|A member of the 2001 Duke national championship basketball team, 22 year-old guard Jay Williams quickly found success in the NBA after being drafted by the Chicago Bulls with the second overall pick of the 2002 NBA Draft. The one-time College Player of the Year, Williams averaged 9.5 points per game and 4.7 assists per game during his rookie season. He missed the next three seasons due to injury, but has spent that time rehabilitating and working his way back to the NBA (and blogging about his progress). After just missing out on making the New Jersey Nets roster at the start of the 2006-07 season, Williams signed with the Austin Toros on December 9, 2006. The comeback continues... | Official Player file|
Finally, a "W"...
Posted by Jay Williams on December 29, 11:19 a.m. ET
After 12 straight losses to start the season, we finally put one in the win column last night beating Sioux Falls 94-86. The thing about our team is weíre very talented. Itís not like we donít have guys that are good athletes. Jamar Smith is a very talented guy who is going to be an NBA player and B.J. Elder can score from anywhere, so itís just a matter of us finding a groove. B.J. was definitely in a groove against Sioux Falls going for 25. We just needed to find some ways to win and last night we found them.
After making my debut on December 14th, I had to sit for three games because of some injuries. Then I played twice more for 23 and 17 minutes and now I am going to have to sit for a bit again. Things have definitely been frustrating. I dislocated my ankle about three months ago and I had a really bad sprain that Iíve been trying to get better. On top of that Iíve had some trouble with my groin and a pull in my hip flexor as a result of trying to compensate for the ankle. So itís been a grind that Iím going through right now.
I have had some days where Iíve looked unbelievable in practice and nobody can stop me and then I have some days where I am struggling because my right ankle is killing me. Coach Johnson feels that when Iím healthy, that there isnít anybody that can stay with me and that I donít deserve to be in the D-League but in the NBA. Thatís very encouraging coming from a guy who has been so successful in his career.
But even with Coach Dennis Johnsonís encouragement, Iíve still been battling some demons down here. The first is trying to figure out who I am as a basketball player. Secondly, the fact that every night when I step on the court, if my ankle or something is bothering me, people look at me and you know they are saying to themselves, ďOh, heís still hurt.Ē Thatís tough. Obviously I want to show everybody that I can still play, that I can still move, and that I am as good as I was before.
Despite some of the negative thoughts, though, Iíve still been able to take away a bunch of positives so far. It has been great being able to bring some of my experience to the table for some of the younger guys. Iím not that much older, but being 25 and witnessing the game for the past three years on the sideline, I have seen how much easier the game can be if you just play smart. The other day when I only played 17 minutes and felt horrible on the court, I still had six assists. So just learning how to play the game and understanding it is something that I have been able to show the guys and hopefully I can continue to get better.
Our travel schedule has become a real adjustment for me. For example, we had a game in Sioux Falls the other day. The travel was just horrendous. Our game was on Friday. We left at six in the morning on Thursday to fly to Chicago. We got to Chicago by ten, then turned around and left at eleven to fly to Minneapolis. Got there around 1 oíclock. Then we took a four and a half hour bus ride to South Dakota. We rested in South Dakota for a night, played a game the next day at 7 oíclock and then turned around and took another four and a half hour bus ride back to Minnesota after the game. We arrived in Minnesota around three in the morning, caught a 6:15 flight and got to Dallas at 11:30. Our final flight to Austin was delayed, so we didnít get there until 1:30 in the afternoon and we had a 7 oíclock game that night. Iím tired just talking about it. You have to mentally be prepared for that grind every night.
That is the one thing a lot of people have to understand who are blessed with the opportunity to play basketball professionally. I have been very lucky with the rare opportunity to witness both sides. The grass is definitely greener on the other side, but guys are fighting down here and if I want to get back to the NBA, then I have to fight too.
Life In The D-League
Posted by Jay Williams on December 15, 4:16 p.m. ET
Hey everyone. Excuse me as I yawn while I provide my thoughts, but I have to start off writing that because I am straight tired. I signed on with the Austin Toros last week and played in my first game with the team last night in Bismarck, North Dakota. For us itís a matter of finding our niche, finding what weíre good at. I know itís frustrating since weíre 0-7 and weíre obviously still trying to mesh.
Whenever you are trying to incorporate someone new into the offense, itís tough. I donít know all the plays, but Coach Dennis Johnson has been very understanding. I guess I am so used to playing with more veteran guys. Sometimes you make passes and you know where theyíre going to be at, where as last night I made passes six or seven times thinking I knew where my teammates were going to be. But you have to remember that not everybody knows the game as well as everyone in the NBA. Weíre all still learning, so itís a process of us figuring each other out.
