Williams Eyes Wins Over Awards

All season long, Toronto players and fans had been campaigning for then-Raptors guard Lou Williams to win the Sixth Man of the Year award. Even recording artist Drake got involved by dropping Williams’ name three times in his appropriately titled song, “6 Man.”

So when Williams succeeded and became the first Raptor to win a major NBA award since 1999 Rookie of the Year Vince Carter, it would seem like a major personal accomplishment for a career sixth man who finished second for the honor in 2012. But Williams maintains that this wasn’t the case.

“The only reason it was important for me to win it last year was because my teammates were so supportive,” Williams said. “They wanted me to get it more than anything. From day one, Kyle Lowry told me he wanted me to average 15 points a game on that team and try to win the Sixth Man.

"This was from day one, and throughout the season those guys were really pushing me to really play as much as I can and do as much as I could. But for me, it wasn’t really that important.”

Heading into his first season with the Lakers, the 10-year veteran insists that the award isn’t on his radar. Having started at least 10 games in just one season in his career, Williams has carved out a role as one of the league’s best off-the-bench playmakers. But he has also made it out of the first round of the playoffs just one time, furthering his taste for victories instead of individual achievement.

“It’s not that important if we don’t win games,” he said. “I want to be successful. I want to be able to win. … It was a great accomplishment for me to have. I was honored to win it. But I’m not going into the season trying to do it again.”

In fact, Williams claims that he is open to altering his role if head coach Byron Scott wishes to. He has started just 54 of his 634 career games but is willing to step into the starting lineup if asked.

Furthermore, Williams — who averaged 4.2 assists in Philadelphia in 2009-10 — saw that number halved last season in Toronto. But at the same time, he was also able to pour in a career-high 15.5 points per game. The 28-year-old sees this as a testament to his ability to adapt to his offense’s needs.

“I’m open to whatever,” Williams said. “I think in Toronto my job was to score just based on the system that we had. We played a lot of iso basketball — a lot of one-on-one basketball. And here the system is more free-flowing for guys to have the opportunity to make plays and put guys in position to score the basketball, as well as yourself. So whatever’s asked of me, I’m willing to do it.”

Williams’ versatility can be seen in his 1.03 points per play as the pick-and-roll ballhandler — which led the league — as well as his 265 total isolation points — which ranked fourth. Still, he feels that he is often pigeonholed as just a scorer.

“For sure, but I’m not the only one,” he said. “There are a lot of guys in my position that are capable of making plays and capable of doing more than just scoring the basketball; they just put you in this role of a sixth man that comes in and scores the basketball. I’m used to it at this point.”

Now as he preps for Lakers training camp, Williams says he is looking forward to being an influence on the Lakers’ young crew of guards, including Jordan Clarkson and D’Angelo Russell.

Going through offseason workouts with this group, Williams recalls his time as a rookie with Philadelphia in 2005. Then a second-round pick out of Georgia’s South Gwinnett High, Williams credits part of his NBA success to the mentorship he received from Allen Iverson and Kevin Ollie. He also sees much of himself in the young Lakers.

“They’re just ready to work,” Williams said. “One thing I can say about these guys is they come in with their ears open, eyes wide and ready to listen and learn. At the same time, they’re trying to prove themselves against veteran guys such as myself.

"It’s been some of the same experiences I remember from when I was coming into the league; just trying to prove my name and, at the same time, trying to learn from everybody else.”