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JAZZ NOTES: Williams' fan club growing
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

SAN ANTONIO - The Jazz's Deron Williams has been watching his fan club grow during the playoffs, and it hardly has stopped in the NBA's Western Conference finals against the San Antonio Spurs.

Many of the Spurs have had gushing praise for the second-year point guard - perhaps none more so than forward Bruce Bowen.

"I like Deron Williams a great deal," said Bowen, who started out defending Williams in Game 2 of the series at the AT&T Center on Tuesday night. "I think what he represents is something that a lot of guys can learn from, staying in school longer than chasing the money of the NBA. Here it is, when he was in school, he wasn't their go-to guy, but he was a solid point guard."

"That's what's missing today in the NBA is solid point guards," Bowen added. "You have the scoring guards, you have guards that can't do some things. With him, it's special because he spent that time in college and learned more and more about the game of basketball. So he goes to a team that really needs a great point guard and he just fits the mold of a young [John] Stockton."

Simple and scary

Coach Jerry Sloan added some daunting perspective to the challenge the Jazz are facing against the Spurs, when asked how the Spurs compare with the outstanding Jazz teams he coached in the late 1990s.

"They're better," he said.

Sloan went on to praise the Spurs' Tim Duncan, who "might be the best player ever to play the position." Presumably, he meant the hybrid forward-center position that Duncan plays, rather than the pure power forward role in which Karl Malone scored 36,928 points in his career - second-most in NBA history.

That winning feeling

Center Mehmet Okur evidently was not feeling well during his 3-for-15 shooting performance in Game 1, though he declined to elaborate when asked about it.

"Who told you that?" he said, jokingly.

Okur insisted he's feeling fine, and maintained he did not want to make excuses for playing poorly. Later, though, Williams casually noted that Okur was "a little under the weather last game, so hopefully he's feeling better and has a bit more legs" in Game 2.

Blessing or curse?

Already known for some contrary opinions, television analyst Charles Barkley proclaimed on TNT that he believes the Jazz can go all the way and win the NBA championship.

"I hope we prove him right," Carlos Boozer said.

Said Williams: "I appreciate it. Chuck has given us a lot of love this whole playoffs when other people haven't. I respect him a lot, and for him to say that, it's special."

Of course, the outspoken former All-Star once speculated on national television that it might be time for Sloan to retire.

mcl@sltrib.com

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