I wasnít really nervous before the game last night, but actually more anxious to get it going because everyone has been talking about it. I wanted to just make it happen already. I ended up playing 42 minutes and it felt great to play that much. I was able to do pretty well. Donít get me wrong, I had 11 turnovers and it wasnít the best game ever, but I was excited. It was good to be out there. I kind of feel like I calmed myself down in the second half and just started playing.
The experience was kind of what I thought it was going to be. I found I can still play and do really, really well. The part I have to get used to is the amount of playing time. I havenít been in a situation before where I consistently play 40 minutes. Even when I was in Chicago I didnít play that amount of time. I was only averaging about 23 minutes. So I am still trying to get my body used to the heavier workload. The funny thing is that my left leg, the one that I had surgery on, feels great. Itís my groin that is kind of sore. I slipped last night, fell down and kind of stretched my groin. That is one of the hurdles throughout this whole journey. My left leg really hasnít been the problem. Itís the rest of my body that gets sore as Iím trying to reacclimate all those muscles to doing everything.
We have another game tonight at Dakota, take tomorrow off and then come back and play on Sunday against Sioux Falls which will be a challenge physically since Iím sore from playing that much time against the Wizards. That is the big goal, showing that I can handle back-to-backs. I need to force through these times and show what I can do. I am just trying to lie down, rest as much as I can, ice my body and try to find some way to get it done. Things are so different now, though, because I feel like if I were in the NBA, I would go sit in the Jacuzzi for an hour, get a steam, get a massage and get my body feeling right. Down here we donít have those kinds of facilities so you try to take a bath and sit in the tub or take a hot shower and try to massage your own body. Welcome to the D-League I guess.
Another adjustment I am going to have to make aside from overall conditioning is the way guys are coming at me. I definitely get a sense of guys wanting to take it to me because of who I am. Last night in the first half I was getting hit and beat everywhere. Iíve got to get used to being that target that guys are coming after, trying to prove that they can beat me. It was something I realized more today than last night. I have an X on my chest, so I have to go at them just as hard if they come at me. That is something I did when I was in college. But being out of the game for two and half years, itís something I have come to realize again.
Last nightís game also reminded me how long itís been since Iíve had to finish over big guys. I need to learn to sometimes shoot floaters that big guys wonít be able to get a hand on. Itís just a matter of time before things start clicking and I start figuring out whatís going to work and whatís not going to work. Until then Iím going to keep working hard and try to get some rest.
Austin: The Next Step
Posted by Jay Williams on December 10, 2:20 p.m. ET
Why did I choose to sign with the D-League and the Toros? Two reasons: One, the D-League will provide me with the best opportunity to find out who I am as a basketball player because right now, I really donít know. Others need to find out as well. Iím a little bit of a mystery to scouts and coaches in terms of my overall play.
The other reason was to learn from one of the greatest point guards to ever play the game and that is Torosí head coach Dennis Johnson. Iíve spoken with the man Larry Bird calls the greatest teammate heís played with and D.J. told me that he wasnít looking for a feel-good story here. He wants me to start and challenge me in reaching the next level. Heís not interested in me being called up to the NBA and then sitting on the bench. He wants me to have an impact. How great is that to hear?
By the way, why isn't he in the Hall of Fame yet? That's not right.
I just want to play. Even though I had offers to play in Europe ĖItaly and RussiaĖ it wasnít about making a quick buck overseas. It makes the most sense for me to play within the D-League rules and regulations, basically the same style of play as the NBA.
When I played with the Nets in the training camp back in October, everything went great in practices. Even Lawrence Frank would tell that Iím working my butt off and that was the energy he needed. Then when it came to the exhibition games, I was pressing to make the spectacular play, which is difficult to do in a two-three minute span. It was also the first time I was playing in front of a lot of people. I was nervous. I felt like a rookie all over again.
After I left the Nets, I returned to Duke where Johnny Dawkins worked me out every day. I also worked out with the team down there. It was great time for me in terms of building my overall strength and confidence. Now, Iím here in Austin and Iím eager for the next chapter of my basketball career to begin. Itís a great, high-energy college environment. Itís going to be nice plant some roots here for a bit. I not only want to improve my game but plan on bringing energy and leadership in getting the Toros back on track. I plan on making the most out of this opportunity. You'll see.