Vivlamore reporting. Here is my story on Lou Williams that will appear in the Sunday print edition of the AJC.
The Hawks always had the inside track in their pursuit of Lou Williams.
The point guard says he envisioned himself one day playing for his hometown team while growing up in metro-Atlanta. After seven seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers, who drafted him straight out of South Gwinnett High, Williams didn’t take long to make up his mind once a free agent this summer.
“It was actually a speedy process,” Williams said after a recent training camp practice. “It wasn’t difficult for me. There were three or four teams who were serious about getting me. Atlanta was one of them. I kind of gave Atlanta the edge because this was the hometown team. This was actually a team I’ve wanted to play for in middle school and high school growing up. Once we were able to work the terms out that were satisfactory for both sides it was a no-brainer for me.”
Williams had a well-documented stellar high school career at South Gwinnett. He was named Mr. Basketball in Georgia as both a junior and senior. He was the recipient of the Naismith Award in 2005 as the nation’s top high school player.
As the Hawks were undergoing their offseason makeover, Williams kept up with all their moves via close friend Josh Smith. The two have known each other since Williams was in the sixth grade after moving back to Atlanta from Memphis. They competed against each other in AAU tournaments and various elite basketball camps. They share the common thread of making the leap straight to the NBA from high school.
The 76ers moved in a different direction with the acquisition of center Andrew Bynum during the offseason. They became less a guard-oriented team, one that Williams flourished in during his tenure, and will play out of the post. Williams no longer fit their plans.
The writing on the wall, Williams kept an eye and ear on Atlanta.
“I was always familiar with the way things were moving because me and Josh would always communicate on a personal level as close friends,” Williams said. “Seeing Joe [Johnson] leaving and seeing that there was an opportunity to fill a void with scoring. And they brought Devin [Harris], DeShawn [Stevenson] and Anthony [Morrow] in before myself. Those were guys who I was interested in playing with. Those are guys I knew would compete at a high level. I wanted to be part of the process.”
Williams, now 26, knows his homecoming is a story in Atlanta. He joked that he needed a cue card with his response to the many questions about his arrival here at the team’s media day before the start of training camp.
Hawks general manager Danny Ferry said the team’s pursuit of Williams had nothing to do with his local connection. He was attracted to Williams’ skill set and leadership.
“He can play,” Ferry said. “He’s a guy who has some leadership qualities that I think will be a real positive to our group and change the chemistry of our group a bit. And he can score. Having a guy like that, whether he starts or comes off the bench, that can get his own shot and make a play at the end of the [shot] clock and know that any night he can have a big night. For us to be able to add him to this group is great.”
Williams led the 76ers in scoring last season with an average of 14.9 points in 64 games all off the bench. Williams became the first player to lead his team in total points without making a single start since Dell Curry did it with Charlotte in 1993-94. He said he has no preference to start or substitute with the Hawks, as long as he is part of the rotation.
With Williams, the Hawks have three speedy guards along with Jeff Teague and Harris. That was a plus when Williams was deciding the next step of his career.
“I’ve played in systems with a bunch of guards,” Williams said. “I’ve played with Jrue Holiday and Allen Iverson at the same time. I played with Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner at the same time. Andre Miller and Allen Iverson at the same time. I’ve always been in systems where we’ve been deep at the guard position but everybody has an opportunity to play and contribute.
“It’s a situation I’m familiar with. I’m a team guy. I’m not interested in personal accolades. At this point in my career, in year number eight, it was to be about winning. It has to be about putting yourself around guys who want to compete at a high level. That’s what I’m about.”
- Chris Vivlamore
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