Reggie Williams sounded a bit mystified why he was requested for a media interview Monday.
“First one since training camp,” he joked following Charlotte Bobcats practice.
New role, new profile. Williams, who had played in just 10 of the previous 32 games, was installed as the backup point guard last week, after the team announced Ramon Sessions would miss 2-4 weeks with a knee sprain.
The Bobcats signed Williams at the start of last season because they needed 3-point shooting. He was OK last season (8.3 ppg., on 42 percent from the field), but when the Bobcats added Ben Gordon and Jeff Taylor in June, Williams fell out of the rotation.
Now he’s back in because he’s a relatively good ballhandler. Someone has to back up Kemba Walker for at least 10 to 15 minutes a game; among those already on the roster, he’s the closest fit in skill set.
Williams played a bunch of point guard in high school and some in college at Virginia Military Institute. How does a shooting guard with some ballhandling skills reinvent himself as a point?
“Fight urges,” Williams replied. “All my life I’ve been a scorer. Coach isn’t trying to take that away from me, but I’ve got to get my teammates going. Kemba does a great job of that with the first unit. He gets everybody involved.”
No one expects miracles. Walker’s minutes will be extended in Sessions’ absence and others – Gerald Henderson, Ben Gordon and even power forward Josh McRoberts – have some ballhandling skills that can help fill the gap.
For Williams, a sturdy 6-foot-6 and 205 pounds, that “fighting urges” comment is more than a funny line. It needs to be a mindset.
“Right now, me coming in and running the offense is more important than me scoring, particularly if I’m on the court with Ben Gordon, the second unit’s primary scorer,” Williams said. “Get him going, get him in his rhythm.”
Williams said he now has to be more pro-active while watching the game from the bench. Now he’s responsible for pace, ball-movement and defense, too.
“As the point guard, you have to be conscious of everything, especially on defense. Defense starts with the point guard – the head of the snake.”
That’s an area where this gets a little hairy. As coach Mike Dunlap described, Williams is fast, but not particularly quick. So when he gets isolated in those pick-and-roll situations against true points, he needs to figure out efficient angles to guard.
“He’s worried about the darts in this league,” Dunlap explained.
Power forward rotation: Dunlap made a point of saying Monday he’s not down on Mullens, despite him playing just five minutes Saturday against the Washington Wizards.
It’s been an on-going theme this season that Mullens’ playing time is contingent on his rebounding. He totaled seven rebounds in the four games prior to Washington (although he played just three minutes in Portland due to a sore knee). So Saturday was a reminder about priorities.
“Byron will be back in that rotation. Once he gets a clear understanding it begins and ends (with rebounding), he’ll be fine,” Dunlap said.
Seven-footer Mullens, primarily known as a jump-shooter, averages a career-high seven rebounds per game this season.
“I’ve tried to tell Byron he’s done a wonderful job over the span from last year to this year. But he has to hold on to that. It’s (got to be) a constant for our team. We’re reminding them of that.”
Power forward Josh McRoberts, who arrived from Orlando at the trade deadline, made his first start for the Bobcats on/ Saturday. McRoberts didn’t play particularly well (four points and two rebounds before fouling out in 22 minutes), but his passing has been a plus.
“When he comes down the floor, he allows Kemba to play on the wing,” Dunlap said. “He can make backdoor passes – beautiful ones. It allows us to play him up-top some and take some pressure off your point guard. A 6-10 guy who can see over the top There are times when he can play point-forward.”
Dunlap has started five power forwards this season, though Mullens has gotten the majority of the starts and playing time. Dunlap essentially has three options right now – Jeff Adrien as the traditional physical forward, Mullens as the skilled scorer or McRoberts, a compromise between those two styles.