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Grizz rookie Williams securing opening-night roster spot

By Michael Wallace
Grind City Media

MEMPHIS – Indiana coach Tom Crean had one request when he spoke to former Hoosiers standout Troy Williams, who was in the midst of an impressive stretch during training camp with the Grizzlies.

“Text me when you’ve made it,” Crean recalled of the recent instructions to Williams. “And I got that text from him today. I can tell you it was followed by a bunch of I love yous back and forth. It’s such an emotional time when you think back on everything he’s gone through to get to this point.”

The NBA’s deadline for regular season rosters is Monday, but indications are Williams’ breakout preseason performance is on the verge of earning him one of 15 spots with the Grizzlies. Williams, a 6-7 swingman who went undrafted in June, led all NBA rookies in preseason scoring at 13.2 points a game. He was Memphis’ scoring leader three times in six exhibitions and also averaged 4.0 rebounds and 1.7 steals in 25 minutes.

The Grizzlies entered training camp with 15 players already under guaranteed contracts, with Williams among five other prospects who were invited to compete for a role. As improbable as it seemed then, it turned out to be an opportune time for Williams. His production coincided with veteran guard Tony Allen and key free-agent pickup Chandler Parsons both sitting out the preseason to address knee issues.

“He’s a guy in many ways who is just coming into his own, but at the same time has shown an ability in the preseason to contribute right now,” Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace said. “Obviously, we’re big fans of Troy. He’s very explosive athletically. He can take the ball in the open court, go in and get fouled and dunk on people. He also had a game with five three-pointers against Houston, so his long ball is getting better. He’s also a disruptive defender who can shoot the gap and has recovery speed.”

Creating room to keep Williams for the start of the regular season would require releasing at least one other player in the coming days. TThe Grizzlies are expected to carry the decision into Monday’s deadline amid media speculation the team will part ways with guard Jordan Adams, a 2014 first-round pick who has battled knee injuries for two years and did not play in the preseason.

Among other Memphis players under flexible, short-term or inexpensive contracts are veteran Vince Carter and rookie Andrew Harrison. The Grizzlies could also explore potential trade options by Monday’s deadline to trim the roster, which stands at 17 players after forwards Wayne Seldon Jr., D.J. Stephens and JaKarr Sampson were released Saturday. Coach David Fizdale also confirmed after Saturday’s practice that center Matt Costello will be assigned to the Grizzlies’ D-League affiliate in Iowa.

Williams started 94 of 99 games at Indiana, where he was a Third-Team All-Big Ten selection last season. He spent time in the Las Vegas summer league with Phoenix before landing in Memphis for training camp. Crean said Saturday that several NBA teams were competing to sign Williams after the draft, and there were indications he would have had several suitors if he were to be cut by the Grizzlies. But it appears Williams will be around for Wednesday’s season opener against Minnesota at FedExForum.

“The way the team has accepted me, the way the coaches have trusted me to get this much playing time, it’s a blessing.” Williams said. “This wasn’t given to me. That’s why I feel like I should just take it.”

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