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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: Marcus Morris Thriving Off Bench

Marcus Morris has been one of the Clippers’ most dependable reserves this season, David Yapkowitz breaks it down.

David Yapkowitz

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When Marcus Morris Sr. came over to the Los Angeles Clippers last season near the trade deadline, he stepped right into the starting lineup at power forward. He started all 19 regular season games – including the bubble – and when the team re-signed him this past offseason, he looked like a lock to remain in the starting lineup.

But he’s been one of the main anchors of the Clippers’ second unit this year and coming off the bench was something he requested of new head coach Tyronn Lue. Along with Lou Williams, the pair have spearheaded one of the most formidable bench units in the NBA. The pair has combined for 24.8 points per game on the season and they’re both shooting lights out from three-point range.

On a call last month with media, Morris admitted that this dynamic pairing with Williams was exactly what he was envisioning when he initially asked to be part of the second unit.

“Building that chemistry with me and him both coming off the bench, we’ve to be one of, if not the best bench in the league. Both of us are proven vets, proven scorers in this league,” Morris said. “I think our camaraderie, us being really good friends, I think that helps on the court. Not just scoring but just being vets, being able to talk and being able to lead our unit.”

As well as he’s played this season, it wasn’t always such a smooth transition to the Clippers. Morris’ numbers dropped last year from his career averages and he shot 31 percent from the three-point line; the lowest he’s shot since his second year in the NBA. Like most of the team, he faded a bit during the team’s second-round playoff debacle against the Denver Nuggets.

This season, although his scoring isn’t as high as it used to be at 12.4 points per game, Morris’ shooting has been much more efficient. His 46.3 percent from downtown is a career-high. He looks much more comfortable in the flow of the offense and he’s played his role to perfection. Naturally, Morris credits Lue with helping him establish his role.

“I think the biggest difference is just having that exact from [Tyronn Lue] just talking to me and telling me exactly what he’s wanting me to do. Last year, I thought I was a lot of times in no man’s land, I couldn’t really put my finger on my role,” Morris said.

This year, I’m coming off the bench to be aggressive, coming off to bring energy, shoot the ball, the guys I’m playing with just playing off them. Lou does a great job of drawing the defense and you have to have guys that can knock it down. I’m just here to do whatever it takes, whether it’s to bring energy or to score.”

Morris began the season missing the first eight games due to a knee injury. But he’s always been one of the more durable players in the league and since then, he only sat out one game. Thankfully for him, he didn’t end up needing surgery only rest.

Lue has been quite pleased with Morris’ contributions this season. He credited Morris’ conditioning while acknowledging the extra work he’s put in to be as effective as he has.

“Just putting in the work, just trying to get his body right, just trying to adjust to the speed of the game, when you’ve been out for so long it is kind of tough to just step back in and play well,” Lue said. “We’ve been needing and asking more from him in the post, rebounding the basketball and, of course, shooting the basketball. He’s been great and he’s been putting in the work. You see the results.”

Like the rest of the team, Morris has been able to shut out any lingering effects from the bubble. He knows the Clippers have championship aspirations this season and, because of the way they flamed out in the playoffs, there will doubt as to whether this team is capable of winning a title.

“Seeing how many people jumped ship last year, I think it definitely helped us. That’s how it works when you have a good team and doesn’t work, people tend to jump off the ship,” Morris said. “We get back to work and we get a championship, people will jump back on the ship. That’s just how it works. We are going to continue to find our camaraderie and we are going to continue to get better. Come playoff time, we’re going to be ready.”

And for the Clippers to win their first championship in franchise history, they’re going to need Morris to be at his best. His versatility is key to their attack, while that ability to stretch the floor with his three-point shooting –plus putting the ball on the floor or posting up – is a big part of what makes the Clippers so dangerous.

He’s willing to do whatever needs to be done.

“I’m a hooper. Whatever you need me to do. One thing I do, I don’t just talk,” Morris said. “I’m just playing. I’ve been in the league for a long time, going on my eleventh year. It doesn’t change for me. One thing you’ll find out about me is I’m never too high, never too low.”

