He is off now on a monthlong tour, one which — if all goes as planned — will have Jazz point guard Deron Williams and his 11 Team USA teammates wearing Olympic gold around their necks by this time in August.

As much as the upcoming Summer Games in China mean to Williams and his fellow Americans, however, the point guard's heart remains in Utah.

Williams made that much clear two-plus weeks ago, when he signed a contract extension with the Jazz that could be worth about $70 million and keep him here through at 2013.

In doing so, Williams validated the notion that the franchise will have his fingerprints all over it for years to come.

On the court, and off.

On, he's sounding more and more like longtime Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan by the day.

"Hopefully we can tighten up some things this year defensively," Williams said mere minutes after formally signing his extension. "I think that's gonna be a big key to our success and to stepping into the right direction to winning to a championship.

"Because we don't have a problem scoring the ball," he added.

"That's never been a problem with this team, with the execution and the offense that Coach runs. I think where we're gonna make our mark is on the defensive end. You know, we have to get a lot better at doing that."

Off the floor, Williams seems to enjoy bending the ear of general manager Kevin O'Connor — and he's even played some summer golf with Jazz president Randy Rigby in his group.

And while there's a fine line between a superstar who meddles and one whose input is not only welcome but also respected, Williams sure sounds like someone who knows the difference.

"Kevin, for the last year, year and a half, has (come) to me and asked me for some input on guys that I know," he said. "So, you know, I'm not an overbearing guy where I'm gonna come be like, 'Get this guy, get this guy,' or 'We need this guy.'

"But if he (O'Connor) asks me for my input, and maybe I feel like we need something, then I'll give him a little input. But I'm not gonna try to take over his job, because he's the best at his job in the first place."

Already, though, Williams' work when it comes to potential free agents has begun.

The same day he signed his extension, the Jazz point made a passionate plea to All-Star power forward and fellow Team USA member Carlos Boozer.

Boozer will be eligible to opt out of the final year of his contract and seek a deal on the open market next offseason, but Williams has made it abundantly clear he wants the Jazz's leading scorer and rebounder to remain long term.

It marked the start of a stay-in-Utah campaign that could require significant time and effort over the next several months, as not only Boozer but also starting center Mehmet Okur and backup shooting guard Kyle Korver have the option to wiggle out of their contracts with the Jazz next summer.

"I'll try to help Kevin keep everybody here, or get some guys he wants here," Williams said.

"I feel like I can play a little part in that," he added. "I don't know how much. But I think those guys trust me and like playing with me enough that I can sit and have a conversation with them."

Williams also made it known in the past week that he hoped O'Connor and the Jazz would decide to match the four-year, nearly $15 million offer sheet that reserve swingman C.J. Miles — a close teammate — signed with Oklahoma City earlier this month.

The Jazz did just that last Friday, much to the surprise of many.

After they did, Miles made it known that he had communicated the news with Williams — and the point was quite happy to hear the decision.

Getting critical roster members to stay is philosophically important to the Jazz, after all, and Williams is well aware of that historic reality.

It's why he responded as he did when the suggestion was made that perhaps the Jazz might consider blowing things up a bit, and try to chase a championship like the Boston Celtics did this past season — by bringing in a couple of former franchise players in Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, and adding the aging All-Stars to a core that already included cornerstone Paul Pierce.

"It's all hit or miss," Williams said. "You can always say, 'We need to trade this guy or trade that guy,' but who knows if that will work? Who knows if the guy you bring in is gonna be on board with what you're doing?

"There's no way of knowing that," he added, "and I think that's why Kevin (O'Connor) and Coach (Sloan) really like to keep the same guys around."

Like those two, in other words, Williams really does appreciate continuity.

"The more time you spend with a guy, and the closer you get off the court, the more chemistry you get," he said. "You know their tendencies a little better. And I think that helps."

Keeping key cogs, though, is one matter.

Bringing in complementary pieces from the outside who can make a real difference, however, is another altogether.

Williams thinks he can help in that regard, too — even though it wasn't exactly the forte of the Jazz's former franchise point guard, future hall-of-famer John Stockton.

"I don't think John and Karl (Malone) and those guys were as friendly as I (am) as far as 'around the league,"' he said. "Making friends — they didn't really care for that.

"I think I can do a good job of recruiting guys, and trying to get them here, and trying to get over that stereotype that Utah's not a great place to live."

Texas-raised, Williams is making his home in Utah full time now.

It's one more small piece of evidence that he's truly taken stake in the franchise, one in which he takes increasing pride.

"I feel like I'm a big part of this organization, and I like that," Williams said. "I like that responsibility."


E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com