Shelden Williams, No 'Mr. Candace Parker,' Finds Role in Denver
Nobody was saying that Wednesday.
Williams, signed to a minimum contract last July, pulled down 16 rebounds for Denver, one shy of his career high, in a 110-88 opening-night win over Utah. Nobody was more excited than his wife, Candace Parker, who only happens to one of the best women's basketball players on the planet.
"He did a really good job,'' said Parker, who watched from the stands at the Pepsi Center with the couple's 17-month-old daughter, Lailaa. "He attacked the glass. He was aggressive ... Whenever he plays minutes, he (gets rebounds).''
Parker is right. While the big man has a career per-game rebounding average of just 3.9 in his four-plus NBA seasons, Williams pulls down an average of 10.0 per every 36 minutes played. That's a better such career mark much more heralded Denver big men Nene, at 8.3, and Kenyon Martin, at 8.1.
For some reason, though, Williams has had difficulty finding a home since being taken out of Duke by Atlanta as the No. 5 player picked in the 2006 draft. Williams soon moved on to Sacramento, Minnesota and Boston before arriving in Denver, his fifth team in five seasons, with a meager career per-game scoring average of 4.5 over just 13.9 minutes.
"A lot of players are in the right system and they flourish right away and other people kind of have to find a niche,'' Williams said. "I think (Denver) is a place where I can be in the right situation at the right time.''
It sure looks now to be that. With big men Martin and Chris Andersen out to start the season following offseason knee surgeries, Williams has been thrown into the starting lineup at power forward. In Wednesday's opener, he also had eight points.
Sounds like the 6-foot-9 Williams and 6-4 Parker are going to have plenty to talk about at the dinner table this fall. Parker will be with her husband in Denver until January, when she will leave to play for a team in Ekaterinburg, Russia. She'll be back in the U.S. in April, in time to join the Los Angeles Sparks, for which she was the WNBA MVP in 2008.
"It's a great opportunity,'' Parker, the sister of Cleveland guard Anthony Parker, said of her husband joining the Nuggets. "I think he's taking advantage of it. He's working hard. He's playing hard. The rest will fall into itself.''
Williams was a first-team All-American at Duke in 2005-06 before being taken in the NBA draft ahead of such players as Brandon Roy, Rudy Gay and Rajon Rondo. But eventually, after his career got off to a slow start, he perhaps became better known as Parker's husband.
The two first met when Parker came to Duke for a recruiting visit in 2003. Parker eventually chose to go to Tennessee, but the two reconnected when Parker's team played at Duke during Williams' senior year. They were married November 13, 2008, during Williams' stint with the Kings.
"We share something that a lot of people don't,'' Williams said. "The stuff I go through is the same things she goes through. It's not like I come home and somebody acts like they know what I'm talking about. I come home and she actually knows stuff that is going on with situations and schemes and all that stuff and vice versa. And we try to help each other out.
"She might say, 'You had 16 rebounds but you did something wrong on the offensive end.' Or something like that. It's always positive, you know, to help each other out.''
When Parker, 24, heads to Russia, Williams, 27, will lose that immediately available advice. He will also go three-plus months without seeing Lailaa, something he said was very difficult when she followed her mom to Russia last winter.
Lailaa took in Williams' big game from the stands on Wednesday. Parker said she's still too young to know what's going on from up there but "when we're on the court, she'll know that her dad is playing.''
With Lailaa's bloodlines, you've got to figure she has a shot at being the top pick in the WNBA draft in 20 years.
Well, maybe not.
"We not really pushing her for basketball,'' Williams said. "We don't want her to necessarily follow in our footsteps. Chances are she probably will. But right now we're trying to push tennis. When we both retire, we'd get a chance to follow her around the world (to watch her play). That's one of our dreams. Our dreams might not necessarily be the same as her dreams.''
It might be a while, though, before Williams retires after not long ago it looked as if his NBA career might be a short one. The Kings didn't even bother in the fall of 2008 to pick up his fourth-year contract option for 2009-10, making him an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2009.
The Kings traded Williams to the Wolves at the 2008-09 trade deadline in a salary dump, and he got nothing more than a minimum deal with Boston for last season. But he did have his moments, averaging 5.3 rebounds in the Celtics' first 11 games, a span during which forward Glen Davis was out with a thumb injury.
"I felt early last year that he played better than I had seen him play (previously in his career),'' Nuggets coach George Karl of Williams, who eventually had trouble getting minutes as the Celtics made it to the NBA Finals with Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins, Rasheed Wallace and Davis as their primary post players. "That's the kind of thing that stuck in my head. He didn't play much the second half of the season.
"But you're searching for those guys who want playing time as much as they want a contract. I think Shelden realized our circumstance (with Martin and Andersen out). He was going to have an opportunity to play, and he used it very well. And he's been one of our top players in training camp.''
Williams said he also got minimum contract offers from Chicago and Utah before signing with Denver. He impressed the Nuggets with averages of 12.6 points and 7.9 rebounds in the preseason before erupting in the opener.
"I just tried to be aggressive on the glass and tried to take as much as I can,'' Williams said. "Fortunately, it worked out well.''
It sure did.
"It told him he played like Moses Malone as far as his rebounding,'' said Nuggets guard Anthony Carter.
In case you're wondering, Parker's career WNBA boards average is 9.7. If Lailaa doesn't grow up to be a top tennis pro, she figures to be quite a rebounder.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @christomasson