without getting anything in return.

O'Connor stressed that this transaction — getting rid of the team captain and the franchise's featured player — had nothing to do with the run-ins Williams had with ex-Jazz coach Jerry Sloan prior to the Hall of Famer's unexpected resignation two weeks ago Thursday.

"We feel that we've addressed a current need at point guard with Deron's departure, as well as the future with draft picks and a big man," O'Connor said. "To do so, we had to give up an All-Star, but we feel like this is a win for both sides."

That part remains to be seen.

The Jazz are still dealing with the aftershock of the biggest trade in franchise history, which comes only two weeks after the sudden resignation of their coach of 23 seasons in Sloan and his longtime assistant, Phil Johnson.

"Jerry's decision had nothing to do with this," O'Connor reiterated.

Harris and Favors are expected to undergo physical exams today, with hopes that they will join the Jazz in time for Friday night's game at Indiana.

Fellow Dallas product C.J. Miles was as dismayed as anyone Wednesday morning. The small forward entered the league with Williams in 2005, and the two locker neighbors have formed a strong bond over the years.

"Nobody saw it coming," Miles said. "It was crazy."

Jazz veteran Raja Bell explained that multiple Jazz players, including Williams, were working out in the team hotel gym together when the news flashed on the TV. They laughed about the blurb that rolled across ESPN's ticker, thinking it was just a rumor.

"I was kind of shocked, a little bit of disbelief as it came across ESPN, just because I was sitting with him in the training room and he didn't know anything about it at the time," Bell said. "We kind of chuckled about it, honestly."

Ronnie Price, Paul Millsap and Kyrylo Fesenko were also with the two Jazz guards when the juicy news rolled across the screen.

"We kind of had a laugh because those kinds of things come across the ticker all the time," Bell added. "It was obvious at that point that (Williams) didn't know. After he made a couple of calls, it was obvious that it was going to go down."

Williams found out for certain that the trade was going to happen at about 9 a.m. when he received a short phone call from Jazz CEO Greg Miller.

Soon after that, Williams was bidding farewell to his teammates, who were headed to shootaround while he awaited travel plans to meet up with his new team.

Having been traded a few times during his 11-year career, Bell talked to Williams and offered his verbal support after the news was finalized.

"I told him I know where he's coming from," Bell said. "I know it's a hard pill to swallow. Regardless of what your relationship was with the team or fan base when you get traded, it's still tough."

O'Connor called to inform the Jazz's new coach, Ty Corbin, as the team was getting prepared to leave the hotel for shootaround at American Airlines Arena this morning.

The out-of-the-blue deal happened so quickly, O'Connor told Corbin, because the Nets were looking to do something big after their attempts at acquiring ex-Denver Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony fell through.

The Jazz had been approached with offers from three to five teams, O'Connor said, but this was the only one that was enticing enough for the Jazz to take seriously. Otherwise, Utah would have kept Williams, who has a player option at the end of next season.

"Unless we got what we wanted at this particular time," O'Connor said, "then we wouldn't be doing it."

Count Corbin among the shocked.

"My initial reaction is that I'm going to miss Deron. He was a good player for us," Corbin said following shootaround. "I've been with him his entire time in the NBA as an assistant coach and now as a head coach for a few games.

"He's a great player and he's a good teammate for the guys, and we're going to miss him," Corbin added. "I wish him well as he moves forward, and we'll have to work our way through it."

Miles and Williams spoke briefly as the team got on the bus, and the Jazz's sixth man said he'll give D-Will a call later today.

"There was no way to forecast that this was going to happen," Bell said.

With today's trade deadline approaching, Bell's name also popped up in rumors Wednesday. A Yahoo! report claimed the Minnesota Timberwolves were interested in acquiring the veteran shooting guard.

Without addressing any individual rumors or reports, O'Connor confirmed that the Jazz remain "very active" in trade talks with other teams. The key, he added, is that it would have to be in the Jazz's best interest.

"If," O'Connor said, "it would improve our team, we would look to do something."

In Harris, the Jazz are getting a former All-Star point guard who was taken fifth overall in the 2004 draft — the year prior to Williams' draft — by the Washington Wizards. The 28-year-old Wisconsin product averaged 15.0 points and 7.6 assists for the Nets this season.

The 6-3, 190-pound Harris has played for Dallas and the Nets during his seven-year career, averaging 13.2 points, 5.0 assists and 1.2 steals.

The 19-year-old Favors, who was the No. 3 overall pick of the 2010 draft, gives the Jazz more depth at the power forward spot. The 6-10, 246-pounder has averaged 6.3 points and 5.3 rebounds his rookie season for the Nets.

This blockbuster Jazz deal comes a few days after Yahoo.com reported that a close associate of Williams' declared that he would be interested in playing for the New York Knicks when his contract expires after the 2011-12 season. Williams denied the rumor during the All-Star Break.

It also comes two weeks after Williams was linked to the departure of Sloan, who resigned abruptly in his 23rd season as the Jazz head coach a day after getting into a heated argument with the team captain.

Williams admitted to arguing with Sloan on occasion, but denied that he was the impetus in Sloan's resignation.

"That was not a consideration," O'Connor added. "It wasn't like him or me (between Sloan and Williams)."

O'Connor said the Jazz owe a debt of gratitude to Williams, who led them to the Western Conference Finals and to the playoffs as a starter the past four seasons.

"We appreciate how he's played, appreciate the fact he's helped us win a lot of games and all of those things," O'Connor said. "Nothing's forever and nothing's guaranteed. We had an opportunity to get a couple of pieces that we might not have been able to get for three or four years."

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