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Marvin Williams Sr. Is More Than Just An NBA Dad

Drew Maresca caught up with Marvin Williams Sr., author of Secondary Break: An NBA Dad’s Story, to discuss his son’s time in Atlanta, how he feels his career would be different today and LaVar Ball.

Drew Maresca

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Marvin Williams Sr., the father of 15-year veteran Marvin Williams Jr., is not shy. On the contrary, he’s so outspoken about his life and experience that he wrote a book about it – Secondary Break: An NBA Dad’s Story. And he’s also outspoken about his son and how he was developed as a professional basketball player.

“I think Marvin could have been developed better and utilized better – he was the No. 2 overall pick in the draft,” Williams Sr. recently told Basketball Insiders.

But while Williams Sr. is an outspoken advocate of the game of basketball, racial equality and a number of other topics that are important to him, he’s not a show-off and he doesn’t say any more than he must. He’s the anti-LaVar Ball, an NBA-dad who tries to drive narratives about his sons and their basketball careers instead of advocating for them. Unlike Ball, Williams Sr. is calculated and deliberate, recognizing the difference between speech as a means of making a point and talking to hear yourself speak.

“I feel like LaVar has done a terrible job,” Williams Sr. said. “And let me tell you why.”

“Chris Paul’s dad and I have an organization called Fathers and Men of Professional Basketball,” Williams Sr. explained. “What our group is about is letting people know that [the media] were portraying black athletes as only having moms, not dads. But Chris’ dad has been in his life his whole life, I have been in Marvin’s life his whole life. But when you’re in public getting introduced, they look at you like you’re crazy.”

“I’ve had people say, ‘You must be his step dad.’ But that’s the narrative in the NBA,” Williams Sr. continued. “We’re trying to let people know that there are dads that are in their kids’ lives.

Williams Sr.’s path began at the height of the civil rights movement in Brooklyn, NY. Predictably, the Black Panthers were influential in his upbringing.

“Their goal was all about taking care of the black community because the government wasn’t,” Williams Sr. explained. “They would step in and feed the poor community, protect them, fight for them and just pay attention to what was going on in black communities at that time.”

Williams Sr.’s childhood was split between New York and the South, including an impressive high school basketball career in North Carolina. Despite receiving multiple scholarship offers, he decided to forego basketball to join the Navy. He had his son while enrolled and he landed in Seattle, where there was less overt racism than Williams Sr. was used to. Still, there was enough for Williams Jr. to learn about racism without his dad needing to explain it.

“The funny thing is, Seattle was different,” Williams Sr. said. “Marvin was raised in a military town. I never felt that [racism]. But his uncle used to have run-ins with the police all the time, so he saw it first-hand.

“The conversation [between Marvin and I] didn’t take place, he just saw it and he understood what was going on,” Williams Sr. continued. “And then when I had my incident with the police, I sat down and explained it to him. Because when it happened, people in his school were picking on him saying his daddy got locked up. So, I had to sit him down, but his uncle had already spoken to him about that. I think he picked it all up really quick.”

Williams Sr. had a run-in with the police of Bremerton, Washington on New Year’s Eve in 2000. A portion of Secondary Break is dedicated to explaining what happened and why. Despite that setback and numerous other challenges, Williams Sr. finds himself with connections in basketball that any fan of the game would kill for.

“That’s God’s doing,” Williams Sr. said about the place he’s achieved in the basketball community. “I was put in the place that I came from and put in the place where I met the right people. And it trickled down to my son – Marvin’s been blessed. I put him with Jim Tanner at Tandem Sports, who I think is one of the best agents in the world.”

As mentioned above, the list of people to whom Williams Sr. has ingratiated himself includes the greatest of all time, Michael Jordan.

“[Jordan] outworked everybody,” he said. “I knew once he went to Carolina, that his game was going to a whole different level.

“I was competitive. We were friends off the court, but once we got between those lines, we weren’t friends, and that included Mike.”

