I finally caught up with Golden State swingman Reggie Williams, who is now a restricted free agent. Remember Reggie? The smooth, left-handed, natural scorer who emerged from the D-League as a productive reserve for the Warriors.
When I asked him if he wanted to return to the Warriors, I was surprised he didn’t pronounce his undying love for the team that finally pulled him from the minor leagues. I expected him to say his desire was to stay withGoldenState. Instead, I got:
WILLIAMS: “I don’t know, man. We’ll have to see. I love the Bay Area. But we just have to see what my options are. There could be a better situation for me. Or maybe there’s not. I just don’t know.”
After I thought about it for a moment, it makes sense that Williams is a little hesitant about getting too excited. Over the last year, he’s had a lot to be excited about, and few things have actually panned out. Now, at 25 with about a season and a quarter under his belt, Williams is noticeably more cautious than optimistic. Why?
* The guy who took him out ofSioux Falls,S.D.and showed an incredible amount of faith him, playing him 32.6 minutes per game as a rookie, was fired. Williams’ biggest advocate, Don Nelson, was now gone.
* The guy who replaced Don Nelson, former assistant coach Keith Smart, shaved a quarter off Williams’ minutes and often kept Williams riding the pine for long stretches. The defensive-minded Smart found himself disappointed in Williams’ D. Often after big games, Williams found himself sitting as Smart went for a different match-up. Plus, often playing point guard whenever Steph Curry was dealing with his ailing ankle, Williams seemed to be passive on the court though Smart implored him to be aggressive. Clearly, his confidence was waning.
* Smart is fired and Williams, now a free agent, is hoping he can once again become a key reserve for the Warriors. The new coaching staff representing a new opportunity for Williams to once again shine.
WILLIAMS: “I think I can learn a lot from Mark Jackson. He’s been around the NBA game for a long time. Not only in the game, but off the court as well.”
But, on draft night, Williams was hit with another bombshell. The Warriors selected Klay Thompson, also a guard-forward combo.
WILLIAMS: “Monta, Steph and Dorell play a lot of minutes. Then they brought in another guy who plays the same position as me. Maybe they want him to back-up Monta and me to back-up Dorell. Who knows. We just have to see. I don’t know what’s going on.”
* With the lockout full blown, Williams signs to play with Caja Laboral inSpain. He signed a one-year deal for $1.5 million. He didn’t have an out clause, but he had a million-dollar buyout clause.
The idea was to go over toSpain, make some money, get better, and come back an even more desirable free agent. Didn’t work out that way.
At both the positions he plays, Williams had people ahead of him in the rotation. At shooting guard, he backed up Brad Oleson and Pau Ribas. At small forward, he and Nemanja Bjelica split leftover minutes behind Fernando San Emeterio, the reigning Player of the Year.
In the Spanish league, Williams played in seven games, averaging 4.9 points in 10.9 minutes. In the EuroLeague, he played in three games, averaging 5.3 points in 13.3 minutes.
Caja Laboral, a couple weeks ago, let Williams out of his contract. He said he didn’t have to pay the buyout price.
WILLIAMS: “Just one of them things. Me and the coach … he just wasn’t feeling me. I really don’t know why. It just didn’t work out. … If I stayed (in the U.S.) and worked out, I probably would’ve been better off.”
Williams has no idea where he would land. He wouldn’t reveal where he would like to go. But he said he wanted to see if there was a team that proved to be a better fit (particularly, a place with an opportunity for minutes).
Williams said he liked playing for the Warriors and he’s tight with his teammates, especially Curry. But you get the sense that he’s got concerns about wanting to be somewhere he’s not wanted.
The Warriors have the right to match any offer sheet Williams signs. So if they want him badly enough, they can have him.
GM LARRY RILEY: “It’s up to his agent to go out and field offers, then we’ll make a decision. We like Reggie. We like him on our team. Is there a number where that is impossible? Yes, there is.”
Williams was sure to point out he’s never been through this before, so he’s trying to keep his head about him. There is one bright side to this. Whatever happens, it will happen quickly. Free agency is less than three weeks.
WILLIAMS: “Better than sitting in Virginia sweating bullets all summer, wonder if anyone wants me or not.”