The Los Angeles Times has the report that Jason Williams just quit on the Clippers, but also the disclaimer from coach Mike Dunleavy: "He could be like Brett Favre. And in a month from now he could want to play again."
The Clips aren't totally buying this as an actual retirement, in other words.
It's a strange development either way. Maybe, as the new season approaches with training camp opening Tuesday, Williams realizes he doesn't have another season in him, whether emotionally or in a body that has allowed 67, 61 and 59 games the previous three seasons. Maybe he'll take a step back and decide he wants to play after all. The distrusting J-Will let very few people in on his thinking, as always, and even his agent was reportedly surprised by the decision some seven weeks after his client signed a one-year deal with L.A.
It's also unwanted news for a team that hoped to move from offseason craziness -- Elton Brand and Corey Maggette leaving, Baron Davis, Marcus Camby and lottery pick Eric Gordon arriving -- to a place of greater stability. The retirement of a projected backup point guard hardly qualifies as the ground moving under the Clippers again, but the timing is obviously bad. That's what moves it from cursory event everywhere except Sacramento and Miami to meaningful in the Pacific Division and Western Conference.
The Clippers are realistic playoff candidates again and may have just lost an important role player. They set their roster based on the expectation of a Williams presence. The late call is more critical because starter Baron Davis has a bad history of injuries, although he went all 82 with the Warriors in 2007-08.
The new No. 2 is Jason Hart, another former King. Shaun Livingston, a Clipper the last four seasons, remains a free agent, but as unlikely as ever to return unless negotiating stances take a significant change of direction. L.A. was interested in having him back at something closer to a one-year guarantee, Livingston is holding out for more security, and so far no one has signed him as he recovers from the career-threatening knee injury that now overshadows the huge upside that once existed.
If this is the end for Williams, the final numbers are 11.4 points, 6.3 assists, 2.27 turnovers and 39.6 percent from the field in 679 regular-season games over 10 star-crossed seasons in Sacramento, Memphis and Miami. He was the starter as the Heat won the championship in 2006 and a member of the All-Rookie team in 1999 as a King. He electrified and frustrated and generated a level of interest and debate few have or ever will match in this area.
Dumping J-Wild on the Grizzlies for Mike Bibby in 2001 proved to be one of the best Geoff Petrie moves, a heist easy to project the moment it happened no matter how many loud Williams loyalists swore off their Arco tickets and predicted doom and (gasp!) boredom for the Kings. Neither happened, of course. But it says a lot that Sac management still held him in high regard and viewed Williams as maturing through the years to the point that it would have considered signing him this summer if Beno Udrih had not come back.
In the end, Udrih remained a King and the great plot line of a Williams reunion never happened. But the Kings still have a positive opinion of him. After everything that happened, that's not such a bad way to go out.