At this stage of his NBA career, Lou Williams is one of the most distinguished sixth men to have played the game. He takes nothing for granted and is using his role as one of the Clippers’ elder statesmen to push his teammates toward new heights.
Williams, who turns 33 on Sunday and is entering his 15th season, has an opportunity to win a championship within his grasp now more than any time during his marvelous career.
So whether it’s practice or a game like the regular-season opener victory over the Lakers on Tuesday night at Staples Center, Williams is prepared to set the right example to attain success.
“I don’t know how many cracks I’m going to have at winning a championship,” Williams said. “I feel like we have a really good group. I don’t want that opportunity to go to waste because our mentalities aren’t sharp or we’re not strong mentally. So, I’m just doing my part to make sure that everybody is on the same page, that the competitive level is, we don’t take days off in practice and we compete.”
Williams was a force for the Clippers on Tuesday, delivering 21 points on eight-for-14 shooting, seven assists and five rebounds.
He has been chosen the league’s sixth man of the year in back-to-back seasons with the Clippers and three times total, tied with Jamal Crawford for the most in NBA history.
But Williams does not have an NBA title on his resume, and because the Clippers have been picked as the title favorites this season, his chance to get that ring is a real possibility.
“I think for a lot of guys it’s just time for them to win,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “I really believe that. Some guys have to go on a journey first and then all of a sudden, it’s just time for them. That doesn’t mean they will, but it’s just time. I think just watching Lou’s seriousness and how he has approached this year, you feel that. Like, ‘Hey, I’ve done all this other stuff, it’s time.’ And it’s been great to see. I’ve witnessed that years ago with a group [in Boston]. It was their time. It was just they had done everything else. They hadn’t won, and you feel like that’s Lou’s mindset.”
When Williams entered the game Tuesday night, the Clippers were down by 11 points in the first quarter.
He quickly went to work, steadying the Clippers, easing them back into the game. He found Montrezl Harrell cutting for a dunk for his first assist of the game.
Williams would end the first quarter with six points and two assists, and the Clippers would be down by just three points.
“Yeah, let’s just get settled and start playing ball,” Williams said of his mindset when entering the game with 8 minutes 30 seconds left in the first quarter. “They made some shots. Again everything is going to be overhyped because of the atmosphere and everything, but at the end of the day it was just a lead and there was still basketball to be played. So we just wanted to get a different lineup in and settle everybody and continue to play.”
The Clippers began to roll in the third quarter, building a 14-point lead, seemingly scoring at will against the Lakers, who scrambled back, building enough momentum to tie the score at 85-85 at the end of the third quarter.
The Lakers opened the fourth with the basketball, but LeBron James turned the ball over.
A few seconds later, Williams pulled up for a jumper in front of the Lakers’ bench for the first two points of the quarter, breaking the momentum the Lakers had built.
Williams had put his stamp on the game again, pulling his teammates along with him.
“He was phenomenal,” Rivers said. “He’s just … I don’t know, I guess ‘Lou being Lou.’ He really is.”