But the list of legends in his Rolodex doesn’t end with Jordan. It also includes one of the most respected men, on and off of the court, in the broader basketball community – John Lucas II. Lucas II is currently a player development coach for the Houston Rockets. He is a 14-year NBA veteran, and was formerly the head coach of the San Antonio Spurs, Philadelphia 76ers and Cleveland Cavaliers.

Lucas II has also served as an assistant coach on numerous occasions and has spent a great deal of time and energy severing as a mentor to individual players, helping them overcome addiction issues. Specifically, Lucas coached an NBA-sponsored team in the USBL in the early 1990s that brought on Williams Sr.

“John has done a lot for a lot of NBA players. For me, he just gave me an opportunity,” Williams Sr. said. “I ran into him four or five years ago in Vegas. I thanked him for the opportunity. I used to watch him when he was in the league. He was tough.

“I liked that he was looking for guys to give second chances, too. It’s wonderful if there’s someone that can give people a helping hand.”

Williams Sr. was raised in a different era in which basketball prospects didn’t have an established system through which prospects are identified and streamlined to brand endorsements, colleges and, ultimately, the pros. Williams Sr. played at a time when word-of-mouth was relied on for scouting takes, and the best players didn’t always pursue basketball.

“With social media, I would have been in the NBA, for sure,” Williams Sr. said. “It’s all about exposure. I was [in] Division-1 playing ball, but there were only a couple of guys that could really hoop. Back then, if you couldn’t score on the SATs you’d go to the NAIT division.

“Back then, if word got out about me,” Williams Sr. mused. “I know I would’ve been in the league.”

Williams Sr. suffered the fate of many a pre-modern player – without the infrastructure provided by Nike, Adidas and the NCAA, he was left to fend for himself. But his son came up differently.

Williams Jr. was quickly identified as a strong prospect and was held in high esteem by scouts and coaches all over the nation. That led to him accepting a full scholarship to North Carolina, where he won an NCAA Championship and entered the NBA Draft after just one collegiate season. Williams Jr. was selected No. 2 overall by the Atlanta Hawks in the 2005 NBA Draft – two spots before Chris Paul. Still, Williams Sr. believes that his son could have had an even better career had he been developed more deliberately.

“At that time, if you came in as the first or second pick in the draft, they used to build the whole team around you,” Williams recalled. “You were the guy that was going to take the franchise to the next level. When Marvin went to Atlanta, that wasn’t the case.

“Everything was built around Joe Johnson, the owner was captivated with him,” Williams Sr. continued. “That general manager at the time [Billy Knight] was so far ahead of his time that people didn’t even realize what he was doing until now.

“[Knight] kept picking forwards and everyone was asking why, but they were some versatile forwards. And then with [Mike Woodson], I think he felt like Marvin was coddled at Carolina, which he wasn’t. He’s always worked hard. But Woody never gave him credit for his work ethic. Had Woody done a better job – and as a black coach, he was more concerned about keeping his job instead of developing Marvin as a second option – they could’ve done something special.”

But Williams Sr. doesn’t blame Woodson. Instead, he believes it’s a systemic issue. “Take a look at Kenny Gattison, who coached Marvin in Atlanta,” Williams Sr. explained. “I think he would’ve been an incredible head coach. He’s currently the vice president of the retired players association. He was a big man, though, so he wasn’t allowed to coach.

“When it comes to Blacks and equality, I mean, you have a white guy running the NBA, and you have white owners. You just don’t have as much power [given to Black people]. Everybody wants to win – it used to be that they were picking guys because they were white. White guys are given more opportunities to mess up and fail. Black guys, it’s all about winning. Marvin, when he was in Atlanta, I think the pressure that Woodson felt played a big role in his approach.”

Ultimately, Williams Sr. allowed his son to make his own decisions, allowing his son and his representatives to decide what was best for them. Once his son entered the NBA, he became a sounding board at – but more often than not, he was just a dad.

“I got an offer when I was younger to coach Marvin. I don’t want to be on the bench coaching my son,” Williams Sr. said. “You coach the kid all day, get in the car, they hear your mouth the whole ride. Then, in the house, they hear you all day. Eventually they’ll shut down on you.

