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Shawne Williams Focused on Helping the Miami HEAT

Shawne Williams has revitalized his career and emerged as a significant contributor on the Miami HEAT.

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The Miami HEAT faced a tough task this past summer in replacing the void left by LeBron James. Despite losing arguably the best player on the planet, the team didn’t panic and general manager Pat Riley made several moves to keep the team in contention. The HEAT felt confident in their existing roster and opted to re-sign core players like Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Mario Chalmers, Udonis Haslem and Chris Andersen. Riley also brought in three marquee free agents in Luol Deng, Danny Granger and Josh McRoberts to help replace James’ production. After Riley staffed his team with starters, he began looking at filling the reserve spots and signed several players to the roster. Mixed in with the flurry of roster moves, Riley brought in Shawne Williams.

The HEAT signed Williams to a two-year deal with the first year fully-guaranteed at $1.23 million and a team option for the second year. Williams arrived in Miami with six seasons of NBA experience, a season overseas and also some time in the D-League last season. In 23 games in the D-League, Williams averaged 20 points, seven rebounds and two blocks per game with the Los Angeles D-Fenders. It was during this time in the D-League that Williams revitalized his career and built up the confidence that he is playing with now for the HEAT.

Through the HEAT’s first 14 games, Williams is averaging 10.5 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game, which are all career-highs. But when the HEAT signed Williams back on Aug. 1, the thought of averaging career-highs didn’t seem all that likely. At 6’10, Williams has the size to play both forward positions but the HEAT brought in proven veterans Deng and Granger to play at the three and they had McRoberts and Haslem on the team that figured to play at the four. Despite the possibility of not playing a lot of minutes, Williams stayed ready in case an opportunity opened up.

“I’m open-minded to not only Shawne, but everybody else on the roster and what they can provide,” HEAT head coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Shawne showed the commitment since August every single day reshaping his body to where you won’t recognize him. His conditioning level is great right now and he’s been learning our system and playing productively since then and whatever his minutes may be he is open to it so he just has to continue taking advantage of it.”

The opportunity for Williams to start in all 14 games for the HEAT this season opened up as those players in front of him on the depth chart each suffered injuries. McRoberts has been nursing a foot injury that has limited him to 10 games and as a result has remained inconsistent so far. A hamstring injury has limited Granger to just two games this season and a quad injury has kept Haslem out of seven games thus far. Those injuries have opened up the door for Williams and so far he has made the most out of this opportunity. Williams has been able to achieve career numbers this season largely due to his hot shooting streak. His 50 percent shooting from three-point range currently ranks fifth among all players in the league and he has hit a three in 13-straight games.

“I’m just following the regimen and sticking to the script,” Williams told Basketball Insiders. “We have certain rules and laws here at the HEAT so I’m just trying to stick to those as close as possible and at the end of the game whatever my numbers are that’s what they are; I’m not much of a stat watcher so I’m not really caught up in that.”

Even though Williams has been given an opportunity that could help prolong his career, he is more concerned about improving his game to help his team win games. The HEAT currently have the fourth-best record in the East at 8-6 and figure to challenge the Washington Wizards for the Southeast Division crown this season, but they’ve had their share of struggles so far. With the team suffering from so many injuries, Spoelstra isn’t allowing that to become an excuse to play poorly and is relying on Williams and other players to contribute.

“It’s a great opportunity, but at the end of the day we’re here to get wins,” Williams said. “We have been kind of struggling over the last couple of games so I feel like I probably need to do a little bit better in order to get these wins. I don’t think I’ve been playing well; I think I’ve been playing average. I feel like I’ve got a lot of room to get better. My ceiling is so high and I feel like I have more room to grow to reach that ceiling. If it’s not me somebody else [will step up]. I just feel like when we win everybody looks good, but when we lose everybody looks bad.”

Part of what makes Williams such a great player to have is he is comfortable playing in either the starting lineup or in reserve minutes off of the bench. Spoelstra commended Williams’ ability to stay ready when his number is called and so far Williams has rewarded the team with his solid production. The team committed four years and $23 million to McRoberts so he is expected to become a starter once he proves his foot injury is behind him. Until then, Williams has proven to be a good replacement and is fine with playing off of the bench if he has to.

“I got a relationship with coach that I respect any decision that he makes,” Williams said. “With Josh coming off of the bench or starting or if I’m coming off of the bench or starting, I feel like whatever he does is for the best of the team. We all have one goal and that’s to win.”

Cody Taylor is an NBA writer in his fourth season with Basketball Insiders, covering the NBA and NCAA out of Orlando and Miami.

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