Phoenix Suns’ Alan Williams: ‘I just want to get out there and play’
PHOENIX – For nearly six months, Phoenix Suns center Alan Williams has waited. It’s been a long wait, yes, and at times the wait has felt like a dark cloud hanging over his head but now, Williams can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
This week, likely Saturday against Golden State, Williams will make his long-awaited season debut.
“It’s awesome, it’s really awesome. It’s been a long journey,” he said. “I just want to thank the support of fans and front office and the coaching staff and also the training staff for keeping my sanity and just keeping me motivated and pushing me, and then of course my teammates for always believing that I could make this comeback the way I’m doing it.”
Williams underwent a meniscus repair of his right knee on Sept. 25, the day before the Suns opened training camp in Flagstaff. At the time, the Suns put Williams’ return at approximately six months, which if he plays this week would be right on target.
On Wednesday, Williams went through his second full practice of 5-on-5 full-court.
Physically, Williams is ready, and he’s familiar with what the Suns do both offensively and defensively. It’s his conditioning where Williams may have the biggest adjustment, and that just comes with not having played in an NBA game for almost a year.
“I feel like I can still do the same things that I’ve been doing. Hopefully, it still works,” he said. “The training staff has done a good job of just keeping me on a treadmill, Versaclimber, other things to just keep my conditioning up. But there’s nothing like game reps and there’s nothing like practice reps, so just trying to catch up with the other guys.
“I’ll get there, for sure.”
Williams had a breakout season a year ago.
Given extended minutes after the all-star break, Williams recorded 12 of his team-high 15 double-doubles and averaged 11.4 points on 51.4 percent shooting plus 9.1 rebounds over the season’s final 25 games. Overall, he averaged 7.4 points and 6.2 rebounds in 15.1 minutes in 47 games, all off the bench.
His effort and energy on the court along with his cheerleading off — most often with a towel waving in the air — quickly made him a fan favorite, and not just because of his local ties to the community.
Williams was named the Majerle Hustle Award winner and then, when free agency hit, he cashed in, signing a three-year, $17 million contract to remain with the hometown team.
Only the first year was guaranteed, however. So, there’s some uncertainty regarding his future with the Suns. But that’s not his reasoning for coming back this season, albeit late in the year, he said this week. No, Williams wants to play, for himself, for his teammates and for those fans who have supported him.
“People have been asking me why come out and play if there’s only one month left and the playoffs are not a possibility,” he said. “It’s because I’m a player. I’m a basketball player. That’s my job title and that’s what I want to do.
“I’m not worried about how many games left — if I get one game in this season then it’ll be well worth it because at the end of the day I just want to get out there and play. If I’m ready to play, there’s no way I’m sitting out. It’s going to be good to get out of that suit and put on a jersey for sure.”
And for Williams, that alone will have made the six-month rehab worth the wait.
“The training staff has just always been super-positive with everything saying, ‘Look, you’re going to have good days, you’re going to have bad days but as long as you can put together a good number of good days then you’ll be ready to go. It’s the same way as an NBA season. You’re going to take some wins, you’re going to take some losses. Mentally, you just got to stay tough and understand that the work that you’re putting in is going to help you out in the long run,’” he said.
“I definitely see the light.”
— It’s never good with the team’s star player leaves practice early. Yet, that’s exactly what happened on Wednesday, when guard Devin Booker walked out of the practice court and into the locker room with a member of the Suns training staff.
“He jammed his hand, or something, in the middle of practice during a live scrimmage,” said interim head coach Jay Triano.
Booker’s injury is not expected to keep him sidelined for Thursday’s game at Utah.
— Booker’s comments following the loss to Cleveland about Suns players, including himself, being “babied” did not raise an eyebrow from Triano.
“I think he’s heard me say it enough,” he said. “I think the situation we’re in, a lot of guys have been given minutes that on