Kragthorpe: D-Will's defeat another victory for Jazz
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Houston

When he took a seat on the bench in the last few minutes of the wildest week of his basketball life, former Jazz guard Deron Williams had a season-high 17 assists Saturday night.

Obviously, he just needed to join a good team that could convert more of his passes into baskets.

Spoiling that theory: New Jersey's 123-108 loss to Houston at the Toyota Center, in the Nets' continuing effort to bring joy to Jazzland.

Like most major trades, the Jazz's sudden dealing of Williams to New Jersey evoked mixed reactions.

Yet everybody attached to the Jazz can agree about this: They want him to lose — this season, anyway. The Jazz obtained New Jersey's 2011 first-round pick, so every game New Jersey loses potentially adds value to the trade.

That explains some ill will toward D-Will, who summarized the two defeats of his first weekend as "similar right now" to what he experienced with the Jazz.

"We all had a frustrating season in Utah as well," he said. "We weren't exactly winning when I left."

The Nets (17-42) started well against Houston, as Williams posted four points and six assists in the opening six minutes.

But they fell behind 71-58 at halftime and never threatened. Williams again struggled with his shot (3 of 12), although he drew enough fouls to score 15 points, complementing his assist total.

Nets coach Avery Johnson was impressed with Williams' effort, even while "just trying to figure out some things about his teammates," he said.

"It's good just to be on the floor with the guys," Williams said. "That's really what it's about, trying to develop some sort of chemistry, get a feel for the offense."

Monday, Williams will make his first home appearance as a Net against Phoenix. That's one of the teams the Jazz are battling for a playoff spot, while also being conscious of how New Jersey stands to benefit them in the June draft.

Jazz CEO Greg Miller made clear that the organization is not portraying Williams as any kind of "villain" in coach Jerry Sloan's departure. Yet the Jazz certainly are cast in the role of cheering against D-Will and the Nets for the rest of this season — and beyond, in a sense.

With some fluctuation possible in the remaining 23 games, the Nets' current standing would give the Jazz the No. 6 pick, subject to the lottery results. The Jazz experienced something like this last season, when they owned New York's pick. But that hardly was the same circumstance as having a former franchise cornerstone affect their future.

Regardless of how they personally feel about Williams, the Jazz and their followers have to hope the worst for him this season. What happens regarding Williams and the Nets in 2012 (or later) and how that validates Jazz management is less quantifiable.

But let's just say Williams chooses to become a free agent and leave the Nets — who by then will be moving to Brooklyn. In its own way, that decision would further justify the Jazz's stance that he was not going to re-sign with them.

One of the critical issues in New Jersey is how Williams will deal with a lot of losing, until the Nets improve their team. "He's very well aware of what we are," Johnson said, "and what it's going to take to get to that next level."

There's not much they can do between now and mid-April, which is good for the Jazz — who may end up with a lottery pick of their own, besides the one D-Will delivered.

kkragthorpe@sltrib.comTwitter: @tribkurt