Kings' Williams is long on socks, but short of breath in Arco debut

November 02, 1992|By R.E. Graswich | R.E. Graswich,McClatchy News Service

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Those wacky Sacramento Kings. They may not be the best basketball team in creation, but their sense of humor is second to none.

The merry pranksters pulled one over on Walt Williams before last night's 111-103 exhibition victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.

Since it was his first appearance at Arco Arena, the players asked Williams to lead the squad onto the court. Nice gesture, Williams must have thought as he ran onto the floor. He ran about 60 feet before realizing his teammates were back in the tunnel, convulsed in laughter.

As jokes go, it wasn't up there with the Olympic team's undressing of Christian Laettner. Remember when they unsnapped his pants, leaving him with fallen trousers when he stood for introductions this past summer?

I suspect Williams will get the last laugh. When the rookie starts cashing those paychecks -- he gets about $170,000 every two weeks -- he will laugh all the way to the bank.

The little joke was meant to show Williams that his teammates welcome him. Such is the beauty of the preseason. Team spirit is everywhere. Players pass up shots. They try to make their teammates look good. The sense of warmth and generosity almost makes you forget about the statistic-driven play that dominates in March and April.

Few fans noticed the prank on Williams. Most likely, the fans were distracted by his appearance. Never having been one to criticize the way a person dresses, I'm not going to turn this into a fashion statement. But Williams looks bizarre. That's all I can say.

With his socks pulled tight to just beneath his knees, he looks like a throwback to another sartorial era. No one has worn socks that high in the NBA since Steve Colter retired two years ago. Before Colter, you would have to go back to George Gervin to find socks like the ones Williams wears.

The socks are a good place to begin a preview of Williams. His game is unorthodox, just like his socks.

Alarmingly, Williams walks like an old man. I suppose the stiff-legged gait could work in his favor, making opponents think he's one step from keeling over. I wanted to go out and help steady him.

His shot is also awkward. It looks different each time it goes up. On the bright side, Williams isn't shy about shooting, no matter how strange his stroke looks.

Williams will fight for his shot. He will lean in and push the ball or fade away and launch it before his back hits the floor. He will shoot before he looks ready to shoot. Which means Williams is a determined and courageous player.

Williams will never make Kings fans recall the sweet stroke of Eddie Johnson, Mike Woodson or Ricky Berry. His shot is a mess compared with the technique displayed by Mitch Richmond and Jim Les. Against the Trail Blazers, Williams scored eight points, hitting two of eight from the floor.

Williams was in terrible shape last night. He was huffing and puffing after chasing old Buck Williams up the court a couple of times in the first half. He was bent forward and gasping, tugging his oversized shorts down to his socks.

Poor physical conditioning is the price Williams must pay for a long, lazy summer. He apparently did minimal training while waiting for his contract negotiations to end.

Williams looks like a guy who couldn't afford to miss training camp. Unfortunately, the contract stalemate forced him to miss three weeks. The Kings believe they can make up for the lost time by running Williams through an intensive boot camp this week.

I hope the Kings take it easy with Williams between now and Friday night's opener. If they try to hammer him into shape too quickly, they might wear him out before the games start to count.

Rookies always have trouble adjusting to the grind of an 82-game NBA season. Williams looks as if he might have more trouble than most. If Buck Williams, ancient at 32, could wear him out, I shudder to think what stronger, younger horses will do to Walt Williams.

The good part about the schedule is it allows a man plenty of opportunity to run and get into shape. If Williams can last until January without needing an oxygen mask on the bench, he might fit in with the Kings, socks and all.

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