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Friday January 7, 2011 12:19 PM

Williams Awaits His Moment

Newest member of the club patiently waiting to make his mark

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com

HOUSTON - Terrence Williams certainly looks the part.

Place an ad for an NBA wing and you’d be hard-pressed to find a more ideal physical specimen for the position.

Powerfully built at 6-6, 220 pounds, Williams is all fast-twitch fiber and rock solid muscle. He’s long, cat-quick and can jump out of the gym.

But this isn’t merely some athletic marvel masquerading as a basketball player. The second-year guard from Seattle is a born playmaker, combining preternatural passing skills with a slashing ability capable of carving up any defense designed. And many of the same gifts which make him such a handful on offense provide him with the potential to be a defensive demon as well.

The key word for the present, however, is “potential.” The Louisville product has a chance to be good in this league. Very good. But right now he’s more raw ability than fully-realized product. The refining process is still in its nascent stage. But let there be no doubt – all the tools are there. Now it’s just a matter of putting everything together and working Williams into the framework of the Rockets’ scheme and team concept.

To that end, Williams and his new club have been diligently working together ever since the December deal that brought him to Houston. The Rockets are in no rush to fully unleash their new weapon, preferring instead to focus on the big picture for the betterment of his long-term development. And why not? When all is said and done, Williams’ approval rating will be based on his overall body of work, not what he accomplished over the course of his first three weeks in Houston.

So Williams patiently waits. Yes, patiently. The same player who fell into Avery Johnson’s doghouse for occasional attitude issues during his time with the New Jersey Nets has accepted responsibility for his actions and dedicated himself to steering clear of the same mistakes this time around.

“I think he knows that he needed a change,” says Rockets Director of Player Programs Shawn Respert. “The first thing is, like any of us, the willingness to admit your mistakes and shortcomings. He talked about how his attitude (in New Jersey) wasn’t the best. He got frustrated not playing.

“When you hear him admit that, ‘I didn’t handle things right,’ and ‘if I was in another spot, this is what I would have done,’ it tells me he’s already made some advancements because he’s not condoning the detrimental behavior.”

Now Williams is attacking his development with the fervor borne of a desire to capitalize on his immense potential and help his team win games. There are plays to learn and teammates’ tendencies to digest – requirements, he says, he’ll have down pat sooner rather than later.

“I feel like this opportunity is great for me system-wise,” he says. “I’m very comfortable. Being here a couple weeks, I’ve done a great deal of learning from watching. When they call out a play I can watch the play and I’m a quick learner. I have the plays on video on my iPad, so I watch that on the plane and I just go from there.”

The next step, of course, is transferring that knowledge from the plane to the games. Williams’ in-game action has been sparse to date as Head Coach Rick Adelman has adopted a patient approach while attempting to divine the best way to properly deploy the Rockets’ new addition. Knowing his time to shine is far more a matter of when rather than if, Williams expresses no qualms with the limited role he’s currently filling. But like any competitor, he’s also anxious to make his mark, prompting Respert to jokingly refer to his pupil as a house dog chomping at the bit for an opportunity to romp around the backyard. Williams, in fact, concedes as much and realizes the need to keep that exuberance in check when playing time does come his way.

“I feel like, when out there, you need to take your time and play basketball,” he says. “But at the same time, in your head you’re like, ‘I have to do something,’ because you’re not Shane Battier – everybody knows what he can do. Everybody knows Chase can shoot the ball and Kevin (Martin) can score. So to the people who don’t know you it’s like, who is that No. 1? Is that Tracy McGrady? No. Is that Trevor Ariza? No. Well what can he do?

“You’re trying to do something to show your skills, so maybe you try to jump higher on a rebound so that they’ll say, oh, he’s athletic; you make a good pass – oh, he can pass the ball. But at the same time you don’t want to force it where you go out there and instead of getting three assists you get three turnovers. So you have to be mature about it and just take what’s open.”

What Williams is referring to is the comfort level that comes with a clearly defined role and consistent playing time – both of which are to be earned, not given. But with the treasure trove of gifts he possesses both physically and from a skill standpoint, it’s a safe bet to assume his opportunity will come sooner rather than later because, quite frankly, Williams has the potential – there’s that word again – to give the Rockets something nobody else on the roster currently can.

“He’s a unique character for this team because he’s one of the few guys who can create off the dribble,” Respert says. “A lot of guys can create using one or two dribbles, but he has the ability to continue with three or four dribbles to get deeper penetration into the lane and really get at the rim, not just into the paint. You can tell with Terrence he has the vision of a great passer. He finds those passes and he gets them to shooters before the defense can react and that’s the mark of a guy who I think is really going to be helpful.

“I think the biggest thing with him is he has the ability to defend. He has all the tools that are needed to be a great defender in this league. Now can he somehow obtain the IQ of learning how to defend against some of the best scorers in this league? Can he use his physical tools to overpower some of the things that a lot of great scorers are going to use against him because he is so aggressive? Can he be a little bit more disciplined and stay within the realm of our defensive scheme?”

Those are the questions Terrence Williams must answer in the affirmative if he’s to become the player he was born to be. Even the most novice observer can bear witness to the fact that he appears more than capable of doing so. Yes, potential can be a dirty word. Realized potential, however, is a thing of beauty. And for a player who so perfectly looks the part, when Terrence Williams is finally ready for his close-up, he’ll have a chance to make the hoops world stop and stare.

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