NBA@2: Terrence Williams A Long-Term King?
Very often the key to success in the NBA is being in the right place at the right time. Superstars aside, the way the second tier of NBA players stick in the league long-term is to find the right situation for themselves and make the most of it. Lamar Odom, for example, was a terrible fit for the Dallas Mavericks, yet less than 24 hours after the Mavs announce their intention to divorce Odom, the Golden State Warriors let it be known that they would love to talk about getting Odom back to the Sunshine State.
At least Odom has enjoyed a great deal of success over his NBA career, most especially with the Los Angeles Lakers. For Terrence Williams, the path to success in the league has been much thornier. After being drafted with the 11th overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, Williams struggled to carve out a role with the New Jersey Nets. He was traded to the Houston Rockets during his second season in the NBA, and found it difficult to win over even KevinMcHale, one of the most player-friendly coaches in the league. The Rockets would up waiving him, enabling him to land in Sacramento, and now it seems Williams may have finally found a home.
“I think Sacramento is great, to be honest with you,” Williams tells HOOPSWORLD. “Your dream is to play basketball; whether you’re in this league, whether you’re at high school or at college, whatever you’re in you always want to show that you’re capable of playing this game. I’m just finally happy that I get the opportunity to prove to Sacramento that I can play basketball. I don’t really care to prove to previous teams or people around the league watching. I just want to prove to Sacramento that I can play.”
Williams may not feel like he has to show his former teams anything, but he did have his best game of the season against the Rockets earlier this week, scoring 21 points and collecting eight rebounds.
“I think anybody that watched the first game when I played saw them that I had the same type of intensity in the second half (10 points, three boards), I just didn’t come in until the second half at Houston, so being able to come in in the second quarter or first quarter I was able to relax and play basketball. Someone asked me is it because it was them, but to be completely honest, I know we all probably say the same thing when we come from other teams to a new team, but I wasn’t really worried about them. I was just trying to win the game and play the type of style I’ve been playing the 10 games that I’ve been here.”
Williams quickly gained the trust of Kings head coach Keith Smart, who has seen Williams score in double-figures in four of the team’s last six games. He’s averaging 9.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game since moving to Sacramento, and Williams attributes his success to his relationship with Smart. Smart is also the reason Williams can see himself returning to the Kings as a free agent this summer.
“Keith Smart is definitely a part of a big decision for me over the summer. I think that’s the biggest reason I want to come back here is Coach Smart and him giving me a chance to play basketball and him believing. Having me in late game situations definitely helps me.”
“I knew about his game when I was at Golden State,” says Smart. “You look at a guy who fits a role, fits an understanding of how you want to play. He’s a cerebral player who understands the game looks to pass has that ability, has the NBA athleticism to play, also. When he came in I just simply said to him, whatever happened where you were the last two places, I don’t care. We’re going to start over from right here. You have a zero zero slate. There’s nothing you’ve done well, there’s nothing you’ve done bad with me. You create your identity with me now and you go out and play your game. I know they’re some things that you do when you play that looks real cool that may rub coaches a little bit rough, but I’ve got to coach you through those things. Go out and play your game, be who you are and I’ll communicate to you when you’re moving a different direction away from how I want you to go. Since that time he had blended in with the team, huge supporter for encouraging players, communicating with players all the time. They’re a lot of things from a team standpoint that goes unnoticed when you’re watching the game, but when you get back and start looking at film on the bench talking to guys, of course, you watch him on the floor and you see him going over and communicating. Even the first day of practice we played only 4-on-4 and what he did in that 4-on-4 showed that he can be a player on our team because he is going to help move the ball, and that’s something that our team desperately needed was to not just get the ball and make plays for yourself but try to make plays for your teammates.”
Williams feels like the Kings understand who he is as a player, and that the work he’s done on the court during his short time with the team speaks for itself.
“I think I’m doing everything just right. Cutting down on my turnovers and stuff like that – little things. But it’s nothing you need to show, I think anybody that’s been watching the past 10 games I’ve played in, it’s a lot different with me on the court so it’s nothing I need to show.”
Williams also has a great deal of confidence in the direction of the Kings, and team he sees as being very close to making the leap to the playoffs.
“I think we’re very close. We were in charge of the Clippers game, we’re in a lot of games at the end. One or two mistakes and two-man breakdowns, three-man breakdowns we lose. But other than that we’re very close. If I’m fortunate enough to be here next year I’ll definitely feel like we’re a lot closer.”
It seems that after two unsuccessful stops along his NBA journey, Terrence Williams may have finally found the place where he can carve out a niche for himself in the NBA. The Sacramento Kings have improved dramatically under Keith Smart’s leadership, and it seems the return to respectability is right around the corner. Williams could very well be an important part of that return.