“I’ve done a lot of individual coaching with the girls’ game,” Williams Sr. continued. “I’ve always told him, ‘if you want to play, come to me and I’ll show you how to do it. But I’m not going to force you to play.’ When Marvin got to Carolina, it wasn’t my job to coach Marvin beyond individual private work. And then, once you’re in the league, that becomes the agent’s job. They represent that player. I wanted to be a support system, not the coach or the mouth piece. And I would never go to the media and bad mouth a deal. That’s just not my place.”

But even as a sounding board, Williams Sr. recognized where his role began and ended. He tried to help his son make decisions without voicing his own preferences.

“We took opportunities as they came,” Williams Sr. explained. “As a parent, you want your kid to be put in the best possible position to be successful. If he had deals, Marvin’s agent would come to us. All I wanted him to do was to have a chance to win a championship.

“With Charlotte, I mean, Marvin loved Charlotte. But he also knew he was getting older,” Williams Sr. said. “They were moving in a different direction. He decided to move on because he knew he only had so many years left. The move to go to Milwaukee was about getting a chance to win,” Williams Sr. continued.

“I think he just wanted to get back into the playoffs and see what he could do to help a team.”

With his experience and positive outlook, it’s easy to imagine a world in which Williams Sr. joins an NBA coaching staff – but it’s equally as predictable to assume that his son will grow into a coach.

“I do know that he doesn’t want to be involved heavily as a coach,” Williams Sr. explained. “He’s gotten some offers to coach, but he definitely wants to be involved in the NBA. It’s a great fraternity, with so many different directions you can go with basketball. He’s enjoying himself, enjoying time with his kids and he’s going to figure out what’s next.”

Like his son, Williams Sr. is taking his next opportunity seriously, vetting all possibilities. But for now, he’s happy promoting his book – Secondary Break: An NBA Dad’s Story – and talking about what he’s learned as a man, a basketball player and an NBA dad.

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NBA Daily: Don’t Forget About Romeo Langford

Once a top-five high school recruit, Romeo Langford has yet to make an impact in his brief NBA career.

Dylan Thayer

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As a highly-touted high school prospect, Romeo Langford found himself at the fifth spot in the 2018 ESPN Top 100. His play earned him a spot in the 2018 McDonald’s All-American Game among big-name recruits such as Zion Williamson, and after a very successful high school career, the five-star shooting guard decided to take his talents to Indiana over both Kansas and Vanderbilt. 

Langford’s time as an Indiana Hoosier was short-lived as he only spent one year with the team before declaring for the draft. He played in thirty-two games despite tearing a ligament in his thumb. His shooting percentages reflected this injury as he shot a meager 27.2 percent from three and 44.8 percent from the field, per Sports-Reference. Both of these percentages were not reflective of the electric, efficient scorer he was at New Albany High School. 

Selected with the No. 14 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft by the Boston Celtics, there was a lot to be excited about. For starters, the Celtics were able to draft a player just inside the lottery who many thought would be a top-five pick before the 2018-19 NCAA season. They were also able to get a resilient player that grinded through his injury and was still able to pace the BIG 10 in freshman scoring with 16.5 points per game. The potential with a healthy Langford is there, and that’s what led to him being a Boston Celtic.

During a 2019 interview with Boston.com, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens spoke highly of their rookie. 

“If they would have been more on the national radar, and he would have not hurt his thumb, he probably would have been even more discussed,” Stevens said at the Celtics practice facility. “He’s a guy we were all well aware of before his first game at IU.”

If it was not clear by this quote, big things were expected from the former Indiana Mr. Basketball. 

Unfortunately, his first season on the Celtics was not much of one to write home about. Across 32 games, he managed to average only 2.5 points with 1.3 rebounds in 11.6 minutes per game, often finding himself with Boston’s G League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws.

