Williams Proves Worth in Magic Win
He's obviously going to be more, a lot more for a real good team.
Williams, 33, is no longer the flashy, wrap-around-passing entertainer he was earlier in his career in Sacramento, but he looks refreshed and ready to play at a high level once again, adding another strong weapon to the defending Eastern Conference champs.
A year off certainly did him well.
Williams, who retired prematurely in Miami with aching knees after the 2007-08 season, was outstanding in the 120-106 squashing of Philadelphia Wednesday night, leading a second unit that made the Sixers cry for help.
Williams hit four of his five shots -- including three of four from 3-point land -- and added five assists for 15 points in 23 minutes. He was sloppy when he first entered the game, committing two quick turnovers, but he found his rhythm quickly. And it showed.
"He's a game changer for us,'' said Magic power forward Ryan Anderson, who started at power forward in the absence of Rashard Lewis. "He's a point guard who really gets everyone in the game. He looks for you. He finds you. I'm sure everyone here is happy to have him.''
Williams didn't stick around to evaluate his performance Wednesday, leaving the arena without talking to reporters. Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, always the contrarian, praised Williams, but not without noting the turnovers.
"I thought the same thing during the exhibition games. When the game is close and in big situations, he's playing solid basketball,'' Van Gundy said. "But with the lead, he tends to get careless with the ball.''
Williams played for Van Gundy in Miami. He was the starting point guard on the Heat team that won the NBA title in 2006 when he played alongside Shaquille O'Neal and Dwyane Wade. He has said throughout this month that this Magic team is deeper and better than the Heat team that earned him a championship ring.
Starting point guard Jameer Nelson played 21 minutes and finished with seven points and six assists. Although Van Gundy has made it clear that Williams is only a backup, Williams may become the closer if he plays like he did Wednesday.
After the year off, Williams looks strong physically, but his knees may not be able to sustain more than 20-25 minutes a night, which explains why Nelson's status as the starter is not in jeopardy.
"He is playing well. He's really going to help us,'' said Nelson, who missed the second half of last season with a shoulder injury that required surgery. "Guys like Jason, I can learn from. I know that. And I'm not afraid to say it.''
Rashard Lewis watching from home and serving Game 1 of his 10-game suspension, the Magic easily brushed aside the Sixers. A second team of Brandon Bass, Marcin Gortat, J.J. Redick and Matt Barnes and Williams looked like a luxury for the Magic.
They led by 23 at halftime and by 31 after three quarters. Lewis made more 3-pointers than anyone in the NBA last season, but the Magic still had seven different players make 3-pointers in the first half. They finished by hitting 16 of 29. Center Dwight Howard dominated around the basket with 21 points and 15 rebounds, opening all the 3-point lanes.
"With so many guys able to do so many things, this is like heaven around here,'' said All-Star Vince Carter, who had 15 points. "This is a team that expects to go places.''