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NBA AM: Defensive Player of the Year Watch

Will we see Rudy Gobert win another Defensive Player of the Year Award? Or will we have a new winner this year?

Dylan Thayer

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In the fourth edition of the Defensive Player of the Year Rankings, Basketball Insiders continues to look at the players excelling on the defensive side of the ball. The Utah Jazz continues to be a powerhouse in the Western Conference amidst a surprising season, and they will still be well represented in these rankings. But there’s another newcomer to the list, an MVP-caliber player looking to lead his team to the NBA Finals. Ready to take look at the rankings? Let’s get into it.

1. Rudy Gobert (Previous: 2)

The 28-year-old center out of France is one of the best defensive big men the game has seen in recent years – and this year is another example of that as Gobert has been the anchor of the best team in the NBA. Better, he has been a vital piece to their unanticipated success by taking part in all 35 of the Jazz games thus far.

Looking at Gobert’s numbers, he is still second in the league in blocks with 2.8 blocks per game, trailing only Myles Turner in that category.  Gobert has had three or more blocks in 18 games, even reaching four in 12 of them. 

In the defensive rating category, Gobert ranks third in the league with a rating of 103.0, per NBA Advanced Stats. This number is just enough behind Lebron James at 102.6 and teammate Mike Conley, who leads the NBA with a rating of 100.8. These three players are also in the top three for defensive win shares, with Gobert sitting in third with a DWS of 0.154. Gobert should be the current frontrunner as he has led the best team in the NBA on defense through the first half of the season. 

2. LeBron James (Previous: 4)

As a reminder, LeBron James has not made an All-Defensive Team since 2014. How about breaking that streak with a DPotY award as well? He very well could.

Without Anthony Davis, James is unarguably the tone-setter for the defense. The Los Angeles Lakers’ victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Feb. 26 is a prime example of this. During that contest, James had 3 blocks and 4 steals as the Lakers won by 9. Furthermore, James has managed to average 1 block and 1.3 steals per game since the injury to Davis.

Notably, James ranks in the top three in both defensive rating and defensive win shares. James is just behind Conley in defensive rating at 102.6 compared to Conley’s 100.8 rating. Keep an eye on James’s defensive impact for the defending champs as the season continues to unfold.

3. Joel Embiid (Previous: N/A)

Embiid has been very neglected on this list, but now is the time for him to make his appearance. Yes, it is very high for a player to debut on this list, but he’s been on a tear as of late. 

In his career-high night on Feb. 19, Embiid went off for 50 points, 17 rebounds and 4 blocks in a matchup with the Chicago Bulls. This is the game that put the league on notice of Embiid’s brilliant season, both offensively and defensively, as he leads the first-place Philadelphia 76ers. As things stand right now, he’s averaging 1.3 blocks and 1.2 steals per game.

Taking a deeper dive into Embiid’s floor presence is what makes him stand out. He’s 13th in the NBA in defensive rating at 106.6. He also ranks 10th in defensive win shares with 0.131, per NBA Advanced Stats. The coaching change in Philadelphia has allowed Embiid to run the Sixers’ offense and, as things stand right now, he’s certainly in both the MVP and DPotY conversation. 

4. Mike Conley (Previous: 1)

Since an extended absence, Conley returned to make an instant impact in the Jazz lineup, averaging 2.0 steals over his last five games. The unexpected success has been due in large part to Conley’s improved play. Of course, Conley is high up on this year’s All-Star snub list, but his significant individual improvements won’t go unnoticed here.

Conley is currently tied for third in the league in steals per game at 1.5. He is also first in defensive rating with a rating of 100.8. Beyond that, he then ranks second in defensive win shares with 0.168. Without Conley, it’s hard to see the Jazz having the success they’ve enjoyed this year. Watch out for him as the season approaches the midpoint as he tries to become the first guard to win the award since Gary Payton during the 1995-96 season. 

5. Myles Turner (Previous: 3)

Despite a slip in the standings for the Indiana Pacers, Myles Turner has been a very bright spot for the team defensively. He leads the league in blocks with 3.4 per game and has a pretty sizeable lead over Gobert in that category. Add in the fact that he is averaging 1.1 steals per game, it’s easy to see why Turner is so high in these rankings.

