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Growth potential (cont.)

Posted: Tuesday November 13, 2007 3:24PM; Updated: Tuesday November 13, 2007 5:35PM
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The irony of his early career is that the absence of a point guard or passing teammates in Atlanta affected his game. Now he is getting the ball on backdoor cuts to the basket or when he's moved to the open space, and it's because of the growth of Josh Smith and Josh Childress as well as the arrival of rookie starters Al Horford and Acie Law, who is struggling to adapt as a pass-first point guard but is nonetheless a better distributor than the Hawks have had.

Because Williams was unable to create his own shot, he heard complaints over the last two years that he was disappointing athletically.

"A lot of people think I can't jump,'' Williams said. "I mean, I can jump; I just choose not to, I guess. My little brothers get mad at me about it. But what is [the difference between] dunking or laying it up? It's still two points at the end of the night.''

He also hears his teammates laughing at his old-school ways.

"I like to get to the free throw line,'' said Williams, who averaged 5.8 attempts through six games. "These guys poke fun at me because I'm always trying to get fouls, but if I can get some early free throws to get my rhythm, everything else falls into place. They're talking about how I'm always flopping or always asking for a call or something. But I just try to get to the rim as much as I can.''

By seeking to play within a team structure and to leap only when necessary, Williams is following a traditional path. When John Stockton and Karl Malone were starring for Utah, coach Jerry Sloan used to credit them with playing "close to the floor.'' They may not have been dynamic athletically, but by keeping their feet on the ground, they created more options for themselves and teammates than if they'd played above the rim, where the game becomes a matter of split-second instinct. By playing close to the floor, Williams can avoid injuries and probably extend his career.

After competitive losses at Detroit, New Jersey and Boston, the Hawks have an opportunity to exert themselves this week against Charlotte, Seattle and Milwaukee. They may not be a playoff team yet, but they -- like their No. 2 pick in '05 -- must now be respected.

"It only affects you if you let it,'' said Williams of complaints that he was drafted too high. "Everybody's going to have an opinion, but I don't use it as motivation or anything like that. My whole life I've used my family as motivation, and I'll continue to do that for as long as I'm playing. I've done it my whole life for them and I'll continue to do it for them. I'm really not too concerned what someone has to say about me or my game.''

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