Second Chance Center

22 12 2011

There will be a former New Jersey Net with the last name Williams playing in his hometown for the Dallas Mavericks during the upcoming NBA season… no, D-Will will remain in the Eastern Conference this upcoming season.

The Dallas Mavericks are in the process of finalizing a two-year deal for shot-blocker Sean Williams. Many saw a deal such as this one coming since the Mavs lost Tyson Chandler and opened up two roster spots with the trading of Rudy Fernandez and Corey Brewer.

Williams doesn’t come to the team with a simple past like most NBA players. It was not until Williams turned 15-years-old before he began playing organized basketball when he attended Mansfield High School in Dallas, Texas. He became an instant standout due to his size and athleticism, attracting many college recruits.

Boston College accepted him into their program as he established himself as a force in the paint while playing for their basketball team. Fans even began calling each game a “Sean Williams Block Party.” However, even with all this natural talent, immaturity hurt his image. He had to play basketball at the University of Houston during his sophomore year because of a semester suspension. He ultimately was dismissed by Boston College during his junior year due to multiple suspensions during his three-year tenure.

Even with these problems, the Nets decided to take a chance on the freak athlete by drafting him 17th overall in the 2007 NBA Draft. In his rookie campaign, Williams attended the Rookie-Sophmore All-Star game, largely due to his big-time dunks and constant blocks. Many hoped for a breakout year following this promising start. Unfortunately, Williams’s immaturity and off court issues persisted into his Nets’ days. After the Nets drafted Brook Lopez in the 2008 NBA Draft, instead of stepping up his game with the new competition being brought to the team, Williams didn’t look to improve his game to fight for a starting position. Eventually, the Nets sent him to their Development League affiliate – the Colorado 14ers –  where he begrudgingly played for most of that year. In 2009 that season, Williams was arrested and charged with disordely conduct and criminal mischief after getting into an argument with a mall clerk and smashing a computer monitor. By 2010, the Nets were fed up with Williams’s antics and decided to waive him. He bounced around with a few foreign teams before coming back to America to play in the D-League.

His next D-League stop brought along some promise for the big man. Nancy Lieberman and the Texas Legends brought him to the team for the 2010-2011 season. He attended the 2011 NBA D-League All-Star Game and finished second in voting for Defensive Player of the Year after averaging 14.4 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 2.9 blocks. Since Mavericks president Donnie Nelson co-owns the Texas Legends, he is well aware of Williams’s skills. He has seen many of Williams’s games.

Similar to what many NBA players ended up doing, Williams traveled to Israel to play a season for Maccabi Haifa because of the extended lockout. However, a buyout has been negotiated between Williams’s owner, Bernie Lee, and Maccabi Haifa’s owner, Jeffrey Rosen, bringing him to Dallas.

After the first practice with his new team today, Williams seemed very thankful for his fresh start back in his hometown. He became emotional when discussing the difficulty his career has been up to this point, while also emphasizing that everybody has their own path in life. The Williams I heard speaking today seemed much more humble than the kid that jumped onto the Nets squad.

Just as the Rangers take a risk by bringing in Yu Darvish for the amount of money it will cost them, this move by the Mavericks management to bring in Williams has a lot of uncertainty right along side it. There are plenty of veteran centers out there that would be happy to join a club coming off a championship, but Nelson and Cuban have decided to go in another direction and take a chance with the former Eagle.

The last time the Mavericks signed a young player with this exact name to the team – Shawne Williams – it was a total bust. They knew he was immature, but hoped for development to take place throughout the season. Nothing close to this happened as he was a constant problem in the locker room and outside the gym. After only appearing in 15 games during the regular season (usually during trash time), the Mavericks let him go after a single season with the organization.

Will Sean Williams have a different outcome than Shawne Williams? This is a question that can only be answered as the NBA season progresses. I believe being back home where it all started in high school for Williams will be a positive factor – just look how he handled himself while playing for the Texas Legends. On the court, he dominated the paint while off the court, no problems arose. Being back in Dallas provides him with comfort and a sense of security.

There is so much potential in this 6-10, 235 pound athlete, but if the right attitude doesn’t go side-by-side with Williams, an early exit most likely will come since the Mavericks mean business. The Mavericks are a winning ball club – eleven straight 50+ win seasons justifies that belief – and contend for a championship year in and year out, so dealing with a troublemaker will not be tolerated.

Williams probably doesn’t realize how important he might be towards the Mavericks success this upcoming season. With the departure of Tyson Chandler, the impact he brought to the team last year can not and will not be replaced. Brendan Haywood unfortunately lacks the emotional leadership Chandler brought night in and night out. Haywood won’t be able to be a 30+ minute center with his tendency to get into foul trouble and also his lack of dominate production. With Mahinmi and Wright still learning the ropes of the NBA along with Williams, the valuable back-up center spot for this Mavericks team is up for grabs. If Williams makes the decision to focus on basketball and put aside all his previous problems, I can easily see him taking command of this role for the reigning NBA champs. A second chance has been placed right in front of Sean Williams and it’s up to him to take it or leave it. Not only as a Mavericks fan but also as an NBA fan, I hope to see this young man take it.

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