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Williams makes his return to Lakers

PHILADELPHIA -- It was only a month, but spending that time in the minor leagues after you're used to life on top can feel like a lot longer.

"It seems like it's been forever," said Shawne Williams before the Los Angeles Lakers played the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday.

Williams, called up from the Los Angeles D-Fenders -- the Lakers' D-League affiliate -- and inked to a 10-day contract Thursday in the wake of Nick Young's knee injury, had been waived by the Lakers exactly one month before Friday's game.

It was a difficult moment for Williams, who had clawed his way back into the league after being out of the professional ranks in 2012-13. He had returned to the league before this season, thanks to an invitation from Mike D'Antoni, who coached the 6-foot-9 forward when they were both with the New York Knicks.

It might have been an even more difficult moment for D'Antoni.

"It looked like he was going to cry," Williams remembered of D'Antoni approaching him near the end of shootaround before the Lakers played the Dallas Mavericks on the road Jan. 7. "His face was red, he made me almost cry, so I just kind of veered off to the left and I was like, 'All right, Mike.' "

It clearly upset Williams, who felt as if his career had a chance to be resuscitated in L.A. after failing to blossom in Indiana, Dallas, New York and New Jersey.

"It was like a funeral," Williams said. "It was like somebody died. I ain't even going to lie."

However, he made sure not to take it personally.

"At the end of the day I knew it was business and I knew it's bigger than me," Williams said. "I knew there was a lot of stuff that goes into this organization."

With no other NBA team immediately clamoring for the services of Williams, who averaged 5.2 points on 37.7 percent shooting and 4.5 rebounds in 32 games before being cut, and the prospect of going overseas unappealing, Williams chose to stay in L.A. and go the D-League route.

"That's like the organization's team," Williams said of the D-Fenders. "So, you're still at the practice facility, still around -- not with these guys, but right on the other side of the hallway. It's different, but it's the same."

Williams fared much better for the D-Fenders, averaging 19.5 points on 49.1 percent shooting and 5.8 rebounds in four games.

"It was like a tease to me," Williams said of the experience. "You're so close, you can grab it, but you're not there. So, it's a reality check, just to be real. It's a good experience. At the end of the day, it's not the NBA, but it helps you stay in shape and stay around."

Woody Allen famously said that 80 percent of success was showing up, so with Williams still around the Lakers' organization daily, it was an easy decision to promote him when injuries started to pile up on the team's three-game trip.

"Shawne knows what we're doing," D'Antoni said at Friday's shootaround. "He's the perfect prototype and he gives us toughness inside that we need. He gives us a little bit more bulk than Ryan [Kelly] can give us, and we need that as we want to stay with the floor spread as much as we can, and you can do that with Shawne because also, your interior defense is pretty good."

Williams says he wants to just relish his opportunity this time around and not overthink things, something he said contributed to his shaky shooting in the first half of the season, along with a nagging wrist injury that his time in the D-League allowed him to recover from.

"Just operate off pure nature," Williams said.

Added D'Antoni: "I think he'll step right in. It's not like he's been out for two weeks with an injury. It's not new. He’ll be fine."