Mo Williams nears return from injury
Milwaukee • Mo Williams brought the ball up the floor, and, like he did so many times before injuring his thumb, fired a 3-pointer over the defender.
In rhythm, in the hoop.
"That was when I was like, yeah, Mo's back," Al Jefferson said.
Jefferson watched happily as the Jazz point guard made his return to full-contact practices on Sunday, one day shy of two months since undergoing surgery to repair torn ligaments in his thumb.
Williams said Monday at the Jazz's shootaround in Milwaukee that he could return to games as early as Wednesday, when the Jazz play at Cleveland, where he played from 2008 to 2011.
"We'll see," Williams said. "We'll see. That would be great to play in front of those fans."
The 30-year-old point guard had two pins removed from his thumb on Feb. 13, and his rehabilitation began in earnest after the All-Star Break, and if Jefferson were the final judge, Williams would be cleared to play.
"He said he was a little winded," Jefferson said. "I told him I couldn't tell."
But the Jazz are being cautious with the veteran.
"As he gets close, he's getting a little frustrated with trying to get himself to get better fast and be ready to go," coach Tyrone Corbin said. "It's a process until the body responds and getting stiffness out and feeling comfortable with and not being hesitant with the hand."
The former Jazz second-round draft pick has played in just 24 games this season since returning to Utah via an offseason trade. He averaged 12.9 points and 6.7 assists before injuring his thumb while defending a play by Mario Chalmers on Dec. 22 in Miami.
Corbin said he has not yet decided how to integrate Williams back with the Jazz, whether he would start right away or come off the bench to ease back into his leadership role.
"We have to get readjusted to him as he has to get readjusted to how the guys are playing now," Corbin said. "It's been a long time. ... There will be an adjustment period hopefully we can make it as short as we can."
Alec Burks has seen a substantial increase in opportunity and productivity since Williams went out, and has averaged 8 points in the 30 games he's appeared in since Dec. 23. In February, he averaged 9.8 points and shot 44.9 percent from the field.
Still, the Jazz have struggled to get offensive production from the point guard position without Williams. In the 31 games he missed before Monday, the Jazz averaged just 4.1 points per game from their starting point guard (either Jamaal Tinsley or Earl Watson).
Getting Williams back, Corbin said, will have an immediate impact.
"It's big," he said, "and also just his playmaking ability and the fact that his presence on the court makes defenses a little worried and opens things up for guys, too."
Tinsley was not with the Jazz for Monday's game against the Bucks, after being excused to attend a family funeral. Tinsley has started 32 games this season, and averages 3.8 points and 5 assists in 20 minutes per game.