This should not be a big indicator of how things will end up for Langford though – as flourishing Charlotte Hornets star Terry Rozier was also an afterthought off the Celtics’ bench in his first season, even though many people saw his future potential. In a Feb. 7th matchup with the Atlanta Hawks, Langford made the most of a starting opportunity, dropping 16 points on 5-for-11 shooting, including 2-for-5 from three-point range, and 3 blocks. Later, he would then undergo season-ending surgery to repair the scapholunate ligament of his right wrist during the team’s playoff run in the bubble.

As the 2020-21 season heads towards the All-Star break, Langford has yet to suit up as he still is recovering from surgery. But according to a report by NESN, Langford should be healthy enough to return following the pause. 

This then leaves the question: where does Langford fit on the Celtics roster, if at all? Amidst a disappointing start to the season, many fans and people around the Celtics have begun to sound the alarm. When the owner even comes out to 98.5 The Sports Hub and acknowledges the fact that the young Eastern Conference finalists are not currently a contender, there should be plenty of reason to panic.

The Celtics’ troubles have been all over the place this season, but the one that seems to be the most glaring is the lack of explosive scoring outside of Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. There has been some great play off the bench by Payton Pritchard and Robert Williams, but players like Grant Williams, Jeff Teague and Semi Ojeleye have struggled to be consistent factors. 

As the Celtics continue to look for splashes in the trade market, there is a lot of uncertainty around Langford’s future as the team now seems to lack tradable assets outside of the core. 

Despite his long injury, Langford is still a much more desirable piece than Javonte Green or Grant Williams. Moving on from Jeff Teague may be a route that the Celtics opt to take as well because he has failed to make much of an impact off of the bench, and this would open up playing time to test out a 100 percent healthy Langford. 

Langford could bring a great burst of energy off the bench for the Celtics if healthy, and so exciting to see how he fits alongside the outstanding rookie point guard in Pritchard. With Langford on the second unit, it would open up the floor for Tatum as he would have another solid scorer to kick the ball out to. 

Could Langford end up being the guy that fixes the bench scoring problem for the Celtics? Only time will tell, but based on his high school and collegiate careers, he very well might be 𑁋 if he’s still on the team past the deadline.

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NBA Daily: Luke Walton’s Uncertain Future

Could this be it for Luke Walton in Sacramento? David Yapkowitz examines.

David Yapkowitz

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There’s one big question surrounding the Sacramento Kings this season: what, exactly, will become of head coach Luke Walton? Walton, in the second year of a four-year deal he signed back in 2019, has often headlined the group of coaches that are thought most likely to be let go next.

Brought in by the previous regime, Sacramento’s situation has changed considerably since they brought in Walton. Former general manager Vlade Divac has since stepped down and been replaced with Monte McNair. And, often, new management will look to build their team, coaching staff included, in their own mold — that’s nothing really against the current personnel, just that different voices sometimes have different visions and want to construct a team within that vision.

If the team plays well, the new management team may be inclined to ride it out with the current staff. In a somewhat recent example, when Masai Ujiri first took over in the Toronto Raptors front office, the Raptors started surging in the standings and Ujiri held on to Dwane Casey for a while before ultimately replacing him with Nick Nurse. Casey had been hired by former executive Bryan Colangelo.

The Kings are in an interesting scenario in that, despite being a perennial bottom-dweller, expectations have existed for the team for over a decade now, the main expectation being that they would eventually improve beyond that bottom-feeder status. Now, that expectation may be more warranted than ever, as Sacramento has some seriously talented pieces in place, including franchise cornerstone De’Aaron Fox and Rookie of the Year contender Tyrese Haliburton.

In fact, just a few weeks ago, the Kings looked like they might actually be turning things around. On a four-game win streak, with wins over the Los Angeles Clippers and Boston Celtics, they looked like a different team.

Since then, unfortunately, they’ve reverted to the Kings of old. Now, they’re on an eight-game losing streak, their first such skid since 2019.

