Mo Williams promises to add toughness to Jazz

Associated Press  |  Last updated July 03, 2012
Mo Williams isn't the 20-year-old rookie that he was when he first arrived in Salt Lake City in 2003. He's married now, with four kids, another on the way and enough money to buy a house in place of the tiny apartment he once had. What hasn't changed is the toughness he brings, toughness he vowed to carry forward after being reunited with the Utah Jazz following a multi-team deal finalized last week that sent Lamar Odom back to Los Angeles with the Clippers. ''That's what makes me who I am, that toughness I have in me, that Jerry (Sloan) helped fine-tune,'' Williams said Tuesday after being formally introduced as the newest member of the Jazz. A second trade that the Jazz can't formally announce until a league-wide moratorium is lifted July 11 will send Devin Harris to the Atlanta Hawks and clear the way for Mo Williams to run the team at point guard. Asked about becoming the new face of the Jazz franchise after a pair of major post-draft trades, Mo Williams wasn't fazed. ''I look forward to the challenge,'' he said. Williams, now 29, arrived in Salt Lake City in 2003 with a single suitcase, and a chip on his shoulder after falling to the second round of the draft and No. 47 overall. Since then, he's played with LeBron James in Cleveland and was part of Lob City in Los Angeles with Blake Griffin and Chris Paul. Each trade, he said, only paved the way for him to be back in Utah. For now, Mo Williams plans to wear No. 16 - disappointing all those Jazz fans who thought they might finally be able to recycle the No. 8 Deron Williams jerseys that became obsolete when the team traded the superstar point guard in February 2011. Mo Williams said the number he has worn most of his career, 25, was already taken by center Al Jefferson, who hails from the same hometown of Jackson, Miss. His children picked No. 16 because the digits add up to seven - the size his family will be once the new baby arrives. It's news even his mother hadn't heard yet. ''It equals seven, but I wouldn't take No. 7 here because some famous guy wore that,'' Mo Williams quipped, standing beneath a jersey hung from the rafters that displayed Pistol Pete Maravich's name. On Tuesday, Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor declined to discuss any potential trade with Atlanta involving Harris that would send forward Marvin Williams to the Jazz. But Jazz CEO Greg Miller acknowledged the deal Monday night when picking Mo Williams up at the airport. ''I think we've gotten better,'' is all O'Connor would say Tuesday. ''When a player is capable of playing good basketball, and brings toughness, and aggressiveness and a work attitude every day, that's what you want.'' He said Mo Williams also is a capable scorer, and good shooter, someone willing to provide leadership to a group that features four talented players 22 or younger in Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter and Alec Burks. The Jazz were a surprise to some when they made a late-season charge to the playoffs, finishing with a 36-30 mark in the condensed, strike-shortened season. But reality set in when the San Antonio Spurs swept then out of the playoffs in the first round. ''We got our bell rung in the playoffs,'' O'Connor said. ''I hope everybody understands where we've got to get to.'' The team certainly has come a long way since the D-Will trade. They have a budding superstar in forward Favors, big man Kanter and, if the Marvin Williams deal goes through, another solid small forward. And, though not tied to the Deron Williams deal, the Jazz have Mo Williams, who they were able to obtain with help from a trade exception acquired in a deal that sent Mehmet Okur to New Jersey last season. ''One of the things I keep saying is Deron didn't come and say, `You better trade me.' That's not fair to him. However, we felt it was a move we needed to make,'' O'Connor said Tuesday. ''Now as we look at some of the deals that have gone on and some of the moves that have happened, we feel fortunate we were able to make it at the time we made it. If you look at what it brought us, we're able to play into the future with it.'' Mo Williams is part of the immediate future and, he hopes, the long-term as well. ''It will be an 18-wheeler pulling up when I come back this time,'' he said. He planned to reunite first with Jefferson at basketball camps they put on in Jackson, then get ready for the Jazz season. Harris, meanwhile, was trying to cope with yet another trade. ''I can't say he knew it was coming yesterday, or he had any indication of it,'' publicist Tiffany Farha said Tuesday. ''But he understands the business. They had four point guards on that team, so it wasn't going to be a surprise that they would make a move.'' Farha said Harris has no hard feelings toward the Jazz and enjoyed his time in Utah. ''He's looking forward to contributing in Atlanta, a perennial playoff team with a new GM. He looks forward to doing some great things with them, to the new chapter,'' she said.
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