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NBA AM: Larkin Explains His Move to Spain

Shane Larkin discusses his decision to sign with Baskonia in Spain, why he’s bounced around the NBA and more.

Alex Kennedy

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In Shane Larkin’s first three NBA seasons, he played for three different teams (the Dallas Mavericks, New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets) as well as four different head coaches (Rick Carlisle, Derek Fisher, Lionel Hollins and Tony Brown).

This upcoming season, the No. 18 overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft will play for the Spanish club Baskonia after signing with them this offseason. The 23-year-old point guard will join fellow former NBA players Andrea Bargnani, Roddy Beaubois and Tornike Shengelia on the Spanish squad. Larkin and Bargnani will be teammates for the third straight year, as they also suited up together on the Knicks and Nets.

Over the course of his three-year NBA career, Larkin averaged 5.8 points, 3.2 assists, two rebounds and 1.1 steals while shooting 43.8 percent from the field. Last year, he averaged 7.3 points, 4.4 assists, 2.3 rebounds and 1.2 steals in 22.4 minutes for Brooklyn. His per-100-possession stats were 16.3 points, 9.8 assists, 5.2 rebounds and 2.7 steals. After Larkin completes this season in Spain, the unrestricted free agent wants to return to the NBA.

Basketball Insiders recently caught up with Larkin to discuss his decision to sign with Baskonia, why he’s bounced around the NBA early in his career, what he hopes to accomplish while in Spain and more.

Basketball Insiders: One thing you told me before free agency was that you were determined to find a good situation, a good fit. Was your decision to sign overseas mainly about not finding the right situation in the NBA due to interested teams having a lack of playing time or offering only a partial guarantee?

Shane Larkin: “Yes, for sure. I had to switch agents halfway through free agency because I didn’t really like the direction I was heading with my former agent. But when I signed with Jim Tanner, he laid out all of the options on the table. With what was presented to me, I felt like this opportunity in Spain – on a historically good team that has had multiple pros come through this specific club – was my best option that late in free agency.”

BI: What stood out about Baskonia as you were making your decision? Why did you ultimately decide to sign with them?

Larkin: “They have had multiple pros come through this club and I believe that, in many ways, I can grow on this team. I can’t name every single pro who has come through here, but I know of Jose Calderon, Pablo Prigioni, Luis Scola, Mirza Teletovic and Tiago Splitter to name a few. So it is obvious that the culture is very good, and the level of coaching and competition is very high. I believe that with this great opportunity I have been given, I can grow here as a person and as a player. That’s what is best for me at this point in my young career.”

BI: This team has a lot of talent when you look at the roster. You’re teaming up with former NBA players Andrea Bargnani, Roddy Beaubois and Toko Shengelia among others. How good can this team be and what are your expectations entering the season?

Larkin: “I believe we have a lot of talent on this roster. We can be really good. Obviously, the goal is to win championships, so hopefully we can grow very well together as a team and win as many of them as we can. I say championships because we play both in the Spanish league and the Euroleague, which are two different championships.

“I want to win Euroleague and win the Spanish league. I want to be the best point guard in Europe. That doesn’t necessarily mean scoring the most points or having the most assists, just being the point guard who did whatever he needed to do on a nightly basis to help his team win. If we win, everything else will take care of itself.”

BI: Was there any part of you that was hesitant to go overseas? Sometimes players don’t want to give up the NBA lifestyle, or they are worried that they’ll never be able to get back to the NBA if they sign with an international team. Were you hesitant at all, and did those things cross your mind?

Larkin: “In all honesty, I wasn’t very hesitant at all. The NBA lifestyle is amazing, but I don’t play in the NBA because of the lifestyle. I play in the NBA because I love to play basketball at the highest level of competition. And with you saying players worry about not making it back into the NBA, that isn’t a concern of mine at all. I had several teams interested in me this summer and a few things – but nothing in regards to how I played – factored into how everything played out. Some are things I can control and some are things I couldn’t, but I think my new representation and new perspective on what it takes to be an everyday pros-pro will land me back in the league in no time. When that happens, I can grow and be more successful than I had been previously – especially after showing my abilities this year when put into a position where I can play my game in some ways.”

BI: Going overseas also presents somewhat of an adventure, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take in a new culture and gain a lot of life experience. How excited are you about this?

