Williams: Magic More Talented Than Heat Championship Team
"I've said if from the day I got here: this team is more talented than the championship team I played on in '06,'' Williams said Wednesday morning after a morning practice. "There are more weapons here."
Williams, who turned 34 on Wednesday, is replacing Jameer Nelson, who had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Wednesday morning. Nelson is expected to be out from four to six weeks, leaving the team in the hands of Williams and journeyman Anthony Johnson.
In Miami, Williams relied heavily on All-Stars Shaquille O'Neal and Dwyane Wade to win a championship. With the Magic, who play Oklahoma City Wednesday night, he will have All-Stars Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis and Vince Carter.
"Having all these guys, it just makes my job easier. You get them the ball, and you get them the shots that they like,'' he said. "We have a bunch of go-to guys here, depending on the situation. There are just more options, but I'll do the same thing I've always done, get them the ball.''
Williams goes into his first start averaging 18.4 minutes, 5.4 points and 4 assists. He also is leading the league in assist-to-turnover ratio, averaging 4.89-1.
"I expect him to get everybody out running, just play with great energy like he has been for us,'' Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. "That won't change. He's a guy who knows what his strengths are, and he'll play to them. He has a body that doesn't tire easily.''
Williams didn't play last season, retiring prematurely from basketball after signing a one-year deal to play for the Los Angeles Clippers. The year away hasn't seemed to affect him adversely. Although once known for his flashy, almost-out-of-control style of play in his early years, Williams left those days behind long ago, which led him to the Miami Heat and the 2006 championship.
"I feel great. I'm quicker (now), he said. "My approach doesn't change whether I'm playing 15 minutes or 30 minutes. I'm still ready to do my job and I'm still ready to win.''
The Magic are facing a situation similar to what happened last season when Nelson missed the second half of the season with a shoulder injury. They turned to veteran point guard Rafer Alston, obtained in a trade with Houston, and he helped them reach the NBA Finals. This time, Williams already is in place.
His backup will be journeyman Anthony Johnson, who had that same role to Alston last season. Johnson had hardly played this season, although that will change dramatically now.
"Coach had a vision for this team, and until now, it didn't include me getting any playing time,'' Johnson said. "But I'll be ready. I can keep this train on the tracks.''