The Interview You Don’t Want To Miss
One of 2011-12′s most surprising stories is the rise of Sacramento Kings rookie Isaiah Thomas from the 60th pick in the NBA draft to the starting point guard for the Kings. Thomas talks with HOOPSWORLD about how he got his name, how Keith Smart changed his career, and more in this exclusive interview.
It really needed to be done. After years of wondering “what if” about the core group of Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden, the Blazers made nearly a clean sweep of the entire concept at the NBA trade deadline. With Roy already retired and Oden seemingly injured beyond repair, the Blazers released Oden, fired head coach Nate McMillan and traded for ending contracts with every intention of starting a new chapter in the team’s history.
“The opportunity’s a blessing,” says interim head coach Kaleb Canales, who is in charge of phase one of Portland’s new direction. “It’s something that I’m very grateful and thankful for from (owner) Mr. (Paul) Allen, (acting GM) Chad Buchanan, that I’ve taken very seriously. But this is not about me; this is about us as a team and as an organization going forward.”
It’s easy to look at the Blazers and say they cashed in their chips at the deadline, looking more at lottery position in the NBA draft than playoff position in the Western Conference. After all, they traded starting center Marcus Camby for Hasheem Thabeet and Jonny Flynn, two players who are extremely unlikely to help the team win games, and also sent Gerald Wallace to New Jersey. They added an ending contract in JJ Hickson whom they hope can, at best, be a low-risk, high-reward type of player. Canales, though, isn’t ready to give up on this season. He wants his team to fight like they’re still in the playoff chase.
“We’re looking at it one game at a time so we understand that the next game is the most important game,” says Canales. “That’s where our approach and our focus is at.”
For his part, Blazers All-Star feels good about the new direction his team has taken.
“They talked to me about all of the moves they wanted to make and I definitely felt good about all of them,” Aldridge tells HOOPSWORLD. “I felt like it was time to get some new blood in, some fresh faces in here. I think guys have played better, I think Coach Canales has been great, and I think guys are actually playing better now.”
One of the most significant things Canales did when he took over was help point guard Raymond Felton get back into a comfort zone. After averaging 9.8 points through the first two months of the season, Felton averaged 12.4 points per game in March and is up to 13.7 in April, while also averaging 8.7 assists.
“He’s been playing great,” says Aldridge. “I think the coach change was big for him. He and Kaleb have a really good relationship and I think Kaleb gives him the confidence to play at the level that he’s always played at. I think that’s been big for him.”
Felton now seems to be completely plugged in and on board, whereas under Nate McMillan he seemed to be headed in the opposite direction. Like his new head coach, Felton isn’t ready to give on a playoff berth just yet.
“We’ve just got to continue to make this push and get better as a team, get better as a unit and just play hard,” says Felton. “If we finish out the season strong anything can happen. We’re still in the playoff hunt, we’re not out of it yet, so anything can happen. The way we look at it, we’ve got to win as many of these games as we can and hopefully some of the other teams will start losing and we can possibly slip in there.”
It’s certainly questionable whether or not Coach Canales will be the Blazers’ head man after this season, but he is certainly in good company when it comes to head coaches who came up through the ranks with their teams.
“I took the same route as coach Erik Spoelstra, coach Mike Brown, so I would not change the way I came up,” says Canales. “I feel that it’s been very important for my foundation to start in the video room, kind of build my NBA Foundation 101. When you’re watching four, five basketball games a night, NBA games, studying coaches, studying systems, studying players’ strengths and weaknesses, that allowed me to grow in the game. Like I mentioned, I’ve been very blessed, the organization gave me an opportunity to keep growing as I am now trying to grow and get better now but I wouldn’t change a thing.
To his credit, the Blazers seem to believe in their new head coach, and they’re fighting like they believe every game matters. They’re currently five games in the loss column behind the eighth-seeded Denver Nuggets, so it would take a miracle for them to get in, but there’s something to be said for competing every night despite the record. A number of people in the Blazers’ organization are fighting for jobs over the last few games, starting with Canales.
It very much remains to be seen who will still be in Portland after the offseason, when the team promises to make even more changes in favor of their new direction.
Tonight’s Possible Eliminations/Clinches
CHICAGO clinches division title with an Indiana loss.
CLEVELAND is eliminated with a loss OR a New York win.
DETROIT is eliminated with a New York win.
GOLDEN STATE is eliminated with a loss.
MINNESOTA is eliminated with a loss AND wins by BOTH Utah and Phoenix.
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NBA Chats: There are three NBA Chats scheduled for today starting with HOOPSWORLD’s Bill Ingram at 11am. HOOPSWORLD’s Stephen Brotherston returns to hold down his weekly chat at 3pm EST. While HOOPSWORLD editor Jason Fleming rounds out the day with his weekly NBA chat at 8pm EST. You can always find the next NBA Chat here: http://www.hoopsworld.com/upcoming-chats and if you are looking for Previous Chats try here: http://www.hoopsworld.com/previous-chats