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News » Utah Jazz: D-Will abruptly leaves team

Utah Jazz: D-Will abruptly leaves team

Utah Jazz: D-Will abruptly leaves team Philadelphia ? The screaming and shouting only grew louder from inside the Jazz's locker room Friday as coach Jerry Sloan talked to reporters in a hallway outside, the cries of celebration rarely heard in the NBA after a regular-season victory in November.

Only minutes later, though, reality intruded on the Jazz's inspirational night. Following their 112-90 triumph over the Philadelphia 76ers, Deron Williams announced that he returned to Utah in the middle of the Jazz's road trip due to health concerns involving one of his daughters.

Williams said in a statement that his daughter underwent a procedure in the hospital Thursday to "address some health concerns." He left the team early Friday morning but was privately said to be doing well, with doctors optimistic about the situation.

"There are still unanswered questions and the doctors have been running more in-depth tests throughout the day [Friday]," Williams said. "My daughter's health is very important to my wife and I and it is important I remain in Salt Lake City as we monitor the situation."

It is the third health scare involving the young child of a Jazz player in recent seasons. One of Carlos Boozer's sons underwent a stem cell transplant in 2007 while Derek Fisher's infant twin daughter was stricken with a rare form of eye cancer during the playoffs that same year.

"Two of the three have turned out great and hopefully this does as well," general manager Kevin O'Connor said by phone, adding that Williams had the organization's full support.

Williams is the father of three children, including daughters ages 6 and 3. He vowed to return to the court "as soon as possible" in his statement, but O'Connor said it was doubtful Williams would rejoin the team in Cleveland for tonight's game.

"You can't play the game when your mind's somewhere else," said Andrei Kirilenko, who left the team last month and flew to Russia to complete the adoption of an infant daughter. "I mean, you can, but it's not 100 percent, so you should really think about those things first."

"He knows our mind with him and if he needs any help, we'll be there for him," Kirilenko added.

Both Ronnie Brewer and Paul Millsap said they knew it was a possibility that Williams would have to leave, though Brewer said it was a surprise when he boarded the bus to the pregame shootaround and Williams was not there.

"We heard something about it," Brewer said, "but at the end of [Thursday] night we all heard that he was going to stay and then we found out this morning that he actually ended up going."

So important was the situation that Williams chartered a private jet and left Philadelphia in the middle of the night. As for the game, without Williams or Ronnie Price (sprained left big toe), the Jazz were down to only nine players in uniform and one point guard in rookie Eric Maynor against the Sixers. Maynor had played only 31 minutes all season before Friday.

Jazz coach Jerry Sloan opted to bring Andrei Kirilenko off the bench, in case he needed another ball-handler in addition to Maynor and Brewer. That left undrafted rookie Wesley Matthews in the starting lineup.

It was the first start for either Maynor or Matthews in their young NBA careers and the first time the Jazz had started two rookies in nearly four years, not since a Nov. 15, 2005 loss to Sacramento with Williams and Andre Owens.

In Williams' absence, though, the Jazz produced their most stirring effort of the season. They led by 23 points after three quarters, had seven players score in double figures and won the second quarter 34-18 without a true point guard on the floor, as Brewer ran the show.

Maynor finished with 13 points and 11 assists -- the first double-double by a Jazz rookie making his first start since Kirilenko on Dec. 1, 2001 -- while Matthews hit three three-pointers on the way to 16 points.

The Jazz (4-5) responded with the team-wide effort Williams pointedly said was missing after Wednesday's loss to Boston. Brewer raised his hands and clapped as the final horn sounded and the celebration afterward might have been heard back in Utah.

"We're just excited, man," said Boozer, who led with 24 points and 12 rebounds on 11-for-15 shooting. "Sometimes it's good just to get excited, yell a little bit, get outside of yourself."

"It's great just to see everybody happy again," Maynor added. "It didn't matter who scored the points, everybody got a piece of everything and we defended as a team. We had fun out there playing."

Told that his players sounded euphoric, Sloan said: "They should be. I don't think a lot of people expected them to win. That's what happens in this league a lot. That's why it's always been an interesting game to be involved with. You never know what's coming next."

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Added: November 16, 2009


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