As today is the 50th birthday of former Houston Rockets sharpshooter Walt Williams, let’s revisit his career, including his three-year tenure in the Space City.
When Walt Williams signed with the Houston Rockets, it was a match made in heaven. Then Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich had been one of the first coaches in the league to adapt the 3-point strategy, which is why the Williams signing was a good move.
Although Williams became one of the best shooters in Rockets’ franchise history, he was viewed as the savior at the University of Maryland several years before. The Terrapins were still dealing with the aftermath of the passing of Len Bias, in addition to an unexpected coaching change, which was forced by sanctions levied against the program.
Williams decided to stay with the Terps, and turned in a stellar senior season, which proved to be beneficial to both him and the program, for a number of reasons. For starters, it helped incoming coach Gary Williams, from a standpoint of retaining one of the better upperclassmen, and it set the stage for one of the best single seasons in school history.
Williams averaged 26.8 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 2.1 steals, en route to being selected seventh overall in the 1992 NBA Draft. Williams averaged 17 points per game during his rookie season with the Sacramento Kings, which was third-best on the team
The Wizard ended up spending parts of his first four seasons in Sac-Town before moving to the Miami Heat, Toronto Raptors, and Portland Trail Blazers from the 1995-96 season through the 1998-99 season. The 6-foot-8 Maryland product had developed into one of the best 3-point shooters during that span, as he had two seasons in which he finished inside the top twenty in 3-point shooting percentage.
The Wizard’s next move was joining the Houston Rockets, which happened prior to the 1999-00 season. During his first year in Houston, Williams averaged 10.9 points per game on 39.1 percent from deep, which was third-best on the team, behind only Moochie Norris and Matt Bullard. But the Rockets went 34-48, which wasn’t what anyone envisioned.
During his second season, Williams performed even better from deep, as he made 39.5 percent from long-range, which was third-best behind Bullard and Steve Francis. The Rockets went 45-37, but missed the playoffs yet again.
During Williams’ third and final year in Houston, he made 42.6 percent of his 3-pointers, which was not only a team-high, but also 12th best in the league. Although The Rockets went 28-54 that season, there was a bright side of that, in the form of Yao Ming.
The Rockets landed the first pick in the 2002 NBA Draft, which wouldn’t have happened were it not for the 2001-02 season. After that season, Williams left the Rockets to sign with the Dallas Mavericks for what was ultimately his final season in the league.
All in all, Williams played 11 years in the league, including those three seasons with the Houston Rockets. Although many may not recognize the name, Williams still ranks as one of the greatest 3-point shooters in Rockets’ history, as his Rockets 3-point average of 40.2 percent ranks seventh in franchise history.
As today is April 16th, please join me in wishing The Wizard a happy 50th birthday.