At the 2017 trade deadline, Lou Williams was rescued by the Houston Rockets. The Rockets needed a backup scorer to help in D’Antoni ball. Williams left a last place team (Lakers) where he was a backup guard but their leading shot maker. The point of Lou Williams in Houston was to stack the deck, adding more lethal scoring to a championship contending team.
With the Lakers, Lou Williams had the best season of his career. He was responsible for the Lakers bench leading the NBA in points (47.1). The former Sixth Man of the Year paired with third year guard Jordan Clarkson played deep into the 4th quarter and supported a young team with three point bombs. Williams had a pretty efficient floater he pulled out the repertoire and the Lakers depended upon him to save them late in games. Daryl Morey noticed. He traded Corey Brewer for Lou.
And then Williams game went in the tank once he left Staples Center. He shot 38.6%. He connected on 31.8% of this threes. In other words, he was average or worse. Then, the playoffs happened.
He made 30.8% of his threes, the Lou Williams specialty. He played 24 minutes and was in double figures in shot attempts. But he was guarded, and worse, he wasn’t given the automatic benefit of the doubt on his drives to the rim or his fadeaway three. His free throw attempts plummeted. It was no one’s surprise that Williams, who has a year left on his deal, was traded after the Rockets season ended disappointingly. The surprise was who Williams was traded for.
Understandably, Chris Paul was ecstatic to be paired with James Harden. It is the first time in Paul’s career he can look to the left and see a dominant scorer in the backcourt. But Lou Williams was excited too. Excited to leave Houston. He called it a “bad breakup.”
“Sometimes you get in these situations where people are going to put these long heartfelt messages on your Instagram or your Twitters and you probably don’t mean it. I enjoyed my time in Houston but it was short-lived and it really didn’t make a huge impression in my life.
Before Houston plucked him out of the depths of losing hell, Lou Williams had played in the second round of the playoffs only once. That was five yeas ago. Williams hadn’t been in the playoffs in two years. So, yes the Rockets made a huge impression in the life of Lou Williams, taking him where he had rarely been. It was Williams who didn’t make an impression on the Rockets. He was inconsistent and wasn’t the same player who dominated on a bad team which makes you wonder if Williams is one of those players who thrives when the going is irrelevant but when it matters he isn’t who you think he is.
Lou Williams once said, “it’s okay to be a grownup.” He was speaking about his very immature teammate D’Angelo Russell. Lou Williams also once said, “I’m not out there to play defense. I’m out there to score.”
When he was not re-signed by the Raptors in 2015 despite winning Sixth Man of the Year, it was because all the analytics data pointed to defensive apathy. Williams on the court actually hurt the Raptors in their playoff series against the Wizards. He was expendable. Two years later, after a short marriage in Houston, he was expendable. History, often, repeats itself.
Lou Williams entered the NBA out of high school, a Georgia product who could do things with the ball. He was Mr. Basketball as a high school junior and senior, a five star recruit. He was 6-1, not particularly big for NBA standards but he had quickness, handles and a perimeter efficiency that was equally as lethal. He was drafted by the 76ers in the second round and played in the D-league. His third year in the league, he averaged 11.3 points and 3.2 assists. He signed an extension with the 76ers, went to the playoffs and was runner-up for Sixth Man of the Year. As a free agent, he signed with his hometown team Hawks, but against the Brooklyn Nets in January of 2013, he ripped his ACL. It ended his season. Williams returned nine months later but wasn’t truly whole. When he was traded to the Raptors, he made his comeback, eventually winning Sixth Man of the Year.
He has fought through adversity from the start. A second round draft pick. The D-league. Tearing his ACL and then being given up on and traded. He has had a lot of resurrections. L.A. to Houston, back to L.A. is one more.
In the last year of a three year deal, Williams is the most stable perimeter scorer on the Clippers. Doc Rivers is trusting 31 year old Williams to use his veteran experience to give an offensive punch to what was suppposed to be a strong front court in Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. But on cue, Griffin went down with an injury.
The beauty about Lou Williams is he has not changed despite Houston’s abrupt cutting of the cord.
Los Angeles. Houston. Back to Los Angeles.
He still is the same Sweet Lou. He comes in and shoots the ball. He keeps the ball moving. He is being paid to make shots. He couldn’t in Houston and was packaged so Chris Paul can change things; that’s NBA life.
Lou Williams is back to L.A happy. He is taking the most shots of his career. His three point percentage is fire, 38.5%, a career high. He is nearly knocking down 90% of his free throws. Rebounds and assists are way up. He is nearly dropping 20 points a game. But the Lou Williams baggage is suffocating him too. His offensive rating and his defensive rating is the same so net zero.
He is the Clippers leading scorer now that Blake Griffin is pacing the sidelines in a suit. The likelihood of the Clippers in the playoffs and not trading DeAndre Jordan by the deadline is slim but that isn’t Sweet Lou’s problem. Neither is it his concern that Houston doesn’t miss Lou Williams, not one bit. They are the best team in the West.
But in downtown L.A., the Clippers need Lou Williams to the point of desperation. (Attendance has fallen way off). And Lou Williams is having himself a season.
photo via llananba