View Full Version : CIW: Williams Stays Upbeat While Biding Time {Pacers.com 12.04.06}

12-04-2006, 11:04 AM

Williams Stays Upbeat While Biding Time

http://www.nba.com/media/pacers/column_logo.jpg Dec. 4, 2006
<hr> Shawne Williams has the toughest role on the team. As the season moves along, already nearly one-fourth complete, and coaches and players stay busy with the constant cycle of preparation for the next game that never is far away, Williams' workday is built around a long-term view. He's not preparing for the next game. He's preparing for his first.

The first-round pick from Memphis isn't sure when it will happen but he's doing everything he can to make sure he's ready for the moment.

"I've got to be tough," he said. "This is something different for me. I'm not used to this. I'm used to playing, but this is a different story. I'm a rookie. It's a process I've got to go through. I've just got to be ready at all times.

"I try to have fun a lot to keep going. I don't want to be quiet and moping around because that can play a big part. Off the court when I'm with the guys I try to have fun and joke and just let 'em know I'm still around."

This experience should be a valuable lesson for Williams, who is a spectator for the first time in his basketball career. A major star in high school who totaled 41 points against UCLA and Duke to lead Memphis into the final of the NIT Tipoff, starting his college career with a flourish, Williams is beginning to realize how easily it all came to him, up until now. He's learning what it's like to be one of the other guys.
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"I was sitting on the sideline (recently) saying to myself, 'Now I know how last year's (Memphis) teammates that never got in the game, just watched, how they felt,' '' he said. "Sometimes I used to get on 'em but know I'm in their shoes and it's just something you've got to deal with. It's the process of being a man and growing up."

Initially handed two jobs to learn, small forward and power forward, Williams struggled to digest the material. The same assignment proved a major challenge for last year's top pick, Danny Granger, who had the advantage of being a four-year college player. For Williams, 20, it was more daunting.

So the coaching staff opted to shift his focus to small forward not exclusively, but primarily. As a result, Williams believes the learning process has accelerated to the point that he's beginning to act instinctively, rather than reacting, when plays are called.

"He's going to be ready to be activated at some point this year, I just can't tell you exactly when," said Coach Rick Carlisle. "His approach has been good. The veteran players have helped him in terms of, 'This is a tough situation, you've got to pay your dues, you've got to keep working hard so when you get the opportunity you're ready.' And he's doing his diligence."

With Al Harrington now starting at small forward, backed by Granger, there isn't much opportunity for minutes at the position. There's been talk of sending Williams to the D-League for some on-court seasoning. The Pacers' affiliate in Albuquerque, N.M., is coached by former NBA defensive standout Michael Cooper.
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"I know there is consideration for doing that," said Carlisle. "I don't know exactly at what point. If it's going to continue this way it'd probably be better for him to go down to get minutes on a consistent basis. I've talked to Michael Cooper about the situation in Albuquerque and he assured me that they're playing a style similar to us, that he would fit right in and that he would have an opportunity to play a lot of minutes and get better. It's certainly something that's on the back burner, at the very least."

The idea doesn't exactly excite Williams, but he's taking the possibility as just another chapter in this year's burgeoning book of life lessons.

"I haven't heard anything about me going down but if I do then, hey, I've got to go down and play," he said. "It's not something I'm not going to be disappointed at. If they send me to the D-League, they feel like I need to develop."

In the meantime, Williams will continue to wait, watch and learn.

"I feel like I'm ready, but it's all on (Carlisle)," Williams said. "If he feels he's got people in front of me that need to play, I'm going to do whatever is going to help this team.

"If me sitting behind the bench in a suit is going to help this team, I'm with it."

Al Harrington has been hitting 3-pointers at a stunning rate, hitting 14 of 21 in his last four games. Jamaal Tinsley has turned on his offensive game, averaging 20.7 points in the last three. But the bedrock of everything the team does at both ends of the floor has been Jermaine O'Neal. Playing with a sore left ankle and tight left hamstring, O'Neal has continued to elevate his level of all-around play. In last week's five games, he averaged 17.6 points, 11.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.8 blocked shots while shooting .493 from the floor. He's been so good, it's easy to take his production for granted.

It's a shame Wednesday night's victory over Golden State happened midweek of a Western Conference road trip because the 10:30 p.m. start meant there weren't nearly as many fans as usual glued to their TVs for the finish. No more than five points separated the teams in the final 18 minutes, when the score was tied six times but the lead changed hands only twice. The Warriors took an 85-83 lead early in the fourth quarter when Monta Ellis (whose speed has to be seen to be believed) scored after a steal. Nearly 11 minutes later, Stephen Jackson gave the Pacers their only lead of the fourth quarter by splashing a second-chance 3-pointer from the top of the arc with one second left, delivering an improbable 108-106 victory.

This new starting lineup is basically doing what was hoped, and feared. The Pacers are scoring in bunches, averaging 104.3 points and 25.8 assists while shooting .480 overall and .421 from the arc. They're also giving them up in bunches, yielding 107.3 points while forcing just 13.5 turnovers in four games since the switch.

After Harrington made a 3-pointer with 34 seconds left to cut the Warriors' lead to 106-105, then Jackson hit his game-winning trey, denying Golden State's legendary coach his 1,200th career victory, Don Nelson had the last word: "The force must have been with them tonight."