Mark Williams’ career night creates welcomed dilemma for Hornets


Charlotte Hornets center Mark Williams (right) grabs a rebound from Oklahoma City Thunder forward Eugene Omolui (left) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Rusty Jones)


Small steps matter, given the first thoughts that ran through Nick Richards’ head when he was rescued off the court at Arena during the Charlotte Hornets’ recent trip. rice field.

After an amazing upgrade from suspicious to suspicious after a morning shootout – move first reported CHARLOTTE OBSERVER – Richards suited up for the Hornets’ 121-113 win over Oklahoma City. The Hornets big man was utterly giddy just by holding his right leg.

“I thought it was worse at the time, but it was a normal sprain,” Richards said. “I personally thought I broke his leg, so I was just happy. So the fact that it came back as just a sprain was more of a ‘thank God’ kind of thing.”

Richards’ return to the team meant Steve Clifford was able to place him in his usual reserve center position behind starter Mason Plumlee. However, the coach chose to keep the long eye on Mark Williams, and the rookie rewarded Clifford’s trust, easily producing the best game of his short tenure as a professional.

Williams had his first double-double, tallied a career-high 17 points and 13 rebounds, and made all seven field goals in 21 minutes. He also tied career highs with two blocks, two steals, and two assists.

He is the first rookie in NBA history and the fifth player in NBA history to have 15 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks on 100% shooting. Emphasized denials, crap, and over-the-edge play were all included in him. repertoire.

Williams’ impressive play poses a dilemma for the Hornets, but it’s a welcome one. They have to figure out which he two centers receive the majority of the time and how to navigate what kind of rotation with Richards and Williams moving forward. .

“For me, they’re both developing players,” Clifford said. “When you have a roster of young players, do both. We want to develop them and win as many games as possible. And we’re in a place where we have to win. But , we have to see.

“Yeah, it’s not easy. There are a lot of men in that position. Nick is going to be a part of things. I also want to see if you can help me.”

That extra time Williams spent shooting after practice and countless trips to play in the G League with the Greensboro Swarm paid off. He has earned Clifford’s trust.

And it is highly appreciated.

“The trust he put in me meant a lot,” Williams said. “I just wanted to show that it was the right decision and I just wanted to make the most of this opportunity and play hard to show my strengths.”

As Williams learned, having the right mental posture is also essential. There is no substitute.

“I just prepare every game,” he said. “You never know what each game can hold. Things can happen. I don’t think I’m nervous or anything like that, it’s just basketball.

“When I’m on the floor, I’m making the most of it and doing what I have to do on both sides of the ball. I think I showed a little bit of that tonight.”

It’s enough for Clifford to imagine that the pairing of Williams and LaMelo Ball could be a deadly combination. His effectiveness in two-man games alongside other Hornets ballhandlers like Gordon Hayward could add to their strategic strengths.

Boasting a formidable tandem of their own while battling an opposing duo who are aligned with each other can do wonders for a team’s confidence. is very likely to become

“For me, in this league, if you want to see a better starting five, there are only certain elements,” Clifford said. “So if you’re playing the roll game and you’re playing someone like Melo and you can defend the rim and play pick-and-roll defense on the other side, you can be a really good starter. Look at those guys.

“He has the basic background to be a very effective NBA player: playing the rim, being smart, having good coverage. …someone like Melo. , actually for Gordon or Terry, if they get a good pick with a solid roll, they get a good shot, and that’s an important part of the NBA game.”

The other is to rack up solid performance and avoid disappointment. That’s the job of Williams, who showed glimpses of a true contributor, averaging 10.6 points and 7 rebounds in his first three games. Consistency and continuity are paramount to franchises struggling to find viable strength in their centers.

“In this league, we have to do three or four times a week against different types of players, different types of coverage,” says Clifford. “I think he’s going to be a very good player, but this just shows how talented he is. Now it’s like, ‘Can you do it every night?’ That’s what the NBA is all about.” “

PJ Washington once wore Williams sneakers. He enjoys the scenery up close.

“I think it’s exciting,” Washington said. “He’s been working all this year, all summer. I’m excited for him. He’s basically my rookie. He’s my rockermate, so I spend a lot of time with him in video games.” I look forward to seeing him come and do what he does.”

The smile on Williams’ face seemed to indicate that his seven-foot-plus wingspan resembled Washington. often

But for a few hours he was able to ponder the possibilities.

“A match like that always builds confidence,” Williams said. “Just keep building on it. I think we’re just going to keep doing what we’ve done at an even higher level.”

Roderick Boone joined Observer in September 2021 to cover the Charlotte Hornets and the NBA. In his 20-plus years of writing about the world of sports, he has documented everything from high school rodeos to major league baseball no-hitters, Super Bowls, and finals. The Long Island native has deep North Carolina roots and endlessly enjoys The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
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