Kings' Williams struggles, but his defenders do, too

January 04, 1993|By Martin McNeal | Martin McNeal,McClatchy News Service

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Rookie Walt Williams presents the equation of talent and production vs. mistakes and inexperience for the Sacramento Kings rookie coach, Garry St. Jean.

Williams has shown the ability to score points in bunches, although his lifetime high of 40 points Saturday night was a bit much even for him.

But Williams also has been prone to stints of careless ball-handling, lack of focus and fundamental-less defense. Rookie stuff.

Before the last three games, the Kings were struggling to score and St. Jean knew Williams could ease that pressure.

But St. Jean realized that solution might not be the one that produces the most long-term benefits for Williams. Nor would it elicit respect from the other 11 players.

"I'm not going to create a double standard," St. Jean said. "One thing we have said is we cannot tolerate mental mistakes: Coming out of the huddle and missing an assignment or on the defensive end missing a responsibility.

"Not just for him, but for everybody. Those are the areas we have stressed and they have to be executed."

St. Jean has a high regard for Williams' intelligence and improvisational ability. But Williams' assist-turnover ratio of 2.4-to-2.6 is unacceptable and certainly beneath a player with his court vision and passing talents.

"You can see his flair for the exceptional pass," St. Jean said. "We do want him to respect the ball more and take care of the ball. We don't want a turnover-assist ratio that is not positive.

"Walt is a bright basketball guy. He has a lot of intelligence. Every time we talk, I think that whatever I say he is recording in his memory bank. He has a great feel for the NBA game."

Williams knows he has a flair for the game, but believes it will improve. He cites inexperience, aggressiveness and on-the-job training for his substandard ball-handling.

"I always want to be aggressive and I try to make things happen," he said. "I am learning what I can and can't do. I know there are passes you can make in college that you can't make in the pros. It's a feeling-out process."

What becomes increasingly apparent is that Williams is a scorer. He is the Kings' No. 4 scorer overall, but the top producer per minute. But it's his abundance of confidence that endears him to St. Jean.

"He believes in himself and I love that," St. Jean said. "He doesn't get down on himself. He may struggle for a stretch of time, but when he's on the bench, he's ready to come back in and play. And we've asked him to rebound more and play better defense and he has done that."

And Williams has had the opportunity to get down on himself. After playing at least 20 minutes in each of the first 18 games, he played fewer than 14 in the next seven.

"That was very tough," he said. "Coming from a situation [at the University of Maryland] where I was playing a whole lot, that made it tougher to deal with not playing. I tried not to let it get me down and tried to play aggressively when I did get into the game. I can't worry about things I can't control and the coach gives out the playing time.

"But you always feel you can help when you're sitting on the bench and the team is losing."

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