The way Lou Williams has played since being inserted in the Hawks starting lineup would certainly make it difficult for them to send out a unit that doesn’t include the guard.
Williams would like to keep it that way.
Just consider the results. The Hawks have won the past four games since inserting Williams as the starting shooting guard. He has a combined 71 points (26 of 55 shooting, .473), including 12 3-pointers, 26 assists and 20 rebounds. A career-high 12 of those assists came in Saturday’s victory over the Pacers in which Williams recorded his first career points-assists double-double.
“I feel good about our offense,” Williams said. “I’m excited about the opportunity to start. Anything I can do to keep that position.”
Williams, who signed with the Hawks as a free agent this summer, spent much of first seven seasons coming off the bench for the 76ers. He had previously played 173 straight career games, dating back to March 14, 2010, before getting the start against the Bulls last week. That’s more than two full NBA seasons. He missed a game March 15 due to back spasms and then came off the bench every game from March 17, 2010 until Dec. 22, 2012.
Last season, Williams led the 76ers in scoring despite not starting a game and was runner-up for the NBA’s Sixth Man Award.
Williams came off the bench the first 24 games this season for the Hawks (19-9). He is third on the team in scoring average (14.8) behind only Josh Smith (16.6) and Al Horford (15.8).
“I’m having success there,” Williams said of his starting role. “I’m in my eighth year. The last time I started was 2010 and that was a job I lost to injury instead of how I was actually playing. To not get that position back for two more seasons is different for me.
“But like I’ve said, I’m happy about the opportunity I have here. I understand that we mix up the lineups here as well so there can be games where I’m not starting or I am starting. Whatever it is, we are being successful right now. It’s bigger than me. It’s a team effort. I play a team sport and that’s all it’s about.”
Hawks coach Larry Drew said he hesitated about keeping the 6-foot-1Williams in the starting lineup because of the defensive assignments he drew during the win streak. Against the Bulls he matched up with 6-5 Marco Belinelli, against the Pistons the 6-8 Kyle Singler, against the Cavaliers the 6-4 Dion Waiters and against the Pacers the 6-5 Lance Stephenson. In the end, Drew decided to use Williams’ speed and quickness over a height disadvantage.
Williams has played both point and shooting guards for the Hawks this season. It has taken some time to learn and get comfortable with both positions in an entirely new system.
“That is what makes it a little difficult at times, him knowing exactly where he is supposed to be, the timing of different things,” Drew said. “… We knew we were giving up something in (height) but we wanted to combat that with Lou’s speed, Lou’s quickness, running him off screens, keeping him active and involved. You can see he’s gotten more and more comfortable with everything we do.”
Williams is shooting 44.4 percent (12 of 27) from 3-point range in his four starts. In the previous 24 games, he shot 33.6 percent (39 of 116) from long range. As a team, the Hawks have gone three straight games with 10 or more 3-pointers made. The last time they did that was April 15-19, 1997.
The Hawks will play at the Rockets on Monday. They will try to avenge their season-opening loss which was part of a 3-4 start. Since those first seven games, the Hawks are 16-5. They are third in the Eastern Conference with a .679 winning percentage, just a game behind the Heat (.714) and the Knicks (.700), who have played two more games.
- Chris Vivlamore
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