Examining the ill-fated T-Will Rockets era
By Dennis Silva II
The Terrence Williams era in Houston drew a plethora of intrigue thanks to his tantalizing set of skills. Ultimately, however, it will go down as nothing more than a brilliant failure.
BY: MICHAEL GUTIERREZ
Earlier this week, the Rockets waived 6-foot- 6, 220-pound wing Terrence Williams after giving up a first-round draft pick in a trade with the New Jersey Nets a little more than a year ago.
Let’s take a look back on what exactly happened on a move that is widely considered the worst of GM Daryl Morey’s five-year tenure thus far.
Williams, a.k.a “T-Will”, was drafted with the 11th overall pick in the first round of the 2009 draft by the Nets. While his expectations weren’t as high as, say, LeBron James or Derrick Rose (first overall picks in their respective drafts), his explosive athleticism and skill level garnered him a shot at being the “go-to” guy for a struggling New Jersey franchise.
Coming out of college, he was a high-flying, highlight reel who did a little of everything for the Louisville Cardinals. Getting past his SportsCenter highlights, his physical abilities also translated to quality production at the NCAA level. Despite playing as a wing for Rick Pitino’s club, he also rebounded (averaging 6.8) and passed the ball well (with five assists per game) in his senior year.
He also averaged a respectable 12.5 points on only 10.6 field goal attempts.
Approaching the draft, in his interviews, Williams created a bit of controversy after being asked who he compares his game to. His answer – LeBron James – led many to question if he was just a little too cocky and arrogant.
In an interview with DraftExpress.com, Williams’ response to this was: “If you ask me who do I compare my game to, I try to compare my game to LeBron. I’m not saying I’m LeBron or Michael Jordan, that’s who I try to compare my game to. At Louisville, as far as assists, defense and being a team leader, you can say to the Louisville fans, I was their LeBron. I’m not saying I am LeBron, that’s not me coming off arrogant, that’s me giving a legitimate truthful answer.”
Williams’ explanation, while a little arrogant, was rightfully not considered a huge red flag. I mean, who doesn’t want their game to resemble such iconic figures? He also had no run-ins with the law, and was held in high regard by Pitino.
Moving forward to his rookie season, Williams was given plenty of playing time to build on reaching his potential. In 22.6 minutes per game, he averaged 8.4 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.9 assists with the Nets.
Sadly, this is his best season thus far as a professional.
In his sophomore season, everything turned quickly. Once considered a key figure in rebuilding the Nets, his selfish play and repeated tardiness led to the Nets demoting him to the D-League, a punishment given in hope to curve his immaturity.
Even though he absolutely dominated the D-League, with averages of 28 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.7 assists, it seemed if he was going to reach his potential, it wasn’t going to be in New Jersey under dictatorial head coach Avery Johnson.
The Rockets, who had no star player or star potential, took a chance back in December 2010, jumping at the opportunity to acquire Williams through trade. In return, they were forced to give up a first-round lottery protected pick, meaning there were definitely expectations for Williams to produce at a higher level than he had previously.
Up until that point, while risky, it was considered a good move by Morey based on Williams’ potential. Back in a 2010-2011 preseason game held in China between the Rockets and Nets, Williams put on a show, scoring 20 points with eight rebounds, eventually leaving Rockets fans pleasantly curious when he made his way over to Houston. Even with a plethora of wing players ahead of him, with hard work, his expectations were to rise rapidly and easily in the rankings.
Instead, a month later, under then-Rockets coach Rick Adelman, the scenario had instantly turned for the worse.
As fans waited for more T-Will, he played scarce minutes as his professionalism came into question by his own coach.
When asked what Williams needed to do to get more playing time, Adelman responded with bad news for hopeful Rockets fans: “(Terrence) Just needs to do his job every day. Just go about it professionally. We traded for him. There wasn’t a spot for him anyway.”
As disappointing as it was to hear, it was only the beginning.
While Williams continued to ride the pine, his Twitter activity stirred negative vibes throughout Red Nation. It was the same actions that ultimately helped enable his ticket out of New Jersey.
His disapproval of his handling became public, answering with this in an interview: “I want to play basketball, whether it is here or somewhere else.”
It turned to a situation of Williams being held in high regard as an 11th overall pick, star at Louisville, to now understanding he’s no longer a college student, but an employee in the business that is the NBA.
Although it was still early, it was official: he blew his second chance. He would never get any more than garbage minutes to finish the season, only playing in 10 games total since being traded for the rest of the season.
After the 2010-2011 season ended, the Rockets parted ways with Adelman, bringing in current head coach Kevin McHale.
Again, Williams would get another shot at proving he had been treated unfairly.
In the first game of the season, at Orlando, he played 27 minutes off the bench, scoring 13 points.
However, he had the team’s worst plus-minus at -10. Through the first eight games of this year, he played in seven, with the Rockets going 1-6 while he was in rotation.
Since being forced back to the bench in early January, to finish off the month, the Rockets went 10-3 with him only getting six garbage minutes after the Rockets pummeled the Wizards.
McHale’s response to all this is similar to Adelman’s, in the fact that the wing positions truthfully were stockpiled at both moments in time.
“We have a lot of wings,” said McHale. “It’s really loaded up in that spot. It’s just a situation where he got some time early. He got some time lately and it’s just a tough situation for a lot of those wings.”
If any Houston fan believes that maybe Adelman was holding Williams back, McHale’s strategy of playing the hot hand and giving ample opportunity to anyone who plays hard proved Williams just isn’t effective enough to be in a solid rotation.
If McHale says that’s the reason why he wasn’t playing, then that’s the reason he’s wasn’t playing. McHale doesn’t cut corners.
Now, it’s not a question if Williams will ever be a go-to-guy (though his offensive win shares, which dictate how many wins a player can solely be responsible for, are of the negative for his third season in a row), but whether he’s capable of producing at an NBA level at all. We’ve seen the athleticism, but with no game to match; a complaining millionaire isn’t going to get a lot of sympathy.
Now waived by the Rockets and signed to a 10-day contract with the Sacramento Kings, Houston’s management has come to grips that it surrendered a precious first round pick for essentially nothing in return.
Although the pick is lost, when you look back, it was just a move Houston had to make. Perhaps if Williams had a tad more discipline, or acted professionally, shut his mouth and Twitter and practiced harder.
One thing that is most definitely certain, however, is that the Rockets had no cause in his downfall. Williams has managed to produce that on his very own.