INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- Perhaps, for more than anyone among the Chicago Bulls, this is a bittersweet time for Scott Williams
The rookie center/forward,after being ignored in the 1990 NBA draft, is playing a key role in the 1991 NBA Finals as the Bulls move close to defeating the Los Angeles Lakers.
"A year ago, I was crying in my beer," admitted Williams, once projected as a first-round draft choice but then undrafted out of North Carolina because of shoulder problems. "Now I'm with the Chicago Bulls in the finals and getting ready to sip champagne."
But, when Williams looks out his window at the Bulls' luxury seaside hotel here, he can almost see the house he lived in when he was a high school basketball star nearby. And this time, the bubbly turns back to tears again.
For that was the house where Williams' parents died three years ago in a murder-suicide. Since he has been here, he's refused to return to the neighborhood or see the house.
"There's still pain," he acknowledged, "to be in L.A. and not go to my house. But I'm here to be a part of a championship team, and that's what I've got to stay focused on."
And if the Bulls do become a championship team, Williams, surprisingly, will have played a crucial role -- though not because he or the Bulls coaches thought him incapable.
"I always knew I could compete at this level. I just needed a shot," said Williams, a 6-foot-10, 230-pounder. "I feel like I've showed that I can handle the pressure and play well."
Assistant John Bach agreed. "He really moves his feet quite well on defense and knows what we're doing," Bach said.
What the Bulls have been doing is frustrating the Lakers with their defense. After the Bulls' Game 1 loss at home, coach Phil Jackson began using Williams instead of Will Perdue or Stacey King to back up Bill Cartwright.
The reason was to help in the active, switching defense the team was playing and to lay a big body on the elusive Sam Perkins.
And Williams has performed well. Perkins has shot 15-for-40 since Game 1, and the Lakers have been unable since then to dominate the postups like they had in the opener.
But that Williams even has a role in the finals is the surprise. He played the fewest minutes and games on the team this season, averaging a team-low 2.5 points. Now he's seventh in scoring and rebounding against the Lakers -- and he's confident.
"I knew the Bulls were a talented team, but I felt they tried to hide me in their system a little bit," said Williams, who signed for one season. "If I had played this way during the season, a lot of teams would be calling at this point. Now I'm getting a shot, so I just want to get my shoulder fixed and be ready for next season."
Those chronically dislocated shoulders, probably both, will be operated on after the season, and he probably will not be ready to play basketball again until November or December. But he's ready to deal with the wait.
"I've learned a lot about success from other people in my basketball life, and it taught me to want to be a champion," said Williams. "When all else is wrong, basketball has been a sanctuary for me, and that's what I'll focus on."