Sandwich pick is served up by Hawks

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Marvin Williams is destined for a place of honor in Utah sports trivia.

Like the Los Angeles Rams' Fearsome Foursome, which included native son Merlin Olsen. Like the starters on Utah's Final Four team in 1998, which lost to Kentucky in the NCAA championship game.

Last summer, Williams was the No. 2 pick in the NBA draft - wedged in between the University of Utah's Andrew Bogut, who went No. 1 to Milwaukee, and just ahead of Deron Williams, who was taken third by the Utah Jazz.

For as long he plays the game, Utah basketball fans will follow Williams' career simply because he was in the right place at the right time - or maybe the wrong place at the wrong time, considering the Atlanta Hawks' bleak future.

On pace to win nine games and tie the NBA record for fewest victories in a season, the Hawks are in ruins.

Atlanta's best player is veteran forward Al Harrington, who becomes a free agent next summer and seems certain to leave, if the Hawks haven't already traded him.

"I just want to win," Harrington said softly after Wednesday's 95-83 loss to the Jazz. "Here, there, anywhere. I just want to win."

Hello, Marvin Williams.

By using the No. 2 pick in the draft on him, the Hawks have entrusted much of their future to Williams, who didn't even start during his one season at North Carolina and won't turn 20 until June.

But so far, so good.

At least according to his coach.

"He's coming along fine," Mike Woodson said. " . . . [But] it's a learning curve for him. It's a learning curve for all the guys. I've got a lot of young kids on this team - 22, 23 years old. And each day is a learning process for them."

Against the Jazz, Williams acted his age.

He scored three points on 1-for-6 shooting.

He had as many fouls as rebounds - four - and he was eaten alive on the defensive end by Andrei Kirilenko.

Still, a kid's got to learn.

"Marvin's going to be fine," Woodson insisted. "It's going to take minutes. It's going to take a lot of hard work on his part. It's not going to be easy. But it's not going to be easy for any of these young guys."

Somebody else likes what he sees in Williams, who 18 months ago was sacking groceries for minimum wage in his hometown of Bremerton, Wash.

"He's doing well," Harrington said. "He's a very intelligent basketball player. He's already picked up a lot of things. . . . He's a professional already. He's always on time - things like that."

Williams' strength is his potential, apparently.

"He's a great shooter," Harrington said. "But I don't think one thing stands out yet. He's still trying to figure out his game."

Williams averaged 11.3 points last year, when he was the sixth man on North Carolina's team that beat Deron Williams and Illinois in the NCAA championship game.

In Atlanta, the money is better - certainly better than his grocery-bagging days - but his team loses more in one week than the Tar Heels did all season.

"It's tough right now, the losing," Williams said. "I'm taking it day-by-day, trying to figure things out."

Did he consider staying in school another year or two, in order to fine-tune his potentially fabulous game?

"I thought about it," Williams said. "But my family situation, that was the biggest thing for me."

So it goes in today's NBA, where youth is served.

Ready or not.