In the first part of a two part interview, Long Island Nets head coach Will Weaver talks to Ridiculous Upside’s Dakota Schmidt about the overall impact that Brooklyn two-way prospects Alan Williams and Theo Pinson have had on the G League club. On Friday, we’ll post the final part of this series where the Long Island head coach will touch on the likes of Mitch Creek, Shannon Scott, Jordan McLaughlin and Tahjere McCall.
Ridiculous Upside: What type of impact has Alan Williams had on the team both on and off the court?
Will Weaver: Your question leads me to where my first instinct would be, as well, talking about Alan, which is him as person. An intellect, a character, a sense of humor, a sense of pride, a sense of professionalism in all the things that a guy who’s been through NBA seasons can bring. But in a package that is exactly what we are trying to build in Brooklyn, broadly Guys that are about more than themselves and enjoy playing the game and working to get better at the game and have something to offer as not only players but as teammates.
Then you go to on the court with Alan and you have this skilled, strong, coordinated, versatile screener, roller, floor-spacer, offensive-rebounder who, with all that, still understands and keeps everybody focused on what he believes wins, and I’m with him. He protects the rim, he secures loose balls, he communicates better than maybe any big man I’ve ever worked with. The number of contributions he’s made to our team, and to me personally, my first year in this role, you can’t count them up.
RU: What are some of the other ways that Williams has helped the team, particularly within regards to Long Island’s cornucopia of perimeter-minded guards or wings?
WW: I think that he, first of all, commands a lot of attention. He’s someone that is a threat to score now as soon as he gets to the three-point line and anywhere in between. Although we’re obviously looking for the most efficient shots, he can break a team down and is a threat to score anywhere inside the three. I should say anywhere from outside the three to the rim. That’s the first thing is that he has to be checked, and that means that that attention creates opportunities and lanes for other guys to penetrate, either through cutting or driving.
I also think that the most underestimated skill in the current day basketball evaluation is as a screener. It’s a very difficult thing to quantify, but he is someone that, for a long time, has had a reputation among those that study it as one of the best screeners in the game. That clearly helps our big, quick guards get downhill and attack the rim, and it helps free up our shooters as some of those drivers are happening. The first word that comes to mind when you think of Alan, from a skill set standpoint is versatile.
RU: You talk about how his work as a screener has helped some of the quicker guards on the team. Once you mentioned that, the first name that came to my mind was Theo Pinson. What kind of on/off court camaraderie have those two guys had as the Nets two-way players?
WW: They enjoy each other, and it’s not surprising because they’re both light, funny, normal guys that don’t take themselves too seriously. It’s a cool opportunity to have another guy going through some of the same experiences, and I think one thing they both share is they have a really rich resume of success. Although, there’s a small age difference, both those guys have supreme self-confidence, but are wired in such a way to where you probably see their enjoyment more when other people are succeeding.
RU: They’ve definitely gone viral with some of their bench antics at Brooklyn Nets games
WW: That’s who they are, and it’s, in some ways, you wish you could get some of that while the game was going because of just how valuable it is in fueling energy and getting other guys going. But we need those guys to play big minutes for us, and, when one of them is on the bench for the few minutes that they are, you feel that kind of talk and communication and just good-hearted towel-waving as good as I’ve ever seen it.
RU: Sticking with Theo Pinson, he’s really progressed as a player this year with both Long Island and Brooklyn compared to how he as at UNC, and I think the biggest area of improvement has been as a perimeter shooter. What have been some of the biggest keys behind him progressing as a three-point threat?
WW: I think that there’s plenty of evidence that, if you’re looking for a way to improve in almost anything, deliberate practice is the way to do it. That shines a light on his diligence. Focus, that is an area he knew coming into this league he was going to need to improve in, and from the moment I met him in Vegas with our Summer League team, he has worked at that while not sacrificing the other good things that he does, which is sometimes a hard challenge, right?
You still want to keep the things you’ve always been strong at, but you want to slowly add. A lot of my energy has gone towards creating an environment where he can be working on those skills, that skill in particular, while not trying to tilt so far away from being a incredible passer and someone that can live in the paint no matter who you put on him. Driving past bigger guys, body through smaller guys, and seize the floor as well as anybody I think in the G League right now.
He deserves all the credit for the work, and I also have to highlight the skill development that goes on at a basket before and after practice, at night time, in front of a laptop. That’s all done with Shaun Fein who’s Player Development Coach that looks after both Theo, Alan, and Dzanan Musa and the other assignees that we’ve had spend time with us in Long Island.