Rebirth of the Cool
Jawad Williams is cool. There’s no mistaking it. He carries himself with a quiet intensity – on the court and off. His words are measured. He’s thoughtful. And although he’s also a very modest man, even he has to admit that he’s the team’s best-dressed dude.
After recently inking a deal to remain with his hometown team, Williams is feeling even cooler these days. This fall, he’s not fighting for a roster spot. This fall, he’s fighting for a starting spot.
It hasn’t always been this easy for the pride of St. Ed’s. He won a State Championship for the parochial powerhouse and did so nationally in 2005 as a senior at North Carolina. But Williams went undrafted and after a short stint with the Clippers in 2006, played in Spain, Israel and Japan.
He worked his way onto the Cavaliers roster two seasons ago, but as recently as last year, got 25 DNP-CD’s in the first half.
But when Jamario Moon went down with an abdominal injury last season, Jawad found himself in the Wine and Gold’s rotation – and as the Cavaliers worked their way through the longest road trip of the season, Williams was an integral part of every game.
The 24 minutes Williams played in his coming-out party against Washington on January 6 were more than the previous total he’d played all season up to that point. And when the Cavs went west, Jawad averaged 7.8 points on 15-for-24 (.625) shooting. On the trip, he was – at times – the Cavaliers most efficient perimeter player.
Williams saw action for the remainder of the campaign and even got some run in the playoffs. And this season, with a new coaching staff and an opening at small forward, the local star hopes to take it a step further.
Cavs.com Beat Writer Joe Gabriele sat down with Jawad at Cleveland Clinic Courts to talk about his return to Cleveland, his pending parenthood and his second family on Tobacco Road.
Was Cleveland always your first choice?
Jawad Williams: It’s always been my dream to play here. And being able to come back home once again is truly a blessing. I always wanted to be here and hopefully I can finish my career here.
There’s no place like home. I’m not going to get support everywhere in this country. But I know one thing: when I come back to Cleveland, I know I have a lot of people behind me.
What was your family’s input on your decision to stay?
Williams: I think that sealed the deal. I came home and actually talked to my grandmother like she was my agent. I sat down and talked with my grandmother for a while. And she told me her wishes for me to come back home. Once she told me she wanted me back home, it was a done deal.
How big was last year’s mid-season run for you?
Williams: It was real big. I sat on the end of the bench for a year-and-a-half. And I think it showed people that I could play and I wasn’t just ‘along for the ride.’ And I just continue to build from that and my goal is just to get better.
What did you work on in the offseason?
Williams: I worked on everything. I try not to focus on one thing because my game’s not built like that. I try to be as versatile as possible. I worked on every area of my game. Different days – different things.
Williams: For fun, I just got to go home and relax for a little while. I was in a good situation this year. I wasn’t out fighting for a job. I was able to sit back and relax and spend some time with my wife. She’s pregnant and we’re expecting our first child in a month.
So mostly, I just stayed home and did some work around the house. Some things that a father’s going to have to do pretty soon. Getting the baby’s room together. All that good stuff.
I’m at a different type of peace right now.
Did you get together with your North Carolina Family this summer?
Williams: Of course. Everybody I played with has a house down there. We live within 20 minutes of each other, so we work out every day. Lift weights, individual work. Then we play pickup games at night. Not to mention the guys from Charlotte and Greensboro. People from all over North Carolina come there.
(New Cavs center and former UCLA Bruin, Ryan Hollins, sitting in the chair next to Jawad, joked: “It’s disgusting.”)
Hubert Davis was even around this summer.
As the team’s only native Clevelander, you must have taken the brunt of people’s frustration.
Williams: I probably hear it more than anybody. I’m always in the neighborhood. I’m always around. People feel they need to express themselves to me, but that’s part of my job. And I love it. I’m like the team’s Ambassador to Cleveland.
I understand what they’re feeling. But at the same time you have to move forward. You can’t live in the past.
Training Camp is about to tip off and guys will be fighting for roster spots. What advice would you give a player who’s in that spot?
Williams: I always tell guys: ‘Never give up.’ I was released and kept my head high and kept my spirits up. Nothing’s guaranteed. So just go there and work as hard as you possibly can. At the end of the day, as long as I know I’ve given it my all, I can hold my head high.
Joe Gabriele is the official beat writer for the Cleveland Cavaliers on Cavs.com. You can follow Joe and send him your questions on Twitter at @CavsJoeG.