They weren’t even whispers. For seven years Marvin Williams heard criticisms in Atlanta that the Hawks overreached when they drafted the talented North Carolina Tar Heel No. 2 overall in 2005.
“People talked about it all the time,” said Williams, whom the Jazz acquired in an offseason trade. “It may still be talked about all the time.”
As Deron Williams, Chris Paul and Andrew Bynum, all selected behind Williams, blossomed into All-NBA performers, Marvin Williams’ productivity gradually declined. Players such as Joe Johnson, Josh Smith and Al Horford blossomed with the Hawks, while Williams remained the talented high draft pick who hadn’t yet paid off.
“People talk a lot about expectations and living up to expectations,” Williams said, “but I hit them up with the million dollar question every time. My question is: Whose expectations do I have to live up to?”
Williams is 26. The reliable outside shooter has averaged double digits every year he has played in the NBA except his rookie season. The Jazz acquired Williams in exchange for point guard Devin Harris to make room for newly acquired Mo Williams. An 18,000-seat community center bearing Williams’ name is being constructed in his hometown of Bremerton, Wash.
Williams is content.
“I don’t have to live up to anybody’s expectations but my own,” he said. “I have to look at myself in the mirror every night. And when I do that, I’m very satisfied with where I came from and what I’m working toward.”
In Atlanta, Williams was used primarily as a shooter. Last season, he attempted 149 3-pointers, the second most in his career, despite playing just 57 games in the lockout-shortened season.
During the first week of Jazz training camp, coach Tyrone Corbin said Williams, a likely starter, is more versatile than he has shown in recent years.
“He can have the ball in his hands some,” Corbin said. “He can make shots coming off down screens, he can defend guys both big and small. He’s rangy. So, we’re looking forward to getting him in a lot of different situations.”
In Saturday’s public scrimmage, Williams was limited, as younger players took most of the minutes. But Williams made two notable plays: both dunks, including an alley-oop slam from fellow newcomer Randy Foye.
Center Al Jefferson said the Jazz’s motion offense is conducive to Williams’ skills.
“A guy like Marvin can take advantage of it,” he said, “because most [small forwards] can’t defend him on the block and he can step out and put the ball on the floor and can shoot it.”
Williams said he was playing in a pickup game in Chapel Hill, N.C., when a friend told him he had been traded. He went home and, before calling his agent and Hawks General Manager Danny Ferry, saw the news on ESPN’s “SportsCenter.”
Even after seven years in the league, Williams had limited knowledge of Utah.
“I knew it was cold,” he said. “I knew these guys win games. I did know that. Even from when before I was in the NBA, they’ve had a great history of winning. When I was traded here I was very excited about being a part of something like this.”
Expectations are high for Williams here, but not Atlanta high. The Jazz didn’t use a lottery pick on him.
“I don’t feel any more pressure than I did in Atlanta,” Williams said. “My job is to get better, man, and the day I stop getting better is the day I have a problem.”
P Jazz at Golden State Monday, 8:30 p.m.
Team • Utah Jazz
Position • SF
Age • 26
Previous team • Atlanta Hawks
Career • Drafted No. 2 overall in 2005 NBA Draft behind former Ute Andrew Bogut ... Averaged a career-best 14.8 points in 2007-08 ... Acquired by Jazz in trade that sent Devin Harris to Hawks.