Monday, February 6, 2012
Clippers not shopping Mo Williams
By Ramona Shelburne
Mo Williams can do the math. On a roster of 15 players, the Clippers have five players who have started at point guard in the NBA. Two of them -- Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups -- could be future Hall of Famers. Which leaves Williams as a highly paid ($8.5 million salary this year and next) former All-Star coming off the bench.
Trade bait, right?
Maybe not. Williams has been so good for the Clippers this season, entering Monday with an average of 14.8 points and 3.8 assists in 27.3 minutes off the bench, that they are loathe to trade him now or even aggressively shop him in advance of the March 15 trade deadline.
In fact, Clippers general manager Neil Olshey has promised Williams that he would consult with him on any offers the team receives for him.
"Every day Mo comes in and does what he's doing, doesn't give us any impetus to want to trade him," Olshey told ESPNLosAngeles.com "I want him to be here and I want him to be happy. He's had so much of an impact on our win total at this point, that hopefully he's embracing (his new role)."
According to ESPN Stats and Information, among players who have started two or fewer games this season entering Monday Williams has the third-highest PER at 20.5, behind only Oklahoma City's James Harden (21.9) and Philadelphia's Lou Williams (21.5).
As for the agreement he has with Williams, Olshey said it's been in place since the two had lunch in mid-December, shortly after the Clippers acquired Billups off waivers and traded for Paul.
Williams, who had lost 20 pounds in the offseason in anticipation of being the Clippers' starting point guard this year, actually asked Olshey to lunch to help clear the air.
"When we went out, I anticipated him saying, 'This isn't what I signed up, I want you to trade me,' and it was the complete opposite. He was like, 'I like it here, I love the organization, please don't send me to a bad situation,' " Olshey recalled.
"And I told him, 'I give you my word, I'm not making any proactive phone calls about you. If I receive phone calls about you and it's something where I think we can come away with a fair deal, I will come to you and say, 'What do you think of this situation?' "
This isn't tantamount to a no-trade clause, of course, more of a gentleman's agreement to talk about it before taking any major action. But it meant a lot to Williams, who had just escaped a miserable losing situation in Cleveland when he was dealt to the Clippers last February and worried about being sent back to a difficult situation.
"I don't like to lose. I'm miserable on a losing team," Williams told ESPNLosAngeles.com. "I'm not going to be productive on a losing team.That's just me. I don't have any motivation to play for a losing team at all."
While Williams has a bit of peace about his standing on the team right now, he admits to being disappointed with how his role has changed with the acquisitions of Billups and Paul. Williams' role, however, could increase as Billups suffered an Achilles tendon injury in Monday's win at Orlando.
When he was traded to the Clippers last February, Williams felt that L.A. was a place he could thrive for a long time. To show the organization just how serious and committed he was, he amended his contract to guarantee he'd remain with the Clippers for the 2011-12 season. He also played the final 22 games of the season with a painful ankle injury.
"I wasn't going to sit out and watch my new teammates after they traded for me," Williams said. "Plus, I wanted to gain some experience and chemistry playing with Blake (Griffin) and DeAndre (Jordan) and the other guys here."
During the lockout, Williams and Griffin took a lead role in organizing group workouts with the team's young core.
"It's a situation where I'm between a rock and a hard place," he said. "I love this organization and I was planning to be with this organization for the rest of my career, and that all changed in one day."
Williams has a player option at $8.5 million next season. He and his agent, Mark Bartelstein, said they will wait until after the season to decide whether to pick it up.
"Obviously they've got a surplus of guys at his position," Bartelstein said. "He's becoming valuable in what he's doing. But it still raises questions about how they're going to handle things going forward. We'll just take it a day at a time and see what happens.
"At the end of the day, in a strange way, it's actually made him more valuable in this league because people have seen how he's handled the situation.
"He's without question the leading candidate for Sixth Man of the Year, he's playing with tremendous passion, he's defended incredibly, he's shown great leadership and professionalism, so in a lot of ways it's put him in a tremendous light because how how he's handled it."
Billups, 35, will be a free agent after the season. Olshey has already publicly stated the team would like to re-sign him. Second-year point guard Eric Bledsoe is under the Clippers' control for the next three seasons. Paul is under contract for $17.8 million next season.
Ramona Shelburne is a reporter and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com.