As talented as they are, the Santa Cruz Warriors will have their hands full with the Los Angeles D-Fenders during the pair's first-round playoff matchup this week.
Los Angeles packs an intense scoring punch on offense to overwhelm opposing defenses. All season long, they've featured some of best offensive players in all of the minor league. First, it was former top prospect Manny Harris who led the way. After the guard departed for Turkey, Terrence Williams picked things up from there to ensure his team kept rolling down the stretch. There's no doubt the latter deserves to be in the M.V.P. award conversation.
But also along for the D-Fenders' ride has been Shawne Williams. A rather well known NBA veteran, the sharpshooting Williams began the season with the affiliated Lakers, even emerging as a staple in Coach Mike D'Antoni's starting lineup at one point. Despite all of the injuries the team had over the course of the year, the veteran was unable to stick.
But a source tells RidiculousUpside.com that Coach D'Antoni was someone who asked and recommended that Williams stay in town following his release from the Lakers. Staying close, the forward stepped into a co-starring role with the team's minor league affiliate.
Williams played in 36 games for the Lakers (13 starts), but also ended up appearing in 23 games with the D-Fenders. Someone who can make it rain from all around the court, he not only averaged 20.5 points (on 46% from the field and 42% from deep), but also grabbed 7 rebounds per contest. The veteran was playing so well, that even following his initial release from the Lakers, he was able to catch back on with the NBA squad to play out a ten-day contract midseason.
Williams' solid efforts were recognized by the D-League throughout the year. He subsequently earned himself an NBADL "Player of the Week" award as well.
The 28 year old has undoubtedly been a man amongst boys in the minor league as he's taken over some of the scoring burden left by Harris' departure. There's no denying that such prowess makes him one of the most intriguing offensive options in all of the D-League. What's more, he's previously proven himself on the NBA level. Williams can hold his own.
But one has to wonder how many chances a player like Williams can get and/or continue to receive. Despite being an ideal fit for any offensive system headed by Coach D'Antoni, the forward has dealt with a slew of off the court problems,dating back to his days with the Indiana Pacers. En route to ensuring he returns to the right path, Williams has reportedly fought through depression as well.
If nothing else, perhaps you can admire Williams for not giving up.
One has to also wonder if NBA teams recongize and/or have the openness to appreciate what Williams has endured all season long. Will he get another shot, or has the 28 year old past his prime with regard to breaking (back) into The Association?
Perhaps time will tell in the months to come as NBA teams take a gamble on a few worthwhile players in training camp this fall.
In the meantime, however, Williams will certainly continue to help his own cause if he steps up as a playoff hero for the D-Fenders.