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Williams questions direction of sliding Jazz

Published January 26, 2011 12:17 am

NBA • Sloan preaches patience but his point guard continues to dig at teammates and management.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Jazz coach Jerry Sloan again preached patience.

He joked Monday that he is not ready to jump off a bridge just yet, even though a struggling Utah team is dealing with its first four-game losing streak in nearly two years. And the longtime Jazz leader pulled out one of his premier Sloan-isms when discussing his players' mounting frustrations, stating that an old-fashioned ice-pick fight in the parking lot has been known to solve more than a few problems during his tenure.

But while Sloan took the high road, All-Star guard Deron Williams continued to dig, employing a more direct approach than he has all season when dissecting what is troubling Utah.

Williams said that a much-changed Jazz squad had a "better mesh of guys" in 2009-10, longing for the days when ex-Utah guards Wesley Matthews and Kyle Korver could command attention and respect from opposing defenses, in turn stretching the floor and balancing out the team's offensive attack.

And Williams again pointed out the Jazz's inability to run Sloan's offense like it needs to be executed, as everything from Utah's poor floor spacing and timing to the simple inability to set hard screens has prevented his team from "flowing."

"We're trying to run half of a system and then half just freelance," Williams said. "We can't do that. We're not the Phoenix Suns. We're not the New York Knicks. We're not just coming out here and playing one-on-one. But that's what's happening. Things are breaking down and we're going one-on-one the last five seconds of a shot clock."

But Williams' strongest statements were delivered when he was asked about the organization and coach that he plays for possibly making changes as a season past the midway point moves toward the Feb. 24 trade deadline.

He said "of course not" when it was mentioned that a franchise possessing Andrei Kirilenko's expiring $17.8 million contract appears unlikely to make a major move as the stretch run approaches. Thus, the Jazz will likely have to dig their own way out of a deepening hole.

"That would be what [Sloan] wants," Williams said. "I've heard him say that on numerous occasions. So I guess that's what we're going to have to do."

When Williams was asked if he has the ability to ask Sloan for on-the-court changes, his response was layered in sarcasm.

"We've been running the same plays for 23 years. Why change now?" Williams said.

He added: "I'm just going to play basketball, man. That's all I can do."

Jazz guard C.J. Miles said that is exactly what Utah needs to do — and better.

As Sloan searches for answers — he is debating whether to keep rookie forward Gordon Hayward in the starting lineup and veteran Andrei Kirilenko on the bench, and has considered promoting Miles to the first unit — Miles believes that the Jazz's lingering issues ultimately fall on the shoulders of the team's players.

Everyone in Utah's organization is frustrated, Miles said, from "the top of the building to six feet under the ground."

"It'll punch you in the face when you walk in the door," he said.

But the only people who can immediately make an impact are those who are being paid to play the game.

"Coach can scream, yell, do whatever he want to do," Miles said. "If we don't play, it don't matter."

bsmith@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribjazz

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Jazz at Lakers

P At Staples Center

Tipoff • 8:30 p.m.

TV • FSN Utah, NBATV

Radio • 1320 AM, 1600 AM, 98.7 FM

Records • Jazz 27-17, Lakers 32-13

Last meeting • Jazz, 102-96 (Nov. 26)

About the Jazz • Utah has lost four consecutive games for the first time since Jan. 21-27, 2009. … The Jazz were outscored by an average of 12.5 points during the defeats. … Reserve center Mehmet Okur has averaged just 4.4 points and 2.5 rebounds in his past five games.

About the Lakers • Los Angeles is 2-2 in its past four games, with losses to Dallas and the Los Angeles Clippers. … The Lakers rank seventh out of 30 teams in average points (103.4) and 10th in points allowed (96.4). … Kobe Bryant tops Los Angeles in points (25) and assists (4.8), while Pau Gasol leads the team in rebounds (10.6).