New Orleans • When the lights go down before the start of a game, Marvin Williams is in his usual spot. As each starter’s name is announced, the forward waits for him at the end of a line of high-fives. They run at each other, jump and bump sides.
It matters little to Williams that his name hasn’t been among them of late.
“It’s part of being a professional. You’ve got to be ready for adjustments. In this game, changes happen — quarter to quarter, game to game, week to week,” he says. “It means more to some players than others. Some guys care about starting. They feel more comfortable starting. I don’t care at all, man. As long as I’m playing, I’m fine.”
Williams’ willingness to roll with the punches in a year filled with them has not gone unnoticed by his teammates and coaches, who appreciate his steady, workmanlike approach to the game.
After a hot February, in which he averaged 13 points a game and shot nearly 50 percent from the floor, Williams’ numbers are down. He’s putting up 9.4 points and 5.2 rebounds a game — right around his career averages.
But his contributions remain crucial in a year when the measurement of success is more abstract than wins and losses, coaches say.
“It’s invaluable,” Jazz coach Ty Corbin said. “You see and recognize numbers, but the little things he does with this group — his presence, his voice in the locker room — those things are invaluable when you look at the overall scope of trying to keep the guys on the same page and trying to get better.”
This summer, a value for Williams’ services will be set. The veteran is in the final season of a deal that will pay him $7.5 million for his work this year. The former No. 2 overall draft pick is in line for a pay cut.
At the right price, his skill set and demeanor could make him an intriguing option for the rebuilding Jazz. According to one ESPN report earlier this year, the Utah front office turned down a deadline deal that would have sent a first-round pick to the Jazz in exchange for Williams, the hope being that Williams might re-sign.
“I think it would be great,” Corbin said of Williams’ possible return next season. “Who knows what will happen, but he’s a great guy to have on the squad.”
Williams is a coach’s favorite.
“When we made the decision to move him, it was tough for me because he’s a class guy,” said Milwaukee Bucks boss Larry Drew, who coached Williams in Atlanta before he was shipped to the Jazz for Devin Harris. “He’s going to do it the right way. Players loving playing with him. Coaches love coaching him. … He doesn’t look to ruffle any feathers. He just goes out there and tries to do his job.”
This year, the job has meant moving from his natural small forward position to the four-spot, stretching the floor with his 3-point shooting.
It’s also meant taking young players under his wing.
“Marv’s definitely one of the leaders on this team,” rookie Trey Burke said. “He’s a guy that everyone listens to when he’s got something to say.”
And Williams’ quiet lessons speak loudly, too.
“He’s still a little beat up, but he don’t want to miss,” Corbin said. “He’s a guy that’s going to lay it out there on the line every night he’s in uniform.”
“I definitely take notice of it,” Burke said. “Just seeing how he’s able to play through his injury. It still bothers him. I see him ice it every day. He’s a professional. I take a lot from him.”
The rookie added, “You need a guy like Marv.”
Marvin has had no talks with management about his future. But at 27, he sees himself as a potential piece in an eventual winner.
“I’ve enjoyed my time here from Day 1,” he said. “Obviously, we won a lot more last year, being an older ball club. This year, even though we haven’t won as many games as we’ve wanted to, it’s been fun. We’ve taken our lumps, but that’s part of the growing process. And I’ve said it before — I do believe this team will be really good in the future.”
Jazz at Pelicans
P Smoothie King Center, New Orleans
Tipoff • Friday, 6 p.m.
TV • ROOT Sports
Radio • 97.5 FM, 960 AM
Records • Jazz 23-49; Pelicans 31-40
About the Jazz • Let a 16-point lead slip away in a loss Wednesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies. … Have lost 16 of their last 20 games. … Alec Burks has missed three games with an ankle injury and his status for Friday is in question. … The Jazz have split their first two games with New Orleans this year.
About the Pelicans • Looking to extend a four-game winning streak that has included wins over three of the NBA’s best teams — the Heat, the Nets and the Clippers. … Big man Anthony Davis is coming into his own, averaging 21 points, 10 rebounds and nearly 3 blocks a game. … Their first round draft pick is headed to Philadelphia unless it lands in the top 5.