Over his five seasons—the first three in Sacramento—Williams was known as a highly talented entertainer with a weakness for launching untimely three-pointers and attempting the flashy pass when a simple one would do. After the Grizzlies hibernated through an 0-8 start, West replaced Sidney Lowe with Brown. "Hubie lets him play with the same aggressiveness," says the Timberwolves' Flip Saunders, "but he's tried to make him more conscious of turnovers, and teach him that you can't do in the fourth quarter what you might do in the first."
Through Sunday, Brown had guided Memphis to an 18-32 record, with Williams averaging 12.1 points and 7.6 assists. "The questions [for a point guard] are, Can you finish, and once you're in the lane, can you make the pass?" says Brown. "That's where his biggest improvement has come. Once he breaks the foul line he can finish because he has great athleticism and he can score with either hand."
Williams claims that the Kings exploited his early celebrity before casting him aside. "As a rookie I got all this attention," he says, "and I pretty much had to live up to it. But to hell with the Kings. I want my friends [former Sacramento teammates] to win, but I don't want the organization to win."
Williams still can put on a show as dazzling as Fred Astaire in a black-and-white movie—shuffling his feet while faking a lefthanded pass and popping in a three-pointer, a seamless sequence he put together during a 111-107 loss at Philadelphia last week. And he still dances along the narrow divide between risky and crazy. "He still takes shots that you roll your eyes at," says Trail Blazers coach and former point guard Maurice Cheeks, "but I think he is playing a little more under control."
Can Williams fulfill the potential of his rookie year, when he was compared to Bob Cousy? "A lot of us around the league have been impressed with what he's done this year," says Heat assistant Stan Van Gundy. "But it's like anything in this league: Until he wins, nobody's going to buy that he's playing at a real high level."
The Nets Beef Up
Last June the Nets took Nenad Krstic with the 24th pick, then left him to continue his development with Partizan Belgrade in Serbia. Not only has the 19-year-old Krstic gained close to 30 pounds by following a training regimen prescribed by New Jersey, but he's also grown an inch since the draft. "He's over seven feet now and probably about 240 pounds," says Nets president Rod Thorn, who plans to import Krstic this summer as a backup to Dikembe Mutombo and Jason Collins. "He has a lot of skill, and he has the kind of body that could get up to 250, 260." To bring Krstic in, Thorn will have to negotiate with the president of Partizan—Kings center Vlade Divac.