Oakland, Calif. • An ill-advised bounce pass to Al Jefferson stuck out to Mo Williams. Then there was that pass he knew he shouldn’t have thrown to Paul Millsap.
Even after the first preseason game, an 83-80 loss at Golden State, the Jazz’s new point guard is already in fine-tuning mode. Williams was the brightest spot on a night in which Utah’s second unit, led by a lean Enes Kanter, nearly brought the Jazz back all the way from a 16-point deficit before Randy Foye’s 3-pointer in the final seconds fell short.
Kanter notched a double-double, Marvin Williams was efficient and exciting, DeMarre Carroll was a sharpshooter. But it may have been Mo Williams, playing in only the first and third quarters, who offered the most encouraging glimpse of things to come for the Jazz.
Williams recorded 11 points and six assists, and scored the Jazz’s first seven points. His performance was dragged down by four turnovers, each of which he can recount in detail, but shrugged off.
“They got to get used to how I play,” he said of his new teammates, “and I’ve got to get used to how they play.”
While the Warriors played a measured rotation deserving of a more significant game, the Jazz limited their starters’ minutes. Warriors forward David Lee led all scorers with 19 points in 36 minutes, while Marvin Williams and Millsap led the Jazz with 13 points apiece. Kanter finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Playing only the first and third quarters, Mo Williams fired passes from his hip, around defenders, sometimes too hot for his teammates to handle. He opened the second half with a drive and a dish to Al Jefferson in the post for an easy dunk — which Jefferson, who was an uncharacteristic 1-of-8 from the field, missed.
In the small sample of the preseason opener, Williams was the kind of veteran player the Jazz hoped they found when they acquired Devin Harris as part of the Deron Williams trade in 2010. Where the Utah offense was often plodding and repetitive for a season-and-a-half with Harris, it was interesting and fast-paced Monday night in front of an announced 14,571 at Oracle Arena, although, thanks to clumsy plays and miscommunications, it often resulted in turnovers (the Jazz had 18) rather than baskets.
Williams spent last season as Chris Paul’s backup with the Los Angeles Clippers, despite being a starter for most of his career.
“He is trying to feel his teammates out now,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. “Some of those they’re coming off the pick and rolls, guys feeling where he is and what he’s looking for and a couple was just a click off, but that’s going to get better as we go forward, that’s guys getting to know each other better in the game.”
Millsap, who started over touted 21-year-old Derrick Favors, said Williams did “pretty well for the most part.”
“I’ve been through my share of point guards in the past,” Millsap said. “For him, he’s a different player than a lot of the other ones. But we’re still working on our chemistry.”