Mo, D-Will agree: Jazz system tough to kick
Miami • Mo Williams looked up from the dry erase board. On it he had plotted small black marks, designing a play that he believed would work within the offense that was thrust into the spotlight this week when former point guard Deron Williams said he preferred Utah's system to Brooklyn's.
Mo Williams knew well the symptoms his predecessor described to New York media this week. He, too, once played in the Utah offense and then left it.
"I could tell the difference," the Jazz point guard said, sitting courtside before Tuesday's 104-94 win in Brooklyn. "Trust me."
D-Will earned tabloid time and some wondered if his intent was to force out another coach, as he is often accused of having done to Jerry Sloan in Utah.
But Mo Williams, who will lead the Jazz (14-13) on Saturday against defending champion Miami, got it. He said when a player becomes accustomed to the Jazz's "flex"-based offense, it can be difficult, particularly for a point guard, to adjust to a system dependent on isolation plays, like the one he encountered when he signed with the Milwaukee Bucks in 2004 after spending his rookie year with the Jazz.
"The biggest difference when you leave," he said, "is other players haven't been at Utah, so they don't know how that system really is. They don't know, you can get frustrated at times in the sense that you wonder why guys don't know how to play the 'right way.' "
Sloan's offense is one of many things he left behind when he abruptly resigned from the Jazz days before the franchise shipped Deron Williams to New Jersey. The offense has been modified and tweaked by Corbin, but fundamentally, it has remained the same. In basic motion-based sets, with cutters, cross screens and big guys pinning their man on the block, a point guard knows where he will find a player at a given time.
"Whatever he does," Corbin said, "he has an idea of where guys should be and he has an idea of what he should get out of those sets."
Deron Williams on Monday said, "That system was a great system for my style of play. I'm a system player. I love coach Sloan's system. I loved the offense there."
Nets coach Avery Johnson brushed the stinging comments aside, saying that as much as 30 percent of the Nets offense "is what was run with him in Utah."
Corbin said he believed it after seeing the Nets play Tuesday.
"They got two layups on two of our sets," he said. "[Gerald] Wallace got one, then Deron got one on the other side."
Old-fashioned, yes, but the Jazz's offense has worked for decades, even if it didn't look like it in Wednesday's 104-84 loss in Indiana.
It's no coincidence that the NBA's all-time assists leader, John Stockton, spent his entire career with the team, nor that a point guard considered shoot-first of the highest order Mo Williams has them ranked fifth in assists this season.
The Jazz currently rank 10th in points per 100 possessions, and have ranked in the top 10 in that category in 17 of the seasons since Jerry Sloan's first full year as the Jazz head coach in 1989-90.
"It's movements," Mo Williams said. "It's action. I don't get [isolation plays]. Even though I'm a great iso player, I don't think that's the right way to play the game."
Deron Williams, clearly thinks the Jazz do play the right way.
And the Jazz weren't about to disagree.
"When coach Sloan was here," point guard Earl Watson said, "it was a machine. It didn't matter who was playing or who was out or what rotations were playing. It was a machine, and it ran itself."
• Using the offense Deron Williams praised this week in Brooklyn, the Jazz have been one of the NBA's best offensive teams.
• Mo Williams said he also struggled playing in other systems after he left the Jazz in 2004.
• The Jazz next play Saturday at Miami.