Saturday, March 2, 2013
T-Will finds his way with Celtics
By Chris Forsberg ESPNBoston.com
BOSTON -- Despite his ballhandling talents, Terrence Williams had never considered himself a pure point guard. So as he plopped down in Danny Ainge's office for an offseason meeting last summer while working out with the Boston Celtics in hopes of landing a roster spot, Williams was taken aback to see his name on a whiteboard below a column labeled "Best Point Guard Available."
Confused, he alerted Ainge to the error.
"I was like, 'I think you want to move me over to the 2-guard. I don't think I'm the best 2-guard available, but I think I'm a 2-guard,'" Williams said. "He was like, 'No, I think you're a straight point guard. You can be a point guard.' And I was like, 'Wow.' I never had a coach just tell me, 'You can be a straight point guard.' I never had that."
Terrence Williams always thought of himself as a 2-guard until Danny Ainge told him otherwise.
The 25-year-old Williams, a former lottery pick of the Brooklyn Nets, was prepared to sit in Ainge's office again Saturday and -- with the goal of developing into that pure backup point guard -- ink a deal that will keep him in Boston the rest of the season and potentially beyond.
Williams' initial 10-day contract expired after Friday's win over the Golden State Warriors. He played just 1 minute, 25 seconds (1:05 of which came at end of the first half). It would have been a more nerve-racking cameo -- after Monday's DNP -- if he didn't know that his agent was hammering out the final details of a rest-of-the-season pact.
The deal is expected to include a team option for next season. That's not an uncommon practice for late-season pickups, as it essentially gives the Celtics the right of first refusal, keeping Williams in their system through the summer with the opportunity to bring him back at the league minimum if he makes the roster out of training camp.
This is also beneficial for Boston because -- as we saw last summer with the likes of Sean Williams, whose nonguaranteed contract was used in part to bring Courtney Lee in on a sign-and-trade deal -- it gives cap-strapped Boston another asset to potentially maneuver with.
But the Celtics' preference clearly is to tap into Williams' potential, molding him into the second-unit point guard they've long believed he can be, and make him a part of the team's young core.
Not a bad outlook for a player who spent much of the season in China after being unable to find an NBA job at the start of the season.
"I like the way he's played, minus one game," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers.
Williams joined the team on its five-game road trip out west last week and put together consecutive solid efforts, including an eye-opening stint as backup ball handler against Phoenix. He then got a little shot-happy two nights later in Portland and hasn't played since. But he's been able to immerse himself in the playbook and look beyond that March 1 expiration date on his temporary deal.
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"Now that he's going to be here, we have a chance, hopefully, to turn him into a player that we think he could be," said Rivers.
Asked what kind of player he thinks Williams can be, Rivers added: "A point guard, a solid player. It would be nice if we found a superstar, but there are very few of those in our entire league, so we're just looking for a solid player."
For his part, Williams was at ease in the Celtics' locker room before Friday's game, joking with reporters about his time in China this season and the unexpected way he found out that Boston would be keeping him around.
"It didn't really set in until I saw it on Twitter," said Williams. "I was like, 'How does Twitter know?' But, you know, Twitter knows everything. So when I read it, I was like, 'OK, now it's really true.'"
Hyped with the news, he skipped his typical pregame nap and came right to the Garden in advance of his first home game with the Celtics. Williams admits it's been a whirlwind couple of months. His time in China forced him to mature a bit, and he's savoring this latest NBA opportunity.
Terrence Williams grabbed one rebound in a brief stint versus the Warriors.
"It feels great," said Williams. "Like I said, I was here in the summer, I worked out here two weeks, I tried to be in this position I am today last [summer]. But you couldn't write this story. If you wrote this story two weeks ago, people would probably laugh at your article. So it's definitely a fortunate and blessing situation, but I feel very fortunate and I believe in them and it obviously shows that they believe in me."
Williams acknowledges he got outside of himself in Portland, in part because much of his family made the trek to support him coming off the breakout effort in Phoenix.
"When I went to Portland, it was more so of an immature role of myself, trying to impress your family, because I'm from Seattle, so they made the drive down," said Williams. "It was more so to impress your family and not play for the team, so I learned from that, I learned [from the DNP] during the Utah game -- I'm glad we won -- and I learned from these days off. So hopefully it shows me being poised and running the team when I'm out there and being a point guard that [the team is] looking for."
Despite the newfound security, Williams is eager to prove he deserves to stay beyond this season.
"It eases a lot of pressure, but at the same time, you don't want to be too relaxed, because there's a reason why they signed you, and it's definitely for your personality and your basketball skills," he said. "You can't be a bad guy and be on this team -- not with this group of guys. So you have to continue to be who you are, but also, every time you step between those lines, you've got to bring it.
"So it eases the pressure of, thinking-wise, do I buy two toothbrushes or do I just buy one? Because I can use one for 10 days. It was kind of going through my mind when I was going to CVS like three days ago to buy some stuff. I was like, 'Well, I don't want to buy too much, because I have to ship it back home if I leave.' So now, mental-wise, it's definitely good. It eases a lot of pressure."