The words from Deron Williams that stood out after the Jazz got floor-boarded in Boston on Friday night on their road trip from hell were words headed in the wrong direction. He never should have uttered them. He never should have thought them before he uttered them. He never should have been vulnerable enough to have thought them before he uttered them.
But utter them he did.
Asked if he should give some kind of verbal or physical spark to his slumping team, he said: "If I do that, then I'm the bad guy, I'm the villain. So I'm going to keep my mouth shut."
Wrong, wrong, wrong, D-Will.
He should have kept his mouth shut immediately before he said he was going to keep his mouth shut, and, then, never again.
Keeping his mouth shut is the worst thing that could happen to the skidding Jazz. They need his urgency. They need his drive. They need his disgust. They need his fire. They need him, in a competitive sense, to be every bit of what he once described himself as: "a jackass."
They need his maladjusted need to win.
Especially right now, when the winning has become scarce.
There are two ways for Williams to communicate that need, and the Jazz could use both. One is by talking about it all open and honest, the way he typically has, and the other is by flat-out imposing his will on the court, of which he's also done his fair share.
Williams always has been a straight talker. If the Jazz sucked on any given night, or in any given week, he said so.
He rarely sprinkled sugar on any loss or set of losses, because those losses were loathsome and untenable to him.
He loathed them even more if he could trace them back to his own performance or lack thereof.
Five points, six assists, five turnovers, and foul trouble against the Celtics in Friday night's crushing?
Tolerance is not his strong suit.
Leaving grudges behind might be.
Not to open up old wounds, but who can forget Williams' public response when Andrei Kirilenko was going through that funk a few years ago in the playoffs, crying about the way he was used in the Jazz offense and asking for the ball more?
If you have forgotten, it went like this:
"You see guys â¦ after practice shooting for 25, 30 minutes â¦ in there working, and you see Andrei being the first one out the door. If he's coming off a screen on one side and Matt Harpring's coming off a screen on one side, who you think you're going to pass it to? You think you're going to pass it to the guy who you see working every day in the gym or you going to pass it to the guy who never works on his shot, but wants to shoot it every time?"
A year later, in the playoffs, Williams was looking for Kirilenko in the low post, waving other guys out of there so he could deliver the ball where he wanted it to go to AK.
Williams said: "His confidence is at a different level. He's being aggressive. He's shooting the ball well. He's playing with energy on both ends of the floor. He's working hard. He's always in the gym now. It's helping him out."
All of which is to say, Williams can speak harsh words, but when the problem is rectified, he doesn't look back, he moves forward.
When the Jazz got beat in the Western Conference finals at San Antonio a few seasons ago, Williams was angry at his team and at himself, for a poor showing. He said: "You'd think we would put up a better fight than that in probably the most important game of our careers."
After that, he repeatedly hung top performances on playoff opponents when the Jazz needed it most, although they haven't been able to solve the Lakers in the postseason. Last year, when the banged-up Jazz played at Denver in the first round, they got smoked in Game 1. Again, Williams was upset. He responded with one of the greatest playoff shows in club history, scoring 33 points he could have gone for 40 and dishing 14 assists.
That, of course, is the second way: Lead by example.
Everyone knows the Jazz are Williams' team.
He's the myth, he's the man. As they've slinked through their East Coast swing, and now face the Lakers on the road and the Spurs at home, he must be more the man than any kind of myth.
To do that, he'll have to be his normal, competitive, ornery, candid self. Williams is all the above. His hint after the Boston loss that he doesn't want to speak or act out because he would be seen as some kind of villain indeed, much was made of his early display/encounter with Gordon Hayward indicates he doesn't want to be the bad man.
Problem is, he is the bad man, in the best sense.
Problem is, it's not a problem.
He's not a sweet-faced, good-book-quoting, milkshake-sucking choirboy.
He's a jackass who wants, in the worst way, to win.
He can't fall into some modern-management mold of smiles and sunshine.
He has to lead out the way he does, not keeping his mouth shut, rather being what and who he is.
GORDON MONSON hosts "The Gordon Monson Show" weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on 1280 The Zone. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.