It's pronouncedDARE-in. That comes straight from the mouth of Jazz point guard Deron Williams,whose first name is butchered on a near-daily basis. "They say 'duh-RON'even when they're announcing my name at other arenas," says Williams."That's something I can use as motivation."
If Williams, a6'3" second-year pro out of Illinois, plays with the same brio he showed atthe end of last year, he'll be a household name soon enough. The 22-year-oldtemporarily lost his starting job last December and saw his court timediminish, but he rebounded to make the All-Rookie team and became the firstUtah rookie since Andrei Kirilenko to average double figures in points (10.8).A closer look at Williams's numbers--he started the final 28 games and averaged13.8 points and 6.6 assists in April--suggests even bigger things ahead. Healso made a four-day trip last month to Spokane to work out with future Hall ofFame playmaker John Stockton for the second straight off-season. "Learningfrom the best, that's what I was doing," says Williams. "I was justtrying to pick his brain. He's more of an I-can-show-you coach. Then it's up toyou to do what he did."
No matter howWilliams performs, how far the Jazz goes will also depend on how well the otherplayers hold up. Swingman Matt Harpring (sidelined for 11 games last season)and forwards Kirilenko (13) and Carlos Boozer (49) entered camp ready to go."If we stay healthy, we are a dangerous team," says Williams."Anything less than the playoffs will be a disappointment."
ProjectedStarting Lineup with 2005--06 statistics
Record: 41--41(9th in West)
Points scored: 92.4 (26th in NBA)
Points allowed: 95.0 (9th)
Coach: Jerry Sloan
(19th season with the Jazz)
PAUL MILLSAP (R)*
(R) ROOKIE (COLLEGE STATISTICS)
Enemy Lines Anopposing team's scout sizes up the Jazz
They're alwaysgoing to worry about Andrei Kirilenko's health because he's so important tothem. He has a knack for knowing where his teammates are, and he'll get to thebasket and finish. He's also one of those rare stars who can dominate the gamewithout having the ball. He can defend on the perimeter or down low, but witharms like a 7-footer's, he's best as a helper; he's got that quick second jumpand he runs like a deer.... Carlos Boozer's been a question mark since he cameto Utah (in 2004), which puts it on him to prove himself this year. They needhim to control the boards because they can't get that from their other bigguys.... He may not look like a player, but Mehmet Okur has a good feel for thegame. He can make the pick-and-pop shots, put the ball on the floor and pass.He's Bill Laimbeer with a post-up game.... I equate Deron Williams to DerekHarper--a starter in the league for a long time, a guy who defends and makes ashot here and there. I don't think he's a three-point shooter, which is anotherissue for them. Their only deep threat is Gordan Giricek.
Last seasonAndrei Kirilenko joined Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bob Lanier and David Robinson asthe only players to average at least 15 points, eight rebounds, four assistsand three blocks.
BRIAN BAHR/GETTY IMAGES