April 21, 2010
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.—He said we hadn’t seen everything.
Nets swingman Terrence Williams was breaking down his rookie season before playing the Bulls on April 9, and allowed that through 78 games, he’d offered enough glimpses of his abilities to sense the NBA player he could become. But without a triple-double to his credit, the full range had yet to be displayed.
Four quarters, two overtimes and one victory later, we’d witnessed it all.
Williams hung a 27-point, 13-rebound, 10-assist line on several Chicago defenders, notably victimizing Kirk Hinrich on the fast break with a 360-degree aerial spin before scooping a layup off the glass. He shot 15-for-25 (.600) and deftly handled the point, creating transition opportunities aplenty and allowing Devin Harris (17 points, six rebounds that night) to play extended stretches off the ball.
Perhaps most impressive, the performance came just one night after Jerry Stackhouse reminded Williams he wasn’t old enough to be cocky, schooling the rookie for 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting in 28 minutes off the bench as the Bucks beat the Nets, 108-89. Williams’ struggles were compounded on offense, where he racked up only six points and four rebounds – failing to record an assist – while shooting 2-of-13.
“The last game, I had zero assists and I was kicking myself in the butt about that,” said Williams, after beating the Bulls. “The overall thing is the win. If I would have stayed with nine assists and got the win, I’d still feel the same. But I think the triple-double puts the icing on the cake of coming, coming, coming, playing well, playing well and finally (getting there).”
With his first NBA season complete, Williams can focus on furthering the versatile skill set that enabled him to average 14.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 5.4 assists while shooting .438 (.316 3P%) in 32.5 minutes during the team’s final 22 games. Though he earned the NBA’s Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month award for April, Williams’ development was a season-long process.
He began the year coming off the bench under then-coach
By December, coach and general manager Kiki Vandeweghe was managing the minutes, and Williams’ playing time plummeted. He spent much of the next three months watching from the bench, playing only 15.8 minutes per game in 39 appearances through the end of February. To his credit, the rookie opened his ears to advice from veteran teammates, and credits eighth-year forward Bobby Simmons for focusing his concentration on the floor.
“Bobby always says, ‘Get to your spots,’” Williams says. “If your shot is the elbow jumper, get to the elbow. Don’t try to shoot a three-pointer – get to the elbow.’ That’s what I learned in the beginning, when I wasn’t playing, was get to your spots.”
Williams took that advice to practice, and focused on four: the corners and the elbows. The in-game offense often resulted in opportunities for spot-up threes in the corners and catch-and-shoot jumpers at the elbows, each complementing the floaters for which Williams freed himself with rim attacks. According to the Web site hoopdata.com, Williams improved his eFG% steadily from a January low of .380 to a season-best .465 in April. The site also reveals he finished the season with assist and rebounding rates above the league average.
“(Terrence) got smarter the way he drove to the basket,” says Nets President Rod Thorn. “Rather than settling for 15- to 18-footers, he was getting into that 6-to-10 feet range. And he became more effective – not only with his scoring, but his passing. As perimeter defenders dropped back, he found guys wide open all over the floor. For the biggest part of the year, Terrence was doing more lateral movement, going east and west rather than north and south.”
Thorn went on to praise Williams’ handle and quickness, explaining that the key to continued offensive development will be shooting well enough to force defenders to play up on him, thusly opening lanes in which he can drive or pass. The team president then reiterated his belief in Williams’ potential for defensive prowess, though he cautioned much work remains to be done.
Williams can control both of those factors, and his offseason regimen will determine whether he can again raise his ceiling next year. The 22-year-old Seattle native will spend a majority of his summer at a new house in his hometown, working out under Raptors assistant coach
Williams will also visit Las Vegas, where
Looking forward to the new atmosphere that he says should result from a move to Newark’s Prudential Center, Williams believes the tough season will soon be forgotten, especially because the team pulled away from the league’s all-time worst record. He enters the summer with a sense that passing is what got him here, and he knows to keep that in mind whenever opponents entice him into breaking his flow.
“There’s a lot of scorers already in the NBA, so some of the people who still want to be scorers are not going to win games,” Williams says. “What I take from this season is, continue to be who I am, get better at the little things and continue to make other people better.”
Count Nets guard Keyon Dooling among the converted:
“It’s good to see his development. Early in the year, Terrence started out playing well under Lawrence, and when Kiki came in, success didn’t happen immediately for him. He continued to work with (assistant coach