HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — He could have turned the locker room upside down, made a mess of the team’s chemistry and pouted his way out of town if he wanted to.
All of those options were available to Clippers guard Mo Williams when the Chris Paul trade went down. It soon became clear that his time as the Clippers’ starting point guard would be limited to the 22 games he got last season and whatever injury replacement starts he might get with Paul in the fold this season.
To his credit, Williams, who arrived in L.A. via a deadline-day trade with Cleveland last season, has done exactly what he’s always done: put his head down and go to work without so much as a shoulder shrug while handling himself like a true pro.
He’s been on a tear of late, averaging 22.2 points on 56 percent shooting from the floor and an outlandish 54 percent from beyond the 3-point line in the Clippers’ last five games. He’s scored 26, 25, 26, 16 and 18 points in those five games, the first three when the Clippers had to play without Paul (strained hamstring).
Keep this up and he’ll make the voting for the Sixth Man Award an all Williams affair. Philadelphia’s Lou Williams is our early frontrunner here at the hideout.
Mo Williams was tremendous in a win over the Grizzlies last night on TNT, smoking defenders off the dribble and showing off the shooting touch that has been his hallmark throughout his NBA career. His 14 points after halftime was the extra push the Clippers needed to get past a game Grizzlies team that got some bench scoring of its own from O.J. Mayo.
But while Mayo was firing away (5-for-19) with little regard for anyone else wearing green and gold (love those Memphis Tams throwbacks), Williams was the model of efficiency. He knocked down eight of his 15 shots, going 2-for-5 from deep, and also had four steals, three rebounds and two assists.
He’s doing his best to embrace his role, as he told Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times after the game:
“Every day I just go into the game feeling my way in the game,” Williams said afterward. “You come off the bench, you never know what the team needs that night.
“I always just try to bring energy, obviously, on the defensive end to get out and make it extremely tough for my man when I’m on my offensive end. And I just try to be consistent with it each and every night.”
The ability to humble oneself is a trait that has escaped more than a few players who have traveled the same path Williams is traveling right now.
But he’s had some practice over the years. I remember when he was starring at Alabama and projected to be a high draft pick after his sophomore season and then fell to the second round, where Utah nabbed him with the 47th pick. He didn’t wallow in his own misery after that Draft night slide; he went to Utah and dove into the system under the no-nonsense tutelage of Jerry Sloan, who was notoriously tough on every point guard to play for him in the post-John Stockton era.
Williams came into his own during four seasons in Milwaukee and made the 2009 All-Star Game while playing alongside LeBron James in Cleveland. Getting in line behind Paul and Chauncey Billups with the Clippers can’t be easy for Williams.
You’d never know it the way Williams is playing!