There are plenty of good teams in the Western Conference and, because of that, at least a couple of them are going to be on the outside looking in come playoff time. Of course, it can be hard to fault teams that show consistent effort and improvement. But that just hasn’t been the Kings, for quite some time now.

The main area of concern for the Kings where they haven’t shown real improvement is on the defensive end. They were already among the bottom half of the league on that end before their most recent skid, while it’s been significantly worse during their last eight games.

It’s always a possibility to bring in a defensive-minded assistant to help with that end, much like Sacramento tried to do on offense this past offseason. To spark the team on that end of the court, the Kings added Alvin Gentry to Walton’s staff and for the most part, it’s worked out: Sacramento is 12th in the league in scoring, up from 22nd last season. They’re also shooting better from three-point range while playing at a quicker pace.

But in order to win in this league, you need to do it on both ends. And that’s something the Kings haven’t shown the ability to do.

Sacramento is allowing 119.6 points per game, dead last in the NBA. Their defensive rating of 118.7 is also last. And, at this point, simply adding an assistant might not do the trick; at this point, it might just be easier (and more effective) for management to simply cut ties with Walton and set up a new staff under a new head coach.

Walton’s popularity and potential as a head coach first piqued during the 2015-16 season with the Golden State Warriors. When he stepped in for Steve Kerr, who took leave from the team to recover from back surgery, Walton guided the team to a 24-0 start and a 39-4 record upon Kerr’s return. While the Warriors were in their second of what would be five-straight runs to the NBA Finals and had a strong foundation already in place, Walton’s involvement in the feat can’t be discounted, while it opened the league’s eyes as to his potential as a head coach.

But later, during Walton’s years as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, the team showed slight, if minimal improvement each year at best. In fact, those Lakers were similar to these Kings in that they were a young team with no real experience just trying to get better. And, obviously, it’s much easier to look good when you already have an established unit.

Coaching in the NBA is a tough and often thankless job. When things go right, they get little credit. When they go wrong, the blame lies almost squarely on their head. As with players, sometimes a coaching situation just isn’t the right fit for either party; maybe this Kings’ roster just isn’t built to maximize Walton’s system.

That said, in this particular case, it would probably be best for the Kings to ride the current situation out. Sacramento has shown some improvement from last season and Walton deserves some credit for that. He’s shown constant faith and trust in his rookie, Haliburton, while he has Fox playing at a near All-Star level and Richaun Holmes looking like one of the NBA’s best in the painted area (and an absolute steal, given his contract).

Going forward, it’s worth rolling the dice and seeing if they can’t end this skid and get back to their strong play earlier in the year. Further, it might not be that great an idea to make such a radical structural change halfway through the season when your team might still have a realistic shot at the postseason.

That said, should the team continue to struggle, then it would be wise to revisit the matter in the offseason. If they do, it wouldn’t be much of a reach if McNair decides that two years is enough and that he wants to bring in a head coach of his own choosing.

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NBA Daily: Where Does John Collins Really Fit?

Since the Atlanta Hawks and John Collins were unable to agree to an extension in the offseason, rumors have swirled about the 23-year old big and his future. Ariel Pacheco breaks down which teams might be the best fit for Collins should he and Atlanta decide to part ways.

Ariel Pacheco

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John Collins has been the subject of trade rumors all season long. The Atlanta Hawks are reportedly seeking a “lottery level pick” in return for the talented big man. With Collins set to be a restricted free agent this upcoming offseason, any team that trades for him must also be willing to either offer an extension that will likely be north of $100 million or lose him for nothing.

This cuts down the list of potential suitors to just a handful of teams. These teams will have to be willing to part with draft capital and/or young players. Here’s a look at where John Collins could fit in. 

San Antonio Spurs

Few teams are as good of a fit for Collins as San Antonio. The Spurs are off to a surprising start at 16-11 and the sixth seed in the Western Conference. That said, they are in desperate need of a floor-spacing big with some upside and Collins is just that. With the 35-year-old LaMarcus Aldridge set to be a free agent and his play dropping off, Collins can slide right in as the team’s big of the future.