If the Pacers can manage to get things back in order amidst a sub-.500 record thus far, Turner could rise into the upper part of these rankings again.

Honorable Mention: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Previous: N/A)

While voter fatigue may hinder the chance of Giannis earning his second consecutive DPotY award, he should be in the conversation again. The Milwaukee Bucks are amongst the top three in the Eastern Conference standings, thanks to the stellar defensive play from the two-time MVP. 

It will be interesting to see where he finishes in the voting after the season’s end. Maybe he gets this award for a second-straight year, while the voter fatigue towards him takes place in the MVP ballots.

While these rankings have gotten competitive as of late, there’s still plenty of time for rising and falling in Basketball Insiders’ weekly Defensive Player of the Year rundown.

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NBA PM: The Wizards Are Good Now?

The Washington Wizards went from 5-15 to 13-18 out of nowhere. Much improved from their early-season play they make a run? Dylan Thayer examines.

Dylan Thayer

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After the swap of John Wall and Russell Westbrook, the Washington Wizards did not look like they were going to be a playoff team. 20 games into the season, the team found themselves at 5-15 with trade rumors constantly buzzing. At one point, they even had the worst record in the NBA, while looked like a trade of Westbrook, Bradley Beal or even both was a certainty with the team was set to pivot into a true rebuild.

Now, all of a sudden, Washington has the look of a team that could make the postseason play-in game. 8-5 in their last 13 with wins over the Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets, Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Lakers, the Wizards have started to climb the conference, now just 2.5 games back on the Charlotte Hornets for the East’s eighth seed.

But what’s changed? Let’s take a step back and look at what exactly made them start the season out so slowly.

Early in the year, the former MVP Westbrook was playing through a left quad injury. He wasn’t nearly explosive with the ball as he’s always been, settling for low-percentage jumpers and outside shots, perhaps the biggest weakness in his game. Between the injury and COVID-19 postponements, Westbrook and many other Wizards were away from the court for a significant time — the whole team was in flux.

Then, on Valentine’s Day, the team took the floor in Boston and destroyed the Celtics; the 104-91 final doesn’t truly reflect that, but at one point the Wizards led by as many as 25. A national game beatdown, their play led into the best stretch the Wizards have seen this season.

Westbrook, over his injury, looked like his former explosive self. He’s posted six triple-doubles since, while he came within a point or assist of doing so in three other contests. And, back on the court, the entire team was also able to spend some time together, which allowed them to further jell as a unit and build some momentum toward future games.

It was a surprise when Beal came out and said he did not want to be traded from Washington, with more than a few curious as to how the NBA’s leading scorer could be satisfied with such subpar play from the rest of his roster. But he “shared a consistent viewpoint” with the team, according to Shams Charania, as to what they have done to build around him. The Wizards’ clear leader, Beal has signaled he’s in it for the long-haul, while additions like Westbrook should only serve to solidify that commitment.

Beyond their two stars, the Wizards roster has also stepped up in their most recent stretch. Sophomore Rui Hachimura has proven capable alongside the star-duo in the first unit, while Robin Lopez has stepped up in the absence of Thomas Bryant, who was lost for the season to a torn ACL. Deni Avdija and Garrison Matthews have both flashed as well, with Matthews shooting 41.3 percent from three and even earning a starting role.

If they can sustain their recent success, Washington could easily make the postseason in an underwhelming Eastern Conference. In fact, the tightly-packed nature of the East — while they’re 2.5 games behind Charlotte, just four games separate the Wizards and the fourth seed Celtics — should only serve to benefit Washington in their quest for their first postseason berth since the 2017-18 season. And, if the Wizards want to bolster their team for a playoff run and look to buy at the deadline, they certainly have the pieces to make some interesting moves. With most of their draft capital for the foreseeable future, along with some interesting contracts they could flip for more win-now type players, anything could happen.

The Beal-Westbrook, while it started rough, has not nearly been as bad as most people would think. For the team, the 2020-21 season has proven more promising than they may have thought and, if they can continue to elevate their game, don’t be shocked to see the Wizards on the big stage come May.

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