Larkin: “I’m very excited about this opportunity. I actually love the Spanish culture, which is one of the reasons I live in Miami during the offseason. It’s probably the most Spanish place in the U.S. My dad is actually fluent in Spanish and has wanted my siblings and I to learn Spanish forever. Overall, this will be a great experience that will only make me a better person and a better player. I’m definitely excited for it and grateful.”

BI: As you went through the free agency process, what was going through your mind? Especially as you saw other players coming off of the board, with many signing large contracts.

Larkin: “Man, this summer was insane (laughs). You had some guys going from playing low minutes per game to signing large contracts over multiple years, so it was definitely crazy. Last year as a free agent, I signed on the first day so I didn’t go through the whole process. This year, it was definitely a new experience with the cap jump and all of that. But at the end of the day, I’m happy for everybody who got paid this summer because I know the hard work you have to put in and the sacrifices you have to make in order to make it into the NBA. And oftentimes the players who don’t play as much just need the opportunity, so hopefully all of the guys people are saying don’t deserve their money play well and show their worth.”

BI: Do you feel that some of the players who signed these significant contracts with NBA teams this summer are less talented than you? I know that’s a common feeling for players.

Larkin: “No doubt about it (laughs). If you look at a lot of the guys who signed deals this summer and you look at my numbers per-36-minutes, it’s a toss up or I have better stats – and that goes for people who signed for $50 million to $15 million. But in a lot of ways, the NBA is all about perception. If you’re on a good team and you play minutes – regardless of if you produce or not – you’re viewed as a ‘winner’ and being a ‘winner’ goes a long way in the eyes of general managers and decision-makers around the league. So even though my stats are better or even, and I’m younger, and I have more potential than a lot of these guys, being on two different teams that had losing seasons hurt my overall perception in teams’ eyes. But no question about it, in my mind, I’m better than and have more potential than some of the guys who signed deals this summer. That is no shot to their games, I’m just a confident person and I know what I’m capable of if placed in the right situation with the right team around me.”

BI: In the past, we’ve talked about the chip you have on your shoulder. How much did the events of this summer add to that chip and further fuel your fire to prove yourself?

Larkin: “Maaannn, if I had a chip before, the chip has grown to the size of a damn building. Never in my life have I been so determined and motivated. A lot of stuff happened off of the court this summer that has added fuel to my fire as well. But I’m not one to talk about what I’m going to do, I just go do it and let my play speak for itself.”

BI: As I’ve pointed out in the past, you’ve done well when given significant playing time. Why do you think you’ve bounced around the NBA and what have you learned (as a player and as a person) from your career thus far?

Larkin: “I think I just haven’t been placed in the most ideal situations. In the three years I have played in the NBA, I would say that Dallas was the best situation. Dallas is an amazing franchise with great people on the staff – inside and outside of the locker room – and being drafted there was a great opportunity for me. Unfortunately, I broke my ankle two weeks after the draft and I missed all of Summer League, preseason and about the first 15-20 games of the season. So when given the opportunity to play, I had no reps against actual NBA players and the last time I had played was in March of my college season. Then, having to adjust to playing with guys the likes of Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion and Vince Carter from playing with your college teammates, it was a huge adjustment and in a lot of ways I deferred to them and just tried to stay out of their way instead of using my talents and my abilities to help them and become a regular contributor on that team. I had a few good games that season where I showed my talent and potential, but by the time I got comfortable and healthy, Devin Harris had come back from injury. At that point, we were in the playoff race so Coach [Rick] Carlisle, who typically doesn’t play rookies that much, went with the more proven and trusted player – which I cannot be mad at or upset with him about because we did push the eventual champions to seven games that year and it was a great experience. I really wish I would have had a different experience there and not broken my ankle and had the path that I had because my game is very similar to J.J. Barea, who has had an amazing career there. I feel as though I could be doing the same, if not better, if given that same opportunity. But I will say, I wasn’t as mature and professional as I should have been when I was in Dallas and I made some mistakes that I shouldn’t have as a young player. That’s something that I do regret because I feel as though that could have been the perfect place for me to grow.

