October 12, 2007
Shelden Williams' rookie season with the Hawks played out like an identity crisis of sorts for a college center trying to learn power forward in the NBA. At least that much is over now. The introduction of Al Horford to the four-spot has clarified Williams' role this preseason. He's the backup center to Zaza Pachulia.
The center part, at least, is OK by Williams. "To be honest, wherever I need to be to help the team, and be out on the court and produce [is fine]," Williams said. Center is where he flourished in April when Pachulia was out with nagging injuries. Williams averaged a double-double (11 points, 10 rebounds) over nine games to take rookie-of-the-month honors.
Center is a role the Hawks feel the 6-foot-9 Williams is more suited to, despite the inches he gives up to big centers around the league. His wide body and post play are better suited to banging than guarding quick players such as Kevin Garnett and Dirk Nowitzki at power forward.
"I just think Shelden's probably more suited at the five," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "In our league today, you'll find there are not a lot of Shaqs. I think you can get away with playing guys who are 6-8 and 6-9 at the center spot. You just have to have good team defense and chemistry."
July 17, 2007
One old scout who starred as a big man during playing days brought up some really interesting observations about Shelden's game that I never paid close attention to. "He needs to learn how to play and use his size and brawn to his advantage," one of my guys told me. "He steps away from contact when he receives the ball in the post as opposed to initiating it first, which is exactly what he's not supposed to do. But I love this guy. He's got those long arms and those broad shoulders, and he's thick in the chest. He's got everything you need. He just really doesn't know how to play yet. He needs someone to teach him how to use what he's got to be the most effective. But he plays hard all the time. I love his heart. He never backs down and he's not going to give you anything less than his best. Guys just need to know what to do sometimes. They need to be taught how to use what they've got. He came into the league and people assumed he was a finished product. That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard and people make those kind of ridiculous comments about these players all the time. You can always learn and be molded into a better player."
More Shelden Snippets
Williams seems a vivid case study of the collegiate star who's simply not talented enough to be much more than a professional role-filler. (Horford, by way of contrast, should be a bigger star in the NBA than he was at Florida.) Williams is smart and earnest, but he's not big enough to be a pro center and not forceful enough to make an impact at power forward. He is, to put it bluntly, just another guy.
Rookie forward Shelden Williams, the Hawks' ninth man, if you will, hasn't played more than seven minutes in any of the past seven games, meaning the Hawks are basically going eight-men deep most nights.
"I think with Shelden, and this is me speaking personally, the thing he has to add to his game is knowing who he is as a basketball player," said Larry Drew.
Shelden Williams finished with 21 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks for his fourth straight double-double.
LATE PUSH: Hawks rookie Shelden Williams secured his fifth double-double in his past six games by halftime Monday and finished with 16 points, 17 rebounds.
All Hawks rookie Shelden Williams needed was a little more playing time to resume the productive ways he showed during the first two months of the season, when he started 27 games and ranked as the league's rookie leader in rebounds. In five games this month, Williams is averaging 9.4 rebounds per game. He grabbed a season-high 16 rebounds in last week's win over Milwaukee and scored 14 points in Tuesday's win over Boston.
Williams suffered through a bit of an identity crisis during his rookie season with the Hawks. During the roller-coaster season he went from a starter early, to an afterthought halfway through, before finishing strong and earning Rookie of the Month honors in April.
For the season he averaged 5.5 points and 5.4 rebounds in 18.7 minutes but finished with four straight double-doubles and led all rookies with eight for the season.