He doesn't like to compare anyone to the Hall-of-Famer-to-be, but Jerry Sloan's instincts betray him. The coach already has begun treating Deron Williams like John Stockton.
Specifically, Sloan began the season doling out point-guard minutes the same way he did for the final 10 years of Stockton's career: Start the game, play seven minutes, then sit. Return at the quarter break or later, and play to halftime. Rinse. Repeat.
It's a tactic that frustrated Stockton, annoyed Jazz fans - and now occasionally ticks off Williams, too.
"I don't like it," Williams said. "You just start playing, getting into the rhythm of the game, and you're out."
Sure enough, in the season's first 15 games, Williams never played 10 minutes in the first quarter of any game, with Sloan trying to shave minutes off his starting guard's playing time at every opportunity. He averaged 7.3 minutes in the first quarter - but nearly 9.5 in the second, playing the entire quarter five times.
Williams understands why Sloan does it: For his longterm health and welfare. Funny thing is, the 22-year-old guard will likely remain in the NBA several years past the day the 64-year-old coach walks into retirement. Yet it's Sloan who is thinking about Williams' golden years.
"I'm not going to try to get everything I can out of him in one year," Sloan said. "I've always felt like I've had
a responsibility to guys, not only for today but for their future. I told John [Stockton] that. He never liked it, but I said, 'Would it be better for you to play 15 years, or 10?' "
Actually, Stockton played 19, and while there is no way to know whether playing 31.8 minutes per game rather than 35 or 36 had much of an effect on an ironman who rarely missed a game - only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Elvin Hayes and Wilt Chamberlain played more NBA minutes in their careers, after all - Sloan figures a minute here and a minute there adds up.