By John Denton
January 26, 2011
INDIANAPOLIS – Orlando reserve point guard Jason Williams, who has been upset for weeks over his lack of playing time, was released by the Magic on Wednesday prior to the game against the Indiana Pacers.
Williams had been vocal this season about his displeasure over his lack of playing time and did not accompany the team on the trip to Indianapolis. The 12-year NBA veteran appeared in just 16 games all season with the Magic, mostly in mop-up roles as the Magic’s third or fourth point guard.
``The opportunity to play here wasn’t there and it was tough for him. It was tough for him from Day 1, but I wish him well,’’ said Magic GM Otis Smith, who added that there’s no immediate plans to add a 14th player to the roster. ``Anytime you lose one of your 14 guys it’s a difficult decision to make. Everyone on this roster is there for a reason and has a purpose. … We had conversations with him along the way with the issue of playing and not playing. It’s the same conversation I have with other guys who aren’t playing. But it was a little tougher for him to go from playing major minutes to not playing at all.’’
Williams was signed late in the summer as the Magic’s third point guard, but said back in December he’s had a difficult time dealing with not being a part of the regular rotation. Magic President of Basketball Operations/GM Otis Smith said originally that the team would decide Williams��� fate upon getting back to Orlando after Friday’s game in Chicago, but instead decided to waive Williams Wednesday afternoon.
Williams, 35, likely would have been inactive for Wednesday night’s game anyway because of the Magic’s plan to active reserve power forward/center Malik Allen, who has been out for a month with a badly sprained ankle. Allen will serve as the Magic’s fourth big man behind Dwight Howard, Brandon Bass and Ryan Anderson.
Starting point guard Jameer Nelson, one of Williams’ closest friends on the team, said the veteran would be missed because of his sage advice and humor.
``Whether he knew it or not, he brought a lot of leadership to this team,’’ Nelson said. ``He didn’t always say something every day, but when he did guys listened because he’s played a long time in this league.’’
Nelson said he was well aware that Williams was struggling with being demoted to a role where he rarely played. ``He’s a competitor and he wasn’t satisfied sitting on the bench,’’ Nelson said. ``I don’t know that feeling, but I’ll definitely miss him.’’
Williams had a solid 2009-10 season in Orlando, backing up Nelson and averaging 6.0 points and 3.6 assists while appearing in all 82 games. But his role changed dramatically when the Magic signed Chris Duhon to a free-agent deal in the offseason. And Williams fell even further down the depth chart on Dec. 18 when the Magic traded for Gilbert Arenas.
Williams, who practiced with the Magic on Tuesday in Orlando, has also battled a chronically sore left foot this season. He missed 19 games because of the coach’s decision, five games for personal reasons, four games because of the foot injury and one other game because of a NBA suspension for physically contacting an official during an argument.
``He was fine around our guys and fine in practice (on Tuesday), but he was just frustrated with the situation,’’ Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. ``I had talked to him way back and knew where he was. He and Otis had been talking. What he said was that he thought he’d be able to handle (not playing) and he couldn’t. Then, he got hurt and that gave him no chance to compete. And he was starting to play a little bit and we made the (Arenas) trade and that increased his frustration, too.’’