Mike D’Antoni may have struggled winning over the Lakers’ fanbase. But Lakers forward Shawne Williams owes everything toward him for saving his NBA career.
A a number of drug-related incidents tarnished his reputation and promise at the 17th pick in 2006 NBA Draft, wearing out welcomes in Indiana (2006-08) and Dallas (2008-09). But Williams attracted D’Antoni when he coached with the New York Knicks during the 2010-11 season, and recorded career-highs in points (7.1) and three-point shooting (40.1 percent). After the Portland Trail Blazers cut Williams last season without playing a game, D’Antoni welcomed him with a training camp invitation to the Lakers.
“I know if Shawne gets focused, he can play,” D’Antoni said. “He has a huge amount of talent.”
So much that D’Antoni conceded Williams could earn the starting power forward spot against Jordan Hill, Wesley Johnson and Ryan Kelly. Williams also started in the Lakers’ preseason loss Sunday to Denver, posting six points on 2 of 6 shooting, five rebounds and two steals in 20 minutes.
“I really don’t think about starting positions,” said Williams, whose one-year deal under $1 million has a partial guarantee worth around $100,000. “I respect the coach. I let them do their job. I try to do my job and just be ready when my name is called.”
D’Antoni has raved about Williams’ outside shooting, floor spacing and versatility, all qualities he looks for in offense. Williams has provided those qualities partly because D’Antoni believed he’d overcome his off-the-court transgression. Williams was arrested in 2007 for marijuana possession and 2012 for allegedly selling a codeine substance. In 2010, Williams also pleaded guilty to a separate misdemeanor drug possession charge.
“He’s got a good heart. He’s very respectful,” D’Antoni said. “Sometimes he’s gets unfocused … maybe in the wrong environment, but overall I know he’s a good, good guy.”
D’Antoni also proves to be Williams’ harshest critic.
“I feel like Mike is harder on me than a lot of people,” Williams said. “I’m probably on the film four of five times and it’s not doing any good. I feel like he stays on me because he expects a lot out of me. I respect that. I’d rather he says something about me on the film than not say anything at all.”