“My second year with the Knicks was very different for me as a basketball player and it was tough. As everybody knows, Phil Jackson had just taken over as president and Derek Fisher had become the head coach and they wanted to implement the Triangle offense. Everybody on that roster that year had a tough time adjusting to the Triangle and we had a terrible year – myself included. I had always been a basketball player who created plays for others with my speed and quickness and ball-handling ability. But in the Triangle offense, the offense makes the plays based on the reads of your teammates and the defense so it was a huge adjustment for us all, but specifically me as a play-making point guard. And actually, when you look at that roster on paper, it was pretty good. It just didn’t mesh well with the Triangle offense, which is probably why the only people left on the team from that season are Carmelo Anthony and Lance Thomas (who was there half of the year). That was just a tough season overall. We actually started strong, but we didn’t keep it up and kept losing. Then at the All-Star break, they decided to trade J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert, and waive Amar’e Stoudemire, so we basically started over with a bunch of young guys and we just didn’t have enough talent to win games after that. Losing was tough, and losing in front of the passionate fan base that the Knicks have was tough. Madison Square Garden was a wonderful place to play and it was a great experience. I just wish we could have been a better team that season and won more games because when you win there, it is a special place. And I wish I could have been a part of that. I still go back and forth with some of the Knicks fans on Twitter or Instagram so imagine [the support] if we would have won that year? They were great fans, like personal hound dogs for anybody who would talk about anybody in the Knicks (laughs).

“Finally, this past year with Brooklyn started off being a great situation. GM Billy King called me at 12:01 a.m. on July 1, 2015, and I signed a few days later. They wanted me to come in, be myself, play my game and help the team win. And to start the season, I was doing that at a very high level. I was shooting 50 percent from the field and around 46 percent from three, and just being confident in being myself on the court. There were several articles and media outlets saying, ‘Larkin finally found his niche’ and, ‘This could be a breakout year’ and, ‘He finally turned himself into a rotation player and serviceable back up.’ Everything was going well for me personally too. We, as a team, just weren’t winning enough games. After about 30 games, they changed everything. They fired the coach, reassigned the GM and everything went haywire. Imagine playing on an NBA team with no coach and no GM. There was no direction and the interim coach Tony Brown was just kind of told to do whatever. It’s tough for anybody – coaches and players – to be in that position, but we all tried to make it work. Tony did his best and we all as players played hard and tried to win games. And with the position we were in, I think we all did a good job – including the coaches. Once all of that happened, it was kind of a roller coaster ride for me. I would play well one game and then not so well and then average and then well again – all across the board. It was just hard to find consistency. Then, they hired Sean Marks as the GM and I ended up starting the last 13 games of the year or something like that. We won two in a row against Cleveland and Indiana, and I had two good games. Then, they decided to sit Thad Young and Brook Lopez, who were our two most talented offensive players, for the rest of the season. So I was starting with other players who were talented, but not to the level of those two. I feel like in the games I started with Brook and Thad, I showed I could be a spot starter. But once they sat, that opportunity left as well. It was a roller coaster ride this past season, but I feel like I showed my talent and my potential again.

“Overall, I’m grateful for the three different situations to showcase my talent and be in three great franchises. But with each situation, it has been tough and not the best for a young player trying to find himself early in his career. Also, playing for four different coaches in three years is difficult because, regardless of the coach, they are going to want you to do different things based on their preferences. But, like I said, I am grateful for every situation because it has taught me a valuable lesson about what you have to do in the league: Be yourself and be the ultimate professional. You have to play your game and do the things that you did to got you there. You can’t please everybody, but if you go out and play your game and be yourself then they will accept it because they brought you in for that reason. With my current situation in Spain, that is what I’m focused on – getting back to being that same guy I was at the University of Miami, the one who got drafted 18th overall because of his play and the one who has all the potential to be a great player in the NBA.

“My goal is to get back to being who I am as a player – a nightmare in the pick-and-roll because I can shoot it and go by you and, defensively, being the same pest that led the ACC in steals my sophomore year. I want to just basically get back to being that guy, only now being better because I am stronger, faster and mentally tougher now than I have ever been in my career.”

Alex Kennedy is the Managing Editor of Basketball Insiders and this is his 10th season covering the NBA. He is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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NBA

Fred VanVleet is Finding Success in the NBA

David Yapkowitz speaks to Toronto’s Fred VanVleet about his unheralded path to the NBA and more.

David Yapkowitz

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Fred VanVleet is used to being the underdog. Prior to the NBA, he spent four seasons at Wichita State, a school that hasn’t always been in the national spotlight when it comes to college basketball. Even after he finished his college career in impressive fashion, leading the Shockers to the NCAA tournament every year he was there, he went undrafted in the 2016 NBA draft.

But despite the lack of recognition from national media outlets, VanVleet always knew that he was good enough to play in the NBA. He knew that his path to the league was going to be much different than many other top prospects, but he was confident. He put his trust in NBA personnel to recognize what was right in front of them.

