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News » Jazz at 35 » 2009-04-06


Jazz at 35 » 2009-04-06


Jazz at 35 » 2009-04-06
In nearly 10 years as the Utah Jazz's vice president of Basketball operations, job-related anxiety has prevented Kevin O'Connor from sleeping only twice.

The first time came on May 3, 2001, after Dallas eliminated the Jazz from the playoffs by rallying for an 84-83 win in Game 5 of a first-round series at the Delta Center.

The second time came on May 24, 2005, when the Jazz got terribly unlucky in the lottery. Instead of ending up with the No. 4 pick, which they would have gotten if the odds had held, the Jazz dropped to No. 6 in draft when Milwaukee and Portland moved up.

After enduring an injury-plagued 26-56 season, O'Connor was devastated by more misfortune.

His team desperately needed a point guard, and three quality quarterbacks were available in the draft: Illinois' Deron Williams, Wake Forest's Chris Paul and North Carolina's Raymond Felton.

By sliding to No. 6, however, O'Conner knew all three would be gone by the time Utah picked.

"It was one of the worst nights of my life," he said. "That night, and when we lost to Dallas in the playoffs. Those were the two nights I remember sitting there and just being absolutely stunned."

When the shock wore off, O'Connor went to work. By draft day, he had worked out a trade with Portland.

The Jazz sent the sixth and 27th pick in the 2005 draft and their first-round pick in the 2006 draft to the Blazers for the No. 3 pick.

"We were fortunate that we had assets to move up," O'Connor said. "... We basically traded three first-round picks to move up to No. 3. But that's where I knew we would get at least one of the players we wanted."

After Milwaukee drafted center Andrew Bogut of Utah and Atlanta grabbed Marvin Williams of North Carolina, the Jazz had their choice of Williams, Paul or Felton.

They selected Williams.

Early in his rookie season, however, Williams struggled. In fact, he started only 47 times and the Jazz missed the playoffs after finishing 41-41.

The consensus was the Jazz made a huge mistake taking Williams over Paul, who was the Rookie of the Year.

"He was struggling a little bit, I thought, and we sat him down some," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "I thought, after that, he picked it up a little more. Now, he may disagree with that. But I think he made tremendous strides during the season."

Said Williams: "It was a learning experience. A lot of ups and downs. I didn't start until the end of the year, but it was still a good year. I wish we could have made the playoffs; we just came up a little short. But we were a young team."

Like the Jazz, Williams enjoyed a break-out season in 2006-07, when he led Utah to 51 wins and its first trip to the Western Conference Finals in nine seasons.

"D-Will helped our team get to another level, I guess you could say," Sloan said.

Last summer, Williams signed a four-year, $70 million contract extension that will keep him in Utah until at least 2012.

A month later, Williams played a major role as the United States' men's Basketball team won the gold medal in the Beijing Olympics.

Looking back, O'Connor can smile over the events that brought Williams to Utah.

"We got our man," he said, "and he's been better than advertised."

luhm@sltrib.com Alt Heads:

Jazz get their man in D-Will


Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 6, 2009

 

 
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