The Spurs have multiple young guys and their draft picks. The question is how much would they be willing to part with. There are a couple of iterations that the Spurs could send out to Atlanta. A trade centered around Derrick White and a protected pick could be something that interests the Hawks. They might also be interested in a deal that includes Lonnie Walker, salary filler and a protected pick. Again, it depends on how far San Antonio would be interested in going in their pursuit of Collins.

Oklahoma City Thunder

The Thunder have quietly been a competitive team this season, possibly more so than they want to be. With a young star they certainly want to build around in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Collins would represent an intriguing co-star to lead the franchise into the future. At the very least, the fit between the two would be beautiful to watch. Oklahoma City has a number of young, high-upside players they like in Lugentz Dort, Isaiah Roby, Darius Bazley and Theo Maledon. Adding in Collins to compliment them would significantly accelerate their rebuild.

The Thunder also happen to have a war chest stuffed with draft capital. They have 16 first-round picks and 13 second-round picks through the 2027 draft. It’ll be impossible for them to select a player with every one of those picks and, while they are unlikely to just offer them recklessly, using some of that capital to swing a trade for a young talent with All-Star potential in John Collins would be a great use of resources. 

Cleveland Cavaliers

Yes, Cleveland just added Jarrett Allen. But that shouldn’t preclude them from a potential move for Collins.

The Cavaliers have struggled after a nice start to the season. While they seem to have settled on a core centered around Allen, Collin Sexton and Darius Garland, they are in need of a frontcourt scorer who can space the floor for their guards. Collins might prove the perfect fit, as he can play alongside Allen and should prove a threat with both Sextan and Garland in the pick-and-roll. And, given his upside, the Cavaliers’ future would shine even brighter.

The difficulty here is finding a deal that works for both sides. If a deal were to happen it would more than likely have to be a three-team deal. The Cavaliers just aren’t a natural trading partner with the Hawks. A third team would be able to give both sides what they are looking for. Cleveland could also bet on Collins not signing an extension with a new team; in that event, they would be better off waiting until free-agency to offer him a deal. 

Sacramento Kings

Sacramento struck gold in this past year’s draft with Tyrese Haliburton. Alongside De’Aaron Fox, the Kings have their backcourt of the future firmly in place. Marvin Bagley and Buddy Hield have both been rumored to be unhappy in Sacramento, involving one or both of them in a trade for Collins could give the Kings a lot more upside and add some frontcourt scoring. 

This is another situation where, given their personnel, the Kings and Hawks aren’t ideal trade partners and would probably need to involve a third team. Sacramento has shown some growth this season and an upgrade in talent could help make their playoff aspirations more attainable. The Kings own all of their first-rounders and should look to be aggressive in improving their roster.

Boston Celtics

Pursuing a Collins deal is unlikely for Boston, who has shown to be very reluctant in parting with future assets in recent seasons. Still, Collins would add a pick-and-roll threat Boston just doesn’t have. The Celtics would then be able to build around an extremely strong core of Collins, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

The Celtics would have to pay Collins in the offseason, however, making them even more unlikely to swing a deal for Collins. Already paying Kemba Walker, Tatum and Brown over $100 million each, Boston would almost certainly have to and the same to Collins, further restricting their ability to fill out a roster that, beyond those three, has been lacking this season. On paper they are a great fit, but there are just too many extenuating factors that make a deal unlikely.

Plenty of other teams could (and should) put their hat in the Collins-ring but are also unlikely to do so due to various factors. The Houston Rockets, Charlotte Hornets and Denver Nuggets could all swing a deal for the big man, but they either have younger guys at his position or wouldn’t be willing to pay him.

Collins is a talented 23-year-old big man with All-Star potential. It’s not often someone of his caliber at such a young age is available on the trade market and teams should be aggressive in their pursuit. If Collins doesn’t get traded, teams will have a chance to sign him to an offer sheet in restricted free agency. He will likely command a $100 million deal, with any team that trades for him essentially ponying up for the first shot to pay him. 

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