“If you can play, they’re gonna find you. That’s the best thing about the NBA, you can’t hide forever,” VanVleet told Basketball Insiders. “You just got to try to wait and keep grinding for the opportunity, and when it comes be ready to make the most of it and that’s what I did.”

Making the most of his opportunity is definitely what he’s done. After he went undrafted in 2016, he joined the Toronto Raptors’ summer league team in Las Vegas. He put up decent numbers to the tune of 6.2 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 54.5 percent shooting from the three-point line.

He also showed solid defensive potential as well as the ability to run a steady offense. The Raptors were impressed by his performance and they invited him to training camp for a chance to make the team. They already had 14 guaranteed contracts at the time and had invited five other players, in addition to VanVleet, to camp.

VanVleet did his best to stand out in training camp that year, capping off the 2016 preseason with a 31 point, five rebound, five assist performance against San Lorenzo de Almagro of Argentina. The Raptors were in need of another point guard after Delon Wright was ruled out to start the season due to an injury.

Not only did he make the Raptors’ opening night roster, but he ended up playing some big minutes for the team as the season went on. This year, he started out as the third-string point guard once again. But with another injury to Wright, he’s solidified himself as the backup point for the time being.

“You just want to grow each year and get better. I had a smaller role last year, I’m just trying to improve on that and get better,” VanVleet said. “It’s a long process, you just try to get better each game on a pretty good team, a winning team. Being able to contribute to that is what you work for.”

VanVleet’s journey to the NBA is one that is not very common anymore for players coming out of college. More and more players are opting to spend one, maybe two years at most in college before declaring for the NBA draft.

Players like VanVleet, who spend the entire four years in college, are becoming more of a rarity. Although for him, he feels like the additional time spent at Wichita State helped him make more of a seamless transition to the NBA than some of his younger peers.

“I think more so off the court than anything, just being an adult, being a grown man coming in the door,” VanVleet said. “A pro before being a pro, being able to take care of your business. Coming in every day doing your job and being able to handle the things that come with the life off the court.”

The NBA season is a long one. Teams that start out hot sometimes end up fizzling out before the season’s end. Similarly, teams that that get off to a slow start sometimes pick it up as the season progresses. The Raptors have been one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference the past couple of years and this season looks to be no different.

Even with the Boston Celtics’ hot start, the Raptors are only three games back of the top spot in the East. They’re only one game back in the loss column. There was a time when mentioning the word ‘championship’ was unheard of around this team. Things are different now.

“We’re trying to contend for a championship. Obviously, we’ve been at the top of the East for the last few years,” VanVleet said. “We’re trying to get over that hump and contend for a championship, that’s definitely our goal. It’s a long year and still pretty early, but we’re just trying to grow and build and get better each game.”

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G-League

NBA DAILY: Tyrone Wallace Is Breaking Out in His Own Backyard

On his second G-Leauge team in two years, Tyrone Wallace is putting up numbers close to home, working towards his NBA shot.

Dennis Chambers

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Located in the heart of Southern California, Bakersfield sits just on the cusp of Los Angeles’ shadow.

In terms of size, it’s not easy to overlook this Californian destination. Bakersfield is the ninth most populated city in the state. But it doesn’t hold the glamour that its contemporary two hours south down Interstate-5 possesses. Instead, Bakersfield rests its laurels on the farming past that made it the city it has become today, with three of the four top employers in the city either being farm or produce companies.

Working for a produce company doesn’t interest Tyrone Wallace, though. He’d much rather spend his time on the hardwood. Wallace grew up in Bakersfield. He’s Bakersfield High School’s all-time leading scorer and two-time Bakersfield Californian Player of the Year.

Wallace has sown his oats with a leather ball as opposed to some vegetables.

Growing up in Bakersfield is crucial to Wallace’s story, however. On the outskirts of Los Angeles, Wallace grew up a hardcore Lakers fan, caught up in the generation of kids who idolized Kobe Bryant. It’s Kobe, and Wallace’s brother, Ryan Caroline, who led him to where he is now.

Where that is, exactly, is playing professional basketball in the NBA G-League for the Agua Caliente Clippers. About another 45 minutes down Interstate-5 from his hometown.

For Wallace, getting an opportunity to work towards his dream of playing basketball at the highest level so close to home is a blessing.

