Back at Work
JWill’s return has fans White Chocolatized again.
The best Jason Williams moment never happened on the court. And it wasn’t the time he called his own team the worst in the League.
Remember in 2005, right after Williams’ Memphis Grizzlies were swept out for the summer by the Suns? A reporter in Memphis decided a good idea was to write about how the Grizzlies didn’t care how their season ended. Of course, JWill had to be at the forefront. Williams said on the eve of the sweep that basketball wasn’t everything. He still had his family.
The reporter called him out, went after the guy averaging 17 points on 53 percent shooting and over 5 assists against the MVP from Phoenix.
So Williams had to shut him up.
“You ain’t writin’ nothing homeboy! You ain’t writin’ nothing!”
People might ask, “That was his best moment? What about that time he put Stockton on skates? Or that move when he had Shawn Bradley grabbing air with that over-the-shoulder, not-even-gonna-pretend to look pass?”
Everyone has a story, a favorite move or commercial. That’s what makes the Whit Eboy who he is. And that’s probably why most of you are reading this. There’s no entertainment like Jason Williams entertainment.
In the Magic’s season opener on Wednesday against Philly, Williams shook off a few quick turnovers to drop 15 and 5 off the bench. He had the pull-up 3’s going, the quick dashes to the rim and the pick-and-roll dimes.
Still, it’s a long way from the spring of 1999. The NBA isn’t coming off a post-MJ lockout. Nas ain’t Escobar anymore. And we have a black president now. But, Jason Williams is back for another go-round. The kid who never wanted to grow up is about to turn 34 years old. The point guard who was once the single most popular player in the League isn’t even starting anymore, seemingly content to earn 10-15 minutes a night as Jameer Nelson’s backup.
He has been starting for so long – he’s been out for the opening tip in all but 30 of his 679 career games before this year — that it’s unusual, almost depressing, to watch him sit on the bench chatting with JJ Redick while VC and Dwight Howard are out there just pleading for some lobs.
After being unable to detach himself from the hardwood during his time off, Williams says he came back because his love of the game was too strong. He would rather fit in as a reserve than say good-bye to the NBA forever.
“Of course I care about my role,” Williams said. “If I didn’t care then I wouldn’t know what my role was. I need to come in and help run the team, take open shots and just bring energy.”
What happened to the “Good Ol’ Boy?” What happened to the Pistol Pete comparisons, No. 55 and purple hyperflights? Was it age? Hubie? It all came and went in a flash. You blinked, you missed it.
Coming into this year, the Magic have legitimate title aspirations. For all of the positive moves they’ve made in the offseason, those old guys in Boston and the Diesel-fueled Cavs have stolen the limelight. Maybe Orlando did overachieve last year. Perhaps they can’t expect to catch some of the same breaks again –the deterioration of KG’s knee and Cleveland’s inability to make any adjustments.
But, Howard is still a baby with a lot more growing to do. Nelson is back running the show. And their bench is so much deeper. Instead of Tony Battie shooting elbow jumpers, it will be Ryan Anderson.
Turkoglu is a nice player and obviously, Vince Carter is not the most reliable guy. But, there’s no way this team shouldn’t at least be the favorites to get out of the East.
In comes Williams, with a year of rest to kill the knee tendonitis and legs looking nothing like those of an 11-year veteran. I knew all those 4th quarters spent watching Tony Delk and Bobby Jackson would eventually do some good.
No offense to Anthony Johnson, but I think Stan Van showed all he needed to when he attempted to bring back Nelson for the Finals. A tandem of Skip and Johnson wasn’t scaring anyone in Los Angeles. With Williams as the backup now, there will be no slowdown. JWill is here to do what he’s always been best at: feed his people.
His numbers in the preseason, albeit in more limited minutes, were decent: over 5 points and 5 assists with another high assist-turnover ratio.
“I just wanted to get back [to playing basketball],” he said. “And I’m just thankful that I got a chance to do it here.”
Williams has acknowledged on numerous occasions that he wanted to play in Orlando for a while. One of his collegiate stops was at Florida. And he trained for the draft in Orlando, staying in Magic player-turned-staffer Nick Anderson’s house. Orlando is home.
The Super Cracker is turning into the final phase of his career. He warns White Chocolate might be, no is, dead. Yet, there is bound to be a lot of excitement in Orlando this year with a team that has a chance to sneak up on everyone again. Any Magic fan will take that.
And there was Williams in the Magic’s final preseason game. During an absolute beat down of the “improved” Atlanta Hawks, EBoy came flying down the middle on a three-on-two fast break. One behind-the-back bounce pass to a streaking Matt Barnes for a lay up later and we all got the answer we’ve been searching for.
It’s still there somewhere.