CLEVELAND: Mo Williams missed 32 games following thumb surgery on his right hand, but he made his return to the court Wednesday for the Utah Jazz at Quicken Loans Arena. It was fitting, considering all the memories he created during 2½ seasons with the Cavaliers.
The Cavs won 127 games during Williams’ two full seasons here, and he also made an All-Star team.
“Nothing but great memories here,” Williams said. “All my great memories of playing basketball are here.”
Williams signed autographs for fans prior to the game, exchanged hellos with the security staff and chatted briefly with members of the Cavs’ coaching staff and front office who were present when Williams played here.
Williams worked on jump shots prior to the game Wednesday, while Zydrunas Ilgauskas sat courtside dressed in a suit. The two were teammates with the Cavs, but now the retired Ilgauskas works in the Cavs’ front office.
This was Williams’ second appearance at Quicken Loans Arena since the Cavs dealt him at the trade deadline two years ago in the deal that ultimately brought Kyrie Irving to Cleveland. Williams returned as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers last year before signing as a free agent with the Jazz last summer.
The Jazz went 18-14 while Williams was out of the lineup.
“We know he has the capability of making shots and putting points on the board, which is probably what they’re missing from the point guard position,” Cavs coach Byron Scott said. “Earl [Watson] is more of a distributor. He just runs the show, a tough, gritty kid who plays hard and plays good individual defense. Mo gives them a different element because he can make shots. You don’t know how much rust he’s going to have on his game because he’s missed so many games.”
Dion Waiters missed Wednesday’s game with a flu virus that continues to tear through the roster. Now it has knocked out Daniel Gibson. Neither Waiters nor Gibson attended the team’s morning shootaround on Wednesday, although Tyler Zeller was able to return to the lineup following a 48-hour bout with the bug.
Scott said the team disinfected all of the communal areas at the Cleveland Clinic Courts in hopes of eradicating the virus before it gets to anyone else.
“We’ll probably start wearing gloves and surgical masks, see if we can get through this thing,” Scott joked.
Zeller said he was exhausted following the team’s light workout on Tuesday and struggled staying out of bed. He even missed the second half of Indiana’s upset loss to Ohio State, which featured his younger brother, Cody, playing for the Hoosiers. He was feeling better Wednesday, but picked a difficult opponent to play while returning from an illness.
The Jazz have a stable of young big men that rivals any other team in the league, although the Jazz were without veteran center Al Jefferson. Still, with a rotation of guys like Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, Zeller knew he was in for a long night.
“Unfortunately, in my rookie year, I’ve learned there’s not a really good time to come back,” Zeller said. “Being a rookie, everybody’s so good, you’ve just got to be prepared for whatever.”