Dr. Lyle Mason was the Jazz team physician for 36 years, encompassing the Stockton-Malone era and the Williams-Kirlenko era and beyond. In a recent interview with Salt City Hoops, Mason gets into what led to the break-up between Deron Williams and the Jerry Sloan, leading to Sloan's mid-season retirement.
In Mason's opinion, it was simple. Unlike John Stockton, Deron Williams didn't think he needed to be coached. Not only that, says Mason, he would willfully go against Sloan's game plans. Mason also talks about Andrei Kirilenko who he believed has the skills but never the mental make-up to be great at the game.
"Deron, when he came, was a guy who was a very skilled player, and the coaches looked at him and Chris Paul—we could have taken either one—I think Jerry decided on Deron because of his size, strength, and his durability. They thought he might be just a little bit better than Chris, although they liked both players, and then when he started playing, he was an outstanding player. BUT, the personality conflict grew between him and the coach, and eventually it became impossible for the two of them to stay. When the coach quit, management still decided that it was best if he went somewhere else.
"Deron was the opposite of Stockton: Deron could not handle the coach calling any plays. He wanted to call every play. I’ll never understand why that was such a big deal, that if the coach called one play, he was going to run another one, which he always did. And that was part of what really drove them apart, was that Deron just decided he didn’t need coaching, and Jerry obviously thought otherwise.
"Deron, in my dealings with him was always very nice, very friendly, I still consider him a friend."
Mason also has some bad news for those Dallas fans who think a change of scenery is going to help D-Will return to his Jazz heyday. It's not just mental, says Mason. There were long-term physical issue that stretch back to his days in Utah that just got worse in New Jersey and Brooklyn.
"It still remains to be seen what he can do long-term. Obviously, with New Jersey he’s been hurt a lot, too. Nobody ever figured the wrist out. We knew he had loose ankles. And then those just got worse, I think, at least more symptomatic when he went to New Jersey. But that’s been a big part of his problems in New Jersey is his inability to stay on the floor."
As for the recently retired Andrei Kirilenko, he was the product of a Soviet system that taught him the skills and pushed him physically, but to Mason, his love of the game was always suspect. He liked, but did not love the the game. On the other hand, unlike so many of his contemporaries, he was not driven by money.
"[H]e was not driven by money. He’s a very generous guy. He told me that they had an apartment in Moscow and the building was rundown, as every apartment in Moscow is, and so he ended up remodeling the entire building for all the tenants. He didn’t spend money on a lot of craziness; eventually he did get a nice car, but that was not the driving force for Andrei. He liked basketball; he wasn’t driven by it, but he liked it, and he was good at it and he knew he could be good at it. When he left the Jazz, that left a big hole, really. He was just a great draft pick."
Bobby Marks, who was Nets assistant GM during the four years D-Will played for the Nets disputed the doctor's expertise.
How in the world does a former Utah doctor have the expertise or insight to comment on Deron Williams?— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) September 11, 2015
Everyone is entitled to an an opinion but I didn't know they allowed doctors in coaches meetings or team huddles.— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) September 11, 2015
Mason talks as well about Karl Malone's physical regimen, about how when the Hall of Famer would come to camp, his body fat was never more than one or two percent. Great read.
- Interviewing Dr. Mason, Part II: AK, Deron, Ty vs. Quin - Laura Thompson - Salt City Hoops