“It’s been really fun for me,” Wallace told Basketball Insiders. “You know (Bakersfield) is a smaller city, not too many guys make it out, especially for basketball. It’s more of a football city, but the support there is awesome. Everybody’s behind me you know. Good games, bad games, guys are treating me, and you know the whole city is, I feel the whole support from the city. So to be so close to home is definitely a treat. I have friends and family that will come out to our games quite often. During preseason I had friends and family come out and watch. It’s been a blessing.”

Playing in front of familiar faces isn’t new territory for Wallace. After making his mark in Bakersfield, the 6-foot-4 guard went on to play his college ball at the University of California. Amid his four years at Cal, Wallace finished first-team All-Pac 12 his junior year, along with being named a finalist for the Bob Cousy Award, given to the nation’s best point guard.

Sharing the court with the likes of other NBA players like Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb in college, Wallace joined the professional fraternity himself at the eleventh hour on draft night in 2016 when the Utah Jazz selected him 60th overall.

Pick one, or pick 60. It didn’t matter to Wallace that night in June. He was just happy to get the first chance he worked his whole life for.

“It was emotional, man,” Wallace said. “You watch everybody and see them go, I had Jaylen (Brown) earlier in the first round who I was really excited for. Just sitting there, pick after pick you’re waiting there hoping you get called. But it was a dream come true, better late than never. Very few people get the opportunity to say that they were drafted so it was emotional. But after I was finally selected, I was happy, there was tears of joy. There was a lot of family with me watching throughout and we were just sitting there hoping to be called, and it happened, so it was a dream come true.”

After being selected by the Jazz, Wallace experienced his first summer league action. His performance at the time was marginal, and didn’t warrant an invite to the big league club. Instead, Wallace found himself down in the minors for Utah, with their G-League affiliate, the Salt Lake City Stars.

During Wallace’s first taste of professional basketball, he displayed some flashes of why, as he put it, he was one of 60 guys drafted in 2016. His first season in the G-League was promising when he posted per game averages of 14.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 1.3 steals on 27 minutes of action a night.

Alas, that wasn’t good enough for the Jazz organization. On July 18, 2017, just over a year after being selected with the last overall pick on draft night, Utah renounced Wallace’s draft rights, leaving him free to sign with any team.

For some, being let go after what could be considered a productive developmental year may have been a derailing let down. Not Wallace, though.

“I think in every situation you always reflect,” Wallace said. “And look back and say what could I have done better, on the court or off the court. So I think you know you always do that, but I’ve always stayed confident in myself, and I believe in myself. I kinda let that as a new opportunity that I was gonna have to go somewhere else and prove that I can play, and that I can belong. So I wanted to continue. I look at everything as a chance to learn and grow so I was just excited for the new opportunity that would be coming for me.”

New opportunities did come for Wallace. More than a few actually. But it was the opportunity that allowed the California native a chance to return to the place that led him to professional basketball initially, that has really allowed the second-year guard to flourish.

On Sept. 27, Wallace inked a deal with the Los Angeles Clippers. They weren’t his childhood favorite Lakers, but they were the same distance down Interstate-5 from his hometown. Most of all, they represented a chance to keep chasing his dream.

After playing in the preseason, Wallace was one of the last players cut from the NBA roster, and he again found himself in the G-League. This time with Agua Caliente.

Wallace’s second go-around in the G-League so far this season feels different than his last, though. Almost as if the comfort of playing in his own backyard, something he’s been accustomed to for the majority of his basketball life, is easing him out on the court. Whatever it is, it’s reflecting itself in his performance. This year, Wallace upped his averages from last season to 22.5 points, 6.2 rebounds, and five assists per game.

“I worked really hard this summer,” Wallace said. “Just going to the gym, hitting the weight room. I don’t think I necessarily changed anything. I just think being a year in, another year of experience playing in the G-League, I think that helped within itself. Then I think the system here that we run in LA helped a lot, fits my game,  more uptempo. Trying to get out on the break, a lot of pick and rolls. So I think everything just took off at once. I definitely feel like I got better in the offseason, but also just playing in this system where it helps my game.”

It’s been an interesting journey for Wallace since he left college. With the way things have shaped out, especially during this season where he seems to do no wrong on the court, it’s imperative he stays focused on his own goals. Instead of looking at others across the league who may be getting a shot he feels he deserves, Wallace wants to just “stay in my own lane.” Patience and hard work are what Wallace believe will ultimately deliver the goals he’s after.

“I know it’s coming,” he said.

When that opportunity does come, whether it’s near home in Los Angeles, or somewhere else across the country, Wallace will be happy to just be wanted. Just like the way Bakersfield has always treated him.

