Jazz's Williams an NBA All-Star for second straight year
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Denver • Deron Williams is midway through a career year. He is considered by many to be the premier player in the NBA at his position. And the Jazz guard has now made two consecutive All-Star teams.

Williams was selected as a reserve on the Western Conference 2011 All-Star team.

The game will be held Feb. 20 in Los Angeles at Staples Center.

"It is a great honor and a great accomplishment to be named to the All-Star team, especially getting selected by the Western Conference coaches," said Williams, who leads Utah in average points (21.9), assists (9.4 — fourth in the NBA) and minutes (37.7). "There are so many great players in this league right now, that's why I feel so honored the coaches picked me to be there."

The Jazz captain made his All-Star debut last season. But this year is different. Williams has often been forced to carry Utah (29-21), taking a larger and more assertive role in the Jazz's offense after the team lost Carlos Boozer, Wesley Matthews and Kyle Korver last summer to free agency. Williams has also become the Jazz's undisputed leader, at times openly challenging his teammates, coaches and Utah's front office to consistently operate at as high a level as possible.

The 6-foot-3, 209-pound Williams has carried his own weight on the court. He is averaging career highs in points, minutes, free-throw percentage (85.5), field goal makes (7.1) and attempts (15.1). He has played through injuries to produce some of the most impressive performances of his career. And some of Williams' biggest nights have come during losing efforts, as he has done everything within his power to push an up-and-down Utah team forward.

To become an All-Star, Williams had to beat out a rising crop of young, talented point guards that many believe marks the pinnacle of the position in NBA history. He joins starter Chris Paul (New Orleans) and reserve Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City) as the point guards on the Western Conference team. Meanwhile, guards such as Phoenix's Steve Nash, San Antonio's Tony Parker, Denver's Chauncey Billups, the Los Angeles Clippers' Eric Gordon and Houston's Kevin Martin did not make the cut.

"I think every year it's hard for point guards to make it, because there are so many great point guards in this league, especially in the West," Williams said. "There are always young guys that are coming into the league and it's going to continue to be a fight every year — that's another reason I feel so honored."

But Williams' ascension is not just specific to this season. By earning his second consecutive All-Star selection, he has officially entered the next echelon of Jazz greats. Williams is only the sixth player during the 37-year history of the franchise to earn back-to-back All-Star honors, and the first since Boozer (2007-08). Karl Malone (14 selections), John Stockton (10), Adrian Dantley (six) and Pete Maravich (three) are the only athletes since the Jazz's inception in 1974-75 to earn more All-Star honors than Williams.

"I take a lot of pride in it, especially after the guys I'm following," Williams said. "I'm following John and Karl, perennial All-Stars. And also Booz, who had a couple of them here."

The sixth-year guard has accomplished the feat despite playing for the small-market Jazz during an era when many of the NBA's biggest stars either play in major metropolitan areas or have combined forces on teams such as the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat.

"I'm just trying to keep the streak alive and keep people focusing on Utah," Williams said.

Williams joined the Jazz in 2005, when Utah selected the former Illinois standout with the third overall pick in the NBA Draft. Less than six years later, he is unquestionably the face of the franchise. Williams is the clear centerpiece of the organization's marketing efforts, while he has taken an ever-growing role in helping plan the future of the team that he plays for.

He has also begun to rival untouchables such as Stockton, Malone and Maravich as the most recognizable player in the franchise's history. And the only name associated with the 2010-11 Jazz that eclipses Williams' belongs to longtime coach Jerry Sloan.

"I always hoped I'd be in the NBA. I never imagined what it would be like when I got here — if I would be an All-Star or an Olympian," Williams said. "But now that it's here, I'm glad. I'm excited. I feel very blessed."

bsmith@sltrib.com —

Deron Williams file

Position • Guard

Year • 6

Vitals • 6-foot-3, 209 pounds

Age • 26

College • Illinois

2010-11 stats • 21.9 points, 9.4 assists, 3.7 rebounds

Career • 17.3 points, 9.1 assists, 3.2 rebounds —

Jazz in the All-Star Game

Player Gms Starts Years

Karl Malone 14 8 1988-98, 2000-02

John Stockton 10 4 1989-97, 2000

Adrian Dantley 6 5 1980-82, 84-86

Pete Maravich 3 2 1977-79

Deron Williams 2 0 2010-11

Carlos Boozer 2 0 2007-08

Mark Eaton 1 0 1989

Rickey Green 1 0 1984

Andrei Kirilenko 1 0 2004

Mehmet Okur 1 0 2007

Truck Robinson 1 0 1978 —

All-Star rosters

Western Conference

Starters

G • Chris Paul, New Orleans

G • Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers

F • Carmelo Anthony, Denver

F • Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City

C • Yao Ming*, Houston

Reserves • Tim Duncan, San Antonio; Pau Gasol, L.A. Lakers; Manu Ginobili, San Antonio; Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas; Blake Griffin, L.A. Clippers; Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City; Deron Williams, Utah.

Eastern Conference

Starters

G • Derrick Rose, Chicago

G • Dwyane Wade, Miami

F • LeBron James, Miami

F • Amare Stoudemire, New York

C • Dwight Howard, Orlando

Reserves • Ray Allen, Boston; Chris Bosh, Miami; Kevin Garnett, Boston; Al Horford, Atlanta; Joe Johnson, Atlanta; Paul Pierce, Boston; Rajon Rondo, Boston.

*Yao will not play due to injury, and NBA commissioner David Stern will name his replacement —

Jazz at Nuggets

P Friday, 8:30 p.m.

TV • FSN Utah, ESPN