Geoff Petrie was really good talking about Jason Williams. Lots of insight, no ducking the J-Will shortcomings while offering long analysis on the positive impact, capturing the near-impossible to capture of how just three seasons in Sacramento could have meant so much to the Kings and the league as a whole.
Space limitations allowed only a small portion to be used in the Williams retrospective in today's paper. But the entire Petrie breakdown is worthwhile reading.
Question: How will Jason Williams be remembered, now that he's announced his retirement?
Answer: He really has a little bit of a unique place in history of the NBA, I think, in the sense that his rookie year and into his second year, he kind of came out of nowhere at a time when the league was coming out of the lockout and sort of struggling with its style of play and just trying to regain some of the footing it had lost at that time. And here was this kid that had these incredible dribbling and passing skills and sort of pedal-to-the-metal attitude about the game. He just caught the imagination of the entire country, along with the rest of our team.
It really helped the NBA. It really helped this franchise, along with a lot of other terrific players too. He became the darling of ESPN highlights just about every night. I've told this to other people: there was a time there, probably for about a year or so, other than Michael Jordan, he was the most popular basketball player in America because of this flamboyant style he had.
As his career went on and after he left here, his game got a little more conservative. He had some good years in Memphis and then won a title in Miami. He ended being a starting point guard in a championship team. That's something that every point guard would like to have."
Q: With the perspective of time, what did he mean to this franchise?
A: A lot. A lot.
Q: What do you think is his biggest contribution?
A: I just think he brought a lot of fans back to the game and to the Kings. He was just one of those players that you wanted to go see play because you weren't quite sure what was going to happen but that it was going to probably be real interesting.
Q: How about the times when things were too interesting? Did that get in the way of his talent?
A: Oh, I don't know. I think that's something that every player probably at some point after he's done playing looks back and says, 'Did I do everything I could have done to be the best I could be?' I think that's probably best left to Jason. But no one can deny, and I wouldn't, the tremendous impact he had here.
Q: Was he a guy that maxed out his talent?
A: I think if you go back to the desire and the time he spent to develop the skill level he had in some areas that he did, he certainly did. Sometimes applying that was a little bit more of a challenge than others. But, hey, he was the starting point guard on a championship team. It doesn't get any better than that.
Q: Is he a guy that you think will always be appreciated, or as the years pass is this going to be one of those situations where people forget the gift that he had for handling the basketball?
A: I don't know. That's kind of an abstract question. I think for the people that were around him and played with him and watched him play, they won't forget it.
Q: How about him personally? How did he change over time?
A: I haven't talked to him a lot since he left here. But from what I've heard from other people, and maybe he was slowed a little bit because of injuries, but I think his game on the court, like most good pros, it got more stable as he matured and found the right home and the right combination when he finally got to Miami. He's a father now. He's had a lot of other changes in his life that have been good for him.
Q: Did the timing surprise you, that he would quit a few days before training camp?
A: It caught me off guard. It really did. We had some conversations with his agent this summer, and he (Williams) was really committed to playing again. It really kind of came out of the blue for me.
Q: Do you think it was a health thing with the knees or more maybe a heart thing, that he just looked ahead and didn't want to go through it again?
A: I don't know.
No interpretation needed. Williams was well liked by teammates and frustrated them anyway by blowing off meetings and not focusing enough on getting better, which doesn't even begin to get into his tangled relationship with fans. Williams was also a lightning flash as a ballhandler, couldn't shoot, didn't defend and, most of all, became someone because he didn't walk into the right place at the right time. He was at the forefront of making it that place and time.