Tulsa Experience Helping Williams' Career Development

PHOENIX -- Nothing is guaranteed in the NBA, so when Reggie Williams saw an opportunity to succeed and advance his career, he took it.

When Williams joined the Thunder's D-League affiliate, the Tulsa 66ers a few months ago, he saw a path that could help him develop his skills, learn how to play in the Thunder’s system and prepare himself for the NBA or other professional avenues. On Thursday, that track became even more illuminated as the Thunder signed Williams to a ten-day contract because of his hard work, improvement and development with the 66ers.

Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks and his staff have a keen eye on everything 66ers Head Coach Darko Rajakovic teaches his players in Tulsa, and the symbiotic relationship between the two organizations helps provide players like Williams with a chance for improvement and career development. In just three months, Williams has shown how the 66ers can help a player move further up in the professional ranks.

“It’s giving him a great opportunity to come in on a very good team,” Brooks said. “We love Tulsa. We utilize the 66ers. We love what they do. They’re committed to improving their players. Darko does a great job of improving that team. We follow it quite a bit.”

“It was just a great opportunity,” Williams explained. “The organization, how closely they work with the Thunder, it’s like a mirror. Those guys gave me a chance to come in and learn their system and helped me develop. It’s been great so far and they’ve been patient with me, taken the time to work with me and help me get back to where I ultimately want to be.”

The connection the Thunder and 66ers have given players a chance to learn exactly how to play in order to fit into an NBA squad, while also building nearly identical habits, practice patterns and game day routines. Skill development and the mental understanding of the game go hand-in-hand in Tulsa, which has helped Williams be prepared for this chance to not just showcase his skills with the Thunder, but also help the team during the ten days he spends with the squad.

“We learn the same system,” Williams explained. “To the best of their ability, they try to treat us how they would here in the NBA. When you play for the 66ers, it’s as close to being in the NBA as you can get without actually being there, with all that they do for you that is similar to here.”

“(The 66ers’) main focus is to help to help the players develop and get to the next step, whether for them it’s the NBA or overseas,” Williams said.

Williams joined the Thunder in Phoenix in time for Thursday’s game against the Suns, and was thrilled to get the chance to don an NBA uniform once again. After playing in 177 games for the Golden State Warriors and Charlotte Bobcats, Williams signed with the 66ers in December and has worked hard to get back to the NBA.

“I don’t think words can explain it,” Williams said. “I’ve played in the NBA before, but to have another opportunity to be back here and be around these guys and be back in this atmosphere, it does a lot for you. It’s just something you can’t take for granted.”

As for what the 6-foot-6 guard can bring to the Thunder during this stretch, the team already has one player who has been with Williams on the floor this season. Rookie guard Andre Roberson has played in 17 games for the 66ers this season, while Williams has played in 20. Roberson got a first-hand glimpse of the type of player and person Williams is during his time with the 66ers.

So far this season, Williams is averaging 20.8 points per game on 48.5 percent shooting, including 38.7 percent from behind the three-point line, in addition to 5.5 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.6 steals in 37.3 minutes per game. In his NBA career, Williams is averaging 8.6 points per game on 46 percent shooting, including 37.1 percent from the three-point line.

“He’s a terrific player,” Roberson said. “He gets up and down the floor, likes to push the ball ahead, shares the ball and scores when he wants to. He’s more of a team player first. He’s a great guy and will fit in great here.”

“It’s going to be great for him,” Roberson continued. “He’s been working his tail off up there and it’s great that he gets that opportunity.”

Williams is a playmaker but also a knockdown shooter, who can score in many ways while still being an active force on defense and on the glass. As is typical for the Thunder, Williams is a versatile player who can play shooting guard and small forward. While laid back and likable off the floor, it is clear that Williams has used his time in Tulsa working hard to craft his game thanks to the tutelage of the 66ers coaching staff. Just last week, Williams won the D-League Player of the Week award.

“He’s having a great year,” Brooks said. “He’s an NBA player. I’m glad we’re able to make room for him and pick him up for ten days. Who knows how many minutes he plays, but it’s good to see him up close and see what he can add to our team.”