NBA • Ex-Jazzman praises Sloan's offense over Johnson's in N.Y.
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Brooklyn • Deron Williams stood in front of a group of reporters and addressed the latest controversy he stirred up between himself and a coach. The Nets had lost six of their last eight games entering Tuesday's game against his former team, and Williams explained that chemistry would cure all.
Then an electric guitar began to play softly.
As Williams continued, the opening strains of the 1971 Neil Diamond single "I Am ... I Said," presumably on accident, were piped into the Nets' practice gym.
Reporters looked around, confused. One laughed. No one knew why the song was playing. Or where it came from. But it sure was timely.
"New York's home," Diamond sang, "but it ain't mine no more."
Williams can relate.
He created a media firestorm this week with comments indicating he was happier before Jerry Sloan's sudden resignation in February 2011 and the Jazz's subsequent trade on Feb. 23 of that year.
"You asked me about Utah, my time in Utah," Williams said following Tuesday's shootaround at Barclays Center. "I'm not going to bad-mouth Utah, I had a great time in Utah, I loved the offense. I said that we've had struggles on offense here, I haven't felt as comfortable here, which I've said all year."
The Jazz traded Williams to the then-New Jersey Nets in exchange for Derrick Favors, Devin Harris and draft picks, including the one that yielded Enes Kanter.
Williams has widely been blamed for Sloan's resignation and the shock it sent through a historically stable franchise. But on Monday afternoon, Williams praised Sloan's motion offense, calling it a "great system for my style of play" and said, "Is it as good [in Brooklyn]" where Avery Johnson's offense calls for more isolation plays? "No."
Reached Tuesday by The Tribune, Sloan said, "There's really nothing to comment on. ... I just hope he's doing well."
Williams averages 17 points and 8.3 assists per game, but his shooting has plummeted in recent years. A 50-percent shooter in 2007-08, Williams has made just 38.9 percent of his attempts since joining the Nets.
"With a guy as talented as he is," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said, "if he knows where different guys are going to be if somebody comes and takes something away ... he knows where the other bodies will be to take advantage of it."
Corbin coached the Jazz for just three games before Williams was traded.
Johnson said the Nets are implementing "more and more stuff that he is familiar with and getting back to some of things, a lot of the stuff that he did in his Utah system."
As much as 30 percent of the Nets' offense, Johnson said, mimics what Williams did for five and a half seasons in Utah.
Johnson said he was not surprised or offended by Williams' comments.
"Whether it comes out publicly or whether the guys talk to me about stuff privately," Johnson said, "I got really thick skin and it doesn't irritate me one bit. A lot of his concerns we've talked about it privately. You guys just found out about it publicly."
However, Johnson put the ball squarely back in Williams' court.
"Really," Johnson said, "he has the power and the freedom to call the play."