To Lou Williams: Selflessness

Credit: SI.com

Lou Williams, more than anyone on the Sixers, looks for his own shot.

Many teams have multiples of players who look for their shots first, second, and third. The Wizards have about 3 of these guys. The Warriors and Kings as well. It’s no coincidence that those teams are considered to have talent that’s mismatched and unrefined – players like Jordan Crawford and Nick Young and Monta Ellis are talented scorers, but do little else to help their teams win. Some of these guys will look for their own stats even at the team’s expense, possibly without knowing it.

Lou Williams, meanwhile, may profile as a shoot-first gunner except that our team needs him to be that guy when he’s on the court. Which creates an interesting dilemma.

When growing up, the best players in the basketball leagues I played in (I sucked, so these were bad leagues) were always the most dominant scorers. Never mind that they took so many shots to do so – they were just the best because we knew they scored a lot. My parents wouldn’t asked how I played or if the team won. They’d ask how many points I scored. Again, I sucked horribly and wasn’t much of a scorer, but I tried my hardest on defense and the boards. But how good of a game I had depended on how many points I scored.

I’m not the street ball type, but I imagine the same dynamic took place in those leagues, which most NBA players have participated in at one point or another. Lou turned into something of a street ball legend over the summer, routinely putting up huge scoring numbers in the lockout leagues. This is nothing new for Lou, who put up huge numbers in high school as well and just as likely did on the playgrounds in Atlanta.

However, this is the NBA. Schemes are run here. Defense is played here. Scoring isn’t the most important thing in the world. And many guys at the NBA level seemingly don’t realize this. Lou, I think, has realized this to some degree. There’s no “Free Lou Williams” campaigns on twitter like other players have resorted to. He hasn’t said that he’s looking to improve his minutes. However, he seemingly did not like the decision to make him a sixth man at the beginning of last year. He started the year before, reaching career highs in field goal percentage, points, and minutes played. Why hold him back?

The reason is quite clear – he’s outmatched on defense and is a sub-par point guard. He’ll allow as many points as he scores. In the sixth man role, scoring should be easier for him. It also allows him to focus more on what he does best, scoring in bunches, whether it’s getting into the paint, launching threes, or getting defenders to bite on his awesome shot fake. While selflessness is the gift I’m giving, I don’t really want him to change what he does on the court, at least offensively. Lou’s the only player who can get points easily on his own on the Sixers’ roster.

I want him to be selfless in the other parts of the game. Paying more attention to defense, and accepting if he plays fewer minutes than he wants because his scoring punch isn’t needed. I want him to give a consistent effort on defense, even if it stops him from getting as many offensive opportunities. And I want him to fully accept the bench role, even if Doug Collins considers him to be starter-quality. All in the name of the team.

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