By Josh Cook
The New Jersey Nets may have lost their point-guard-of-the-future when they lost the NBA Draft Lottery.
But they may have found another one in the NBA Summer League.
The Nets, who finished with the NBA's worst record last season, had the best chance at landing the No. 1 pick in June's NBA Draft - and presumably would've taken Kentucky star John Wall - but ended up with the third selection.
That may have been the best thing that's happened to Terrence Williams in his young professional career.
The former University of Louisville standout was the breakout star of last week's NBA Summer League in Orlando, Fla. for the Nets. And he did it playing point guard - the same position Wall plays.
In five games T-Will averaged 18.8 points, five assists and three rebounds per game. Those statistics are skewed, though, because Williams only played five minutes in the final game against Boston as New Jersey gave some of its younger players - including No. 3 draft pick Derrick Favors - an opportunity to play extended minutes. If you take the averages of his first four games of the Summer League, T-Will averaged 23 points, 6.3 assists (both of which would've led the eight-team Summer League) and 3.8 rebounds.
In his first game he scored 23 points and dished out seven assists in an 84-74 loss to Philadelphia. Then in his second game he flirted with a triple-double - tallying 24 points, seven assists and seven rebounds - in spite of nine turnovers - in New Jersey's 80-69 win over the Indiana Pacers.
"(New Nets coach) Avery (Johnson) asked, 'If you had to bet a million dollars on the position you want to play, what position would it be?' and I said, 'Point guard,'" Williams told NBA-TV after that game. "And he said, 'Are you kidding me?' He said, 'Well you know the point guard's got to be the leader, got to be the general on the floor. You've got to tell guys where they need to be, you have to give them a little sugar, but also give them a little salt. You can't be too hard on them, you've got to be just right on them.' I took that to heart.
"Talking to Avery, we had a long conversation on the phone before I got to practice, then we met in person. He just told me some things he wanted me to do as far as playing the point and helping the team out. Being my second year here it's a lot different from being a rookie coming into summer league, you don't know what to expect. I feel five years older when I'm only one year older."
Williams is coming off a rookie season that was definitely a learning experience. He played in 78 of New Jersey's 82 games (the Nets went 12-70), starting nine, and averaged 8.4 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game.
He did, however, have a much-publicized benching due to a post on his Twitter account in which he speculated how his life might have been different if he had gone earlier, or later, in the 2009 NBA Draft instead of to the Nets.
But he overcame that and played some of his best basketball late in the season.
Over the final month and a half T-Will averaged 14.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game. He had 21 points, 13 rebounds and six assists in a loss to the Charlotte Bobcats on April 12 and had a triple-double (27 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists) in the Nets' last win of the season over the Chicago Bulls on April 9. He also had 14 points and 14 assists in a victory over the New Orleans Hornets on April 3.
During that stretch he played a lot of point forward - a position he thrived at during his senior season at UofL - alongside Devin Harris and former Western Kentucky University star Courtney Lee. However the 6-foot-6, 220-pound Williams has spent the offseason trying to improve his point guard skills, working with Nets' assistant coach Doug Overton and former NBA star, and fellow Northwest native, Gary Payton.
"I talk to Gary almost every other day and he just told me to put guys in there spots," said Williams, a native of the Seattle area. "You can run the offense a lot better if guys know that you're going to war with them and you're not just trying to be the point guard to score all the points. Because I told him, I said, 'I care about assists. If I get 15 assists and one shot attempt and we win that's great, I'm with that.'"
In T-Will's third game of the Summer League he scored 22 points (although it took him 26 shots to do so) and dished out six assists in New Jersey's 94-91 win over Orlando. Then in the fourth game he recorded 23 points and five assists against Utah.
"I'm not going to sit here and say I'm going to score 20 points or 30 points a game, but my whole thing is to be a basketball player," Williams said. "So my whole thing right now is learning how to shoot the same shot every time. I have a lot of flaws shooting the ball, one way it looks good and the next time it comes off wrong and I barely tough the rim.
"The rest of the summer I'm just worried about shooting the ball the same way every time, consistency and playing off the ball with Devin and learning how to play that spot. Because my whole life I've been with the ball in my hands whether I was playing point forward or the point guard, so I'm willing to take that challenge this summer."
SUMMER LEAGUE ROUNDUP
T-Will wasn't the only former local college star who participated in the Orlando Summer League, here is a look at how a handful of others did.
Orlando Magic guard Joe Crawford (Kentucky): He averaged 17.8 points, 1.3 rebounds in four games. He had a high game of 29 points.
Orlando Magic center Daniel Orton (Kentucky): He averaged a disappointing 3.2 ppg, 1.8 rpg and 1.4 blocks in five games. He had highs of four points and four rebounds.
Orlando Magic forward Patrick Ewing Jr. (Georgetown by way of Indiana University): He averaged 11.3 points and four rebounds in four games. He had highs of 17 points and seven rebounds.
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Robert Vaden (UAB by way of IU): He averaged 4.6 ppg, 2.2 rpg in five games. He had highs of eight points and five rebounds.
Oklahoma City Thunder forward D.J. White (IU): He averaged 11 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1 block per game in four games. He had highs of 14 points, six rebounds and three blocks.
Philadelphia 76ers guard Jodie Meeks (Kentucky): He averaged 14.6 ppg, 3 rpg, 2.2 apg. He had a high game of 18 points twice.
Photo courtesy NBA.com