The Kings made a low risk, high reward pick-up last week when they signed 6-foot-6, third-year swingman Terrence Williams to a 10-day contract.
So far, so good.
Williams has instantly earned time on the floor and stayed away from the issues that have kept him from finding a long-term home in the NBA.
On Saturday, the Kings made yet another commitment to Williams when they signed him for the remainder of the season. With only 14 games remaining in this lockout-shortened season, the move should still be considered low risk, but Williams thinks he might have found a home in Sacramento.
“Yeah, I don’t want to go no where,” Williams said while sitting in front of his locker before Wednesday’s game against San Antonio. “I like what the organization is doing and where they are headed. I think, especially with them getting a new arena, with coach (Keith) Smart and coach (Alex) English, and Bobby Jackson.”
Williams has found himself on the outside looking in twice already in his three-year career. But there is hope that he is ready to make the improvements necessary to stick around this time.
Following a solid rookie season in New Jersey, things quickly fell apart in season number two. After playing in only 10 games for the Nets, Williams was quickly shipped to Houston on December 15, 2010 as part of a three-team deal.
“I could say my rookie year, doing rookie things as far as being late twice and it coming on bad occasions,” Williams said about the Nets souring on him. “It’s not like we (were) winning and I was late. But losing and being late, it just adds fuel to the fire. The organization is already mad because they aren’t winning.”
Unfortunately, Williams’ reputation followed him to Houston where he struggled to find a home in the rotation. Twice he fell out of favor with the Rockets coaching staff – first with coach Rick Adelman last year and then again this season with Kevin McHale. After playing only 23 total games in parts of two seasons, the Rockets waived the former lottery selection, even though they had traded a first round pick to acquire him from the Nets.
“Last year with Houston, I really couldn’t tell you,” Williams said. “I could sit here and give you a long story about how I didn’t do this or I didn’t do that, but that’s not really the important part right now.”
He’s right – the past is the past, at least when it comes to the Kings and coach Smart. This isn’t the first player with baggage Smart has taken under his wing, and most likely, it won’t be the last.
In Golden State, Smart was credited with developing the mercurial Monta Ellis. And the job he has done so far this season to harness the impetuous DeMarcus Cousins has impressed many both within and outside the organization.
Williams is now looking for a legitimate second chance, not the perceived brush off that he received with the Rockets.
“I was told that when I got to Houston and it didn’t work, it wasn’t true,” Williams said about getting a second chance. “Here I can actually see it with coach Smart and I think that’s great. It helps me out a lot to get judged off of what you see, not what you heard and I think that’s great.”
So far, Smart has seen plenty on the floor to be impressed with. Williams is active, he plays defense and his passing ability has been nothing short of a revelation. Skill oozes out of this kid and you can’t help but wonder, “what if?”
What if Smart can take this young man and mold him into, not just a basketball player, but a locker room asset? What if this 24-year-old former lottery pick with all the tools in the world, is the future small forward for the Sacramento Kings?
“He’s definitely an NBA talent and once you have a talented guy in your system, you’re going to do all you can to get him to fit what you’re trying to do,” Smart said.
The talent is there, but fitting in has always been the question. Can Smart and his team bring Williams into the fold and make him part of the family? Can they take yet another guy with a questionable track record and turn him into gold? Clearly Smart is willing to give it a shot.
“The first couple of days around him, he was a bit guarded in conversation,” Coach Smart said earlier this week during pregame.
“You know now, he’s more where he’s asking questions, or he’s looking me in the face, looking at me in the eyes, talking, communicating.”
So Smart takes on another challenge. He has been great at managing egos and issues so far, but is there a breaking point? More than that, is Williams willing to buy in and make the necessary changes to make himself into a good teammate?
Giving Williams a 14-game trial run is an early sign that things are going well. It gives everyone involved some time to see if Sacramento is the right spot for him long-term. If things go as planned, the Kings may have found another piece to their puzzle.
“Everything’s been perfect,” Smart said hours after Williams inked a deal for the remainder of the season. “He’s been doing a great job. Of course the way he’s been playing on the floor, the way he’s fit in with the team, the team concept, everything about him has been really, really good.”
The relationship is still in the honeymoon phase, but the early returns have been solid. The Kings have provided the opportunity, now it is Williams’ turn to make the most of it.