NEWARK, N.J. — Despite having the flu, Deron Williams will play tonight for the Utah Jazz, and Andrei Kirilenko's first preference when he becomes a free agent this summer is to stay in the Beehive State.
Those were the two dominant topics of shootaround this morning at the Prudential Center, where the Jazz will play the building's temporary tenants, the New Jersey Nets.
First, the Jazz's point guard situation.
Williams, who's played in all 41 games this season, did not attend the morning prep session because he has the stomach flu. He was a game-time decision, but is planning to play tonight.
If the All-Star couldn't go, Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said he would insert veteran playmaker Earl Watson into the starting lineup.
Watson has been Williams' primary backup, but he has 208 starts in 10 NBA seasons.
"I think he's done a good job for us," Sloan said. "It's a tough position to be in the job that he has, and I think he's handled it about as well as anybody in that situation could. He and Ronnie (Price) both have been pretty professional about what they're doing, and that's all you can ask."
Sloan credited Watson for adjusting well, improving himself and seeming to do something better every game.
"We remember him back when he first came in the league and John (Stockton) was still playing," Sloan recalled. "He was very competitive, a tough guy who went out and played, wasn't intimidated by anybody. He plays hard and he's still the same way."
As for Kirilenko, the Russian small forward declined commenting on the rumor that he might end up playing for the Nets, who are now under the ownership of AK-47's compatriot, Mikhail Prokhorov.
The New York Daily News reported Wednesday that Kirilenko would be New Jersey's Plan B should the franchise's efforts to trade for Denver's Carmelo Anthony fall through.
The Big Apple paper also reported that it's possible Kirilenko could land a front-office spot with the Brooklyn-bound NBA team. He said he has a "good relationship" with Prokhorov, who owned the CSKA team in Moscow that Kirilenko played for as a teen before joining the NBA.
"Always only rumors around. I can't control rumors," Kirilenko said. "It's always going to happen, especially with a Russian owner who's the head of New Jersey, so there's always going to be rumors."
Kirilenko admitted that he never wants to coach, but the 29-year-old might be interested in pursuing a general manager position someday after his playing career is finished.
In the more immediate future, however, Kirilenko hopes to work out a deal with the Jazz to stay in Utah when he becomes a free agent this summer.
Kirilenko's biggest priority right now is his family, and he doesn't want to uproot them out of their home in Utah.
"First of all, you know we can't comment on our relationship with different clubs when you have existing contracts, and I'm not going to do it," Kirilenko said. "It's just not good for the Jazz. But definitely, Utah (is) going to be my preference. I've spent 10 years here, and it's worth a lot. We established so many connections, not only in basketball but off the court."
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