“Man, I’ll tell you any team for me it would be great,” Wallace said. “I haven’t really had a real NBA deal, and so for me just getting to that level on a team would definitely be a dream come true. I don’t have a specific team I would like to play for. Whoever wants me, I’ll want them.”

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NBA

NBA DAILY: Lou Williams Stepping Up For Injured Clippers

The Clippers have been hit by injuries again, but Lou Williams is doing everything he can to keep the team afloat.

Jesse Blancarte

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The Los Angeles Clippers have been decimated by injuries this season. Blake Griffin is sidelined until approximately February of next year. Danilo Gallinari has been sidelined for an extended period of time with a glute injury and will continue to be out of action for some time after suffering a second glute injury recently. Patrick Beverley underwent season ending microfracture surgery in November. Milos Teodosic suffered a foot injury in just the second game of the season and only recently returned to the lineup. Austin Rivers just suffered a concussion and could miss some time as well.

With so many injuries, the Clippers currently find themselves in the 10th seed in the Western Conference with an 11-15 record. This isn’t what the Clippers had in mind when they brought back a solid haul of players last offseason in exchange for Chris Paul.

Competing with the top teams in the Western Conference was always going to be difficult for this Clippers team. Los Angeles has plenty of talent on the roster and added a few younger prospects to develop. However, key players like Griffin and Gallinari are injury prone and both needed to stay on the court for the Clippers to have any hope of staying in range of the West’s top teams. The Clippers lost 9 games straight in the middle of November and it looked as though they were on course to be competing for a top lottery pick in next season’s draft.

However, despite all of the injuries and setbacks, Lou Williams, along with iron man DeAndre Jordan, has picked up the slack and has done more than his fair share to keep the Clippers’ playoff hopes alive. This season, Williams is averaging 20 points, 4.8 assists and 2.7 rebounds per game, while shooting 45.2 percent from the field and 40 percent from three-point range (on 6.2 attempts per game). Williams is sporting a healthy 21.2 Player Efficiency Rating, which is a near career best rating (Williams posted a 21.4 PER last season). His True Shooting percentage (59.3) is tied with his career high rating, which Williams posted last season as well. Williams’s free throw rate has taken a dip this season, but his ability to draw timely (and often questionable) fouls has been a valuable asset to his team once again. Simply put, Williams has been particularly efficient on offense this season for the Clippers – a team that has lost its most reliable scorers and playmakers.

“We’ve had some guys go down with injuries and somebody has to step in and fill that scoring void,” Williams said after helping the Clippers defeat the Magic. “I’ve been able to do it.”

Williams has also hit plenty of big shots for the Clippers this season. Most recently, Williams knocked down a go-ahead three-pointer in the final seconds against the Washington Wizards that sealed the win for the Clippers. The Clippers are used to having a natural born scorer coming off the bench to act as a sparkplug as they had Jamal Crawford on the roster for the last five seasons. Similar to Crawford, Williams struggles to hold his own on the defensive side of the ball. But Williams has been more effective defensively so far this season for the Clippers than Crawford was for the majority of his time in Los Angeles. Williams isn’t going to lock down the Russell Westbrooks of the world, but he isn’t giving back the majority of the points he scores either.

In addition to his scoring, Williams is a solid playmaker and has managed to facilitate the Clippers’ offense at various points of the season. Williams isn’t exactly Chris Paul in terms of setting up his teammates for easy baskets, but he has been notably effective in this role, which is very important considering how many playmakers have falled to injury this season. Williams is now, arguably, the team’s best offensive weapon and one of its most effective floor generals. Now that we are nearly two months into the NBA season, it seems as though Williams and his teammates are starting to find a little more chemistry with one another.

“I think these guys are just starting to be more comfortable. They understand we’re going to have some injuries and guys are going to be down,” Williams said recently. “So they’re just playing with a lot of confidence. I think at first you’re kind of getting your feet wet and guys don’t want to make mistakes. Now guys are just going out there and playing as hard as they can.”

Williams will need to continue building chemistry with his teammates if they are to keep pace until players like Gallinari and Griffin make it back onto the court.

The Clippers have won six of their last 10 games and are starting to steady what had becoming a sinking ship. Smart gamblers and predictive algorithms would caution against betting on the Clippers making the playoffs this season, but they are in much better shape now than they were in the middle of November — an accomplishment that Williams deserves plenty of credit for.

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