Learning From the Best
Posted Aug 16 2007 1:54PM
LAS VEGAS, August 15, 2007 -- Early last season, Deron Williams spoke of the transition from his first to his second season, and he said how he used what he learned as a rookie to help him work on his game the following summer.
Obviously, it worked.
"Deron just came along so fast," Chris Bosh said about Williams' development. "He can shoot the ball well, he's big, he's physical, he's quick, he can run an offense and he's unselfish."
Williams led the Jazz to the Western Conference Finals last season, should have been an All-Star, and has established himself as the best player in his draft class (with apologies to Chris Paul) after finishing sixth in Rookie of the Year voting the season previous.
"For point guards," Mike Miller said, "that rookie year is a tough transition. And to see what he's done from that year to the next is what you expect out of great basketball players. He's definitely put himself in the top echelon of point guards in this league."
So, while Williams is likely the third-string point guard for Team USA this summer behind Jason Kidd and Chauncey Billups, he could very well be the floor leader when the 2012 Olympics come around.
And for now, he's taking this opportunity to learn from the guy that was his favorite player growing up in Texas.
"He's a guy that I grew up trying to emulate, trying to be like as a kid," Williams said of Kidd. "And it's kind of surreal right now to be playing on the same team as him, playing under his wing and learning from him."
Kidd seems to be the ingredient that Team USA was missing in Japan last summer, the floor general that can bring a bunch of talented individuals together and make them into a great team.
"We have great scorers, great rebounders, great finishers, great defenders," Bosh said. "And he's kind of that missing piece that just bonds everybody together."
Almost everybody on this team has already talked about how enjoyable it is to play with a point guard of Kidd's caliber, and they've only been together for four days. Kidd will tell you that his teammates just don't want to disrespect their elders, but we know better.
So Williams takes it to heart when Kidd offers him advice, and from the sounds of it, that happens often during the course of practice.
"He gives me little pointers here and there," Williams said. "Anything he sees that I'm doing wrong or I could do differently. Whether it's something simple as, you know, I made a chest pass today when I should have made a bounce pass. He came over and told me 'Drop it down low. There's not as many hands to get through.' He's just helping me out."
And the youngster is always willing to listen.
"He's a great kid," Kidd said of the teammate he jokingly calls his son. "He wants to get better. He's always asking questions or just being very observant."
So, while Williams clearly improved between his rookie and sophomore seasons, he could certainly make a similar jump this summer by just spending time with Kidd here in Las Vegas.
"It's definitely a great learning experience for me," Williams said, "something I can definitely use for my future. Being around a guy like that for 2 1/2 weeks is going to be tremendous for me."
Evidently, just being one of the best point guards in the league is not enough.
"You can always learn," Williams said. "You can always improve. You can always get better. You just gotta stay hungry to do that. I think there's a lot of maturing I can do as far as being a leader on my team."
If Jerry Sloan is reading this, I think he just smiled (although I'm not sure I know what a Jerry Sloan smile looks like).
Even Kidd, after 13 seasons in the league, is still working hard on his game. After Wednesday's three-hour practice, he went over to the auxiliary gym to shoot 200 jumpers with his shooting coach, while most of the younger players were eager to get back to the hotel and relax.
That just might be Deron Williams 10 years from now.
"He has all the tools to be one of the top point guards," Kidd said, "if not the top point guard, when it's all said and done."