Billy King makes his first trip to Springfield. Coincidentally, so do I. (That’s not me in the picture, though.)
Billy King’s trip up to Springfield was originally intended as a formal announcement of the partnership between the Nets and the Springfield Armor, but with the recent “evaluation” of Terrence Williams, much of his pregame press conference was devoted to that discussion. King mentioned in the conference that the Nets specifically want to redesign how teams use the D-League – that not only is the Nets franchise “trying to win NBA Championships, but we’re trying to win NBA D-League championships, too.”
In his talk with me (which was caught on video, but the audio quality is so poor that it wouldn’t be worth showing unless you wanted to just see our faces mumbling incoherently), he was very clear that the Nets just want to give Terrence the opportunity to play ball. This was not a demotion, it was not a slap in his face, the Nets just didn’t see him fitting in with the NBA roster yet and wanted him to regain his love for the game. It was not an opportunity to “showcase” him (and King also said he was “not going to fuel any trade rumors”), but that Williams wasn’t going to get enough time in the NBA at this juncture to really justify having him there. Every person I talked to – King, Williams, coach Dee Brown – said there was no timetable on Williams’ return to the NBA, and that his progress would be continuously evaluated.
Another quick note: in my brief talk with Brown, he noted that Terrence had been a consummate professional in Springfield, had not shown up late to a single practice (actually showing up early multiple times), and had been everything an ideal teammate should be.
For what it’s worth, King brought up his name when discussing 2011 free agency, noting that the Nets would have $17 million in cap space, but no-commented when questioned about trading for Carmelo Anthony.
G/F Terrence Williams skies for the layup and-1 over Red Claws C Tiny Gallon.
Of course, the night wasn’t all about general managers, even though King, Former Nets GM and current 76ers GM Rod Thorn, and Celtics GM Danny Ainge were all in attendance. There was, in fact, a basketball game played, and despite his poor shooting night, there was a lot to like about Terrence’s game. He finished the night with 16 points, 15 rebounds, and 13 assists, and he earned every one. One Armor player, while leaving the game, marveled at having a guy like Terrence on the team, noting “having him there… it spreads the floor so much. Makes all the difference.” His vision was on full display, and although he took 19 shots he seemed most interested in being a facilitator than a shooter. He was constantly communicating with his teammates, out-leaping everyone for rebounds, finding open guys under the rim with ease, and his most impressive assist didn’t even count as an assist – inbounding the ball from the opposing baseline with a three-point lead and 14 seconds left, Terrence found L.D. Williams streaking towards the basket ahead of his defender, fired a perfectly placed baseball pass, and L.D. finished with a slam to all but ice the game.
Rod Thorn is disgusted. Maybe with leaving the Nets, maybe with Billy King’s breath. Only he knows.
That being said, Williams is still falling prey to some of the issues that befell him in the NBA. While his vision for finding open teammates is still as good as ever, he did fall prey to tunnel vision at other times – clearly wanting to be “the guy who takes the shot” on a few possessions in the game. That resulted in him usually pulling up for midrange jumpers in stride, which is a skill Williams has really yet to master. Most of his misses came in this variety. While it’s clear that he was the most athletically dominant player on the floor – routinely grabbing rebounds with three taller players surrounding him – he didn’t seem to utilize that athleticism many times driving to the basket. There were no dunks by Williams in the game, and most slashes ended in a pass to an open man outside (good) or a pullup jumper (bad). He did seem to pick it up late. Three of his five made field goals came late in the fourth quarter; one a 3 to tie the game at 91, one a layup to put the Armor up 101-99, and the third a pretty layup and-1 to put the Armor up 105-99 a minute later. However, one could make the argument that had he done that earlier – I.E. made six or seven shots in the first three quarters instead of just two – there would have been no need for the late-game heroics.
Williams was rightfully named the player of the game when the final buzzer sounded, as it was clear he was the most impressive guy on the floor. I got a chance to talk to him after the game, and as you’ll see the locker room was still buzzing. I’ve provided a transcript with the videos since it’s hard to hear him sometimes. I’ve got to bring a microphone next time out there.
Terrence: I felt great. Honestly, I felt… Not statwise, I felt great as far as conditioning-wise, injury-wise, I feel like I’m 100%, that I can do anything. Nothing limits me. At the end of the day, I’m glad we got the win, so I’ll take that.
Note: I have no idea which player yelled out “They got sesame seed buns!” midway through this answer. Presumably someone hungry.
Terrence: I’m not trying to be the captain. I don’t want to be the captain of this team. I want to be a person that has a voice that’s been there. Whether I’m going to be here for a month, or I’m here until tomorrow. Whatever it is, I’ll be able to help these guys for when they do leave, what they play and put in their game.
Terrence: I think that helps. Especially a guy who played in the NBA myself, for these guys trying to make it there, I can tell them what I’ve been through. I can tell them what type of positions they’re supposed to be in, things they should do and should not do, and we just go from there.
Terrence: Yeah, I talked to him before the game, during the game, talked to him after the game… We’ll see what happens. *laughs*
To close this report, I’d be remiss not to mention how great the staff at the Springfield Armor was. PR Director Eli Pearlstein went out of his way to make sure everything was taken care of. They really went above & beyond the call of duty. As long as Terrence Williams is down there, expect at least one more Armor Report in the next couple of weeks.