New Orleans • Mo Williams wears a camouflage backpack with his name stitched on it. Standard issue.
His brother graduated from West Point and served more than six years in the Army. His father was an Army man.
“I have a soft spot in my heart for the Army,” Williams said.
When the Jazz play at New Orleans on Friday, Williams and Al Jefferson will host more than 40 members of the Mississippi National Guard at New Orleans Arena.
The National Guard has been a sponsor of the camp Williams and Jefferson run each summer in Jackson, Miss., for more than a year, Williams said.
“It will be great for them,” he said. “The biggest thing for them is to come in to see a professional game, get out of the grind and grit of their normal day and enjoy themselves.”
They’ll be watching a Jazz team that is coming off an impressive 113-94 win over Dallas in Wednesday’s season an opener, and a New Orleans team that lost to San Antonio to start the season, boasts the No. 1 pick in June’s draft and can’t get its point guard on the floor.
Eric Gordon resigned with the Hornets in the offseason after the team matched the four year, $58 million offer sheet he signed with Phoenix. However, he has been sidelined with a sore right knee and become a polarizing figure in New Orleans due to his seeming lack of urgency to return.
Instead, the Hornets will start former Maryland star Greivis Vasquez at point guard, a young player Williams compared to former All-Star Sam Cassell.
The Jazz are playing their first game of a three-game swing through the South, which includes games on Saturday in San Antonio and Monday in Memphis. Friday’s game is a homecoming, of sorts, not only for Jefferson and Williams, but also for Paul Millsap, who grew up in Monroe, La.
Asked if the National Guard members in the stands would be cheering for the Jazz, Williams said, “Absolutely. That was in the contract.”