Deron Williams Or Chris Paul?
If you didn't read Jack McCallum's great Sports Illustrated article about Deron Williams and Chris Paul, do yourself a favor and click on this link. And if you want to see the future of NBA point guards, and a rivalry that will likely live for the duration of their careers, you have to check out the Utah Jazz and the New Orleans Hornets tonight.
That certainly is the must-see game of the night (And there are some pretty good ones with Dallas-Orlando and Denver-Portland).
Williams and Paul have been linked ever since they went third and fourth, respectively, in the 2005 NBA Draft. Paul won rookie of the year and was named to Team USA while Williams struggled the first half of his first season under Jerry Sloan. Last season, Williams had the breakout campaign, leading the Jazz to the Western Conference Finals and earning a spot of the U.S. Men's National Team, while Paul dealt with a lingering ankle injury and failed to make the playoffs.
This season, Paul has emerged as a candidate for the league's most valuable player and an all-star while leading the Hornets to the best record in the Southeast Division. He's averaging 20.7 points, ranks second behind Steve Nash in assists (10.6) and leads the league in steals (2.5). Williams has been no slouch, with his team now atop the Northwest Division as it rides a season-best eight-game winning streak. He's averaging 18.8 points and ranks fourth in the league with 9.6 assists. but he didn't get an invitation to the all-star festivities.
(UPDATE: Williams has been invited to an all-star event, if not the game. He was added to the PlayStation Skills Challenge competition against Dwyane Wade, Jason Kidd and, um, you guessed it, Paul.)
After scoring nine points in the fourth quarter and leading the Jazz to a 96-87 win against the Washington Wizards last Friday, a reporter walked up to Williams and said he guesses Williams plans on making a statement to the coaches who didn't pick him for the all-star game for the rest of the season.
Williams made a loop in his tie and said, "You said that."
Williams isn't going to make many bold public declarations about any perceived slights or say anything to incite his opponents. He'll just play and leave the talking to everybody else. A day after he and Baron Davis proved to be the odd men out in the Western Conference backcourt logjam, Williams was asked about how it felt to get snubbed.
"I'm definitely disappointed not to make it," Williams said, "but that's how it goes."
If not for a miserable December, in which the Jazz went 5-11, had a season-long six game losing streak and momentarily slipped out of playoff contention, Williams likely would've joined Paul in the all-star game. "It's February," Williams said. "December is out of our minds. We're going to let that go."
It's a little easier to let it go when Williams recording a double double in each of the past seven games. Paul's Hornets have lost two in a row after winning their previous nine and are looking to avoid their first three-game losing streak of the season.
In his last six games against New Orleans, Williams is averaging 17.7 points and 7 assists while shooting 53.8 percent from the floor. Paul is shooting just 36 percent in his past five games against the Jazz. Overall, the Jazz has won seven of the past nine meetings.
The last matchup was a bit of dud. The Jazz won 99-71 on Nov. 23 as Williams had 12 points and 7 assists, but he only played 29 minutes and struggled with foul trouble. Paul had 15 points and six assists.
Aside from the constant discussions whenever they go head-to-head, Williams and Paul are friends. Williams even said invited Paul to his house for a Super Bowl party yesterday. "It's just another game on the schedule for me, and for him," he said. "Y'all make a big deal about it. We don't. I just want to win. That's the main thing."
The Hornets and Jazz will play two more times after tonight, but the excitement will really begin this summer, when Williams and Paul compete over the backup point guard spot for the Beijing Olympics. "It's going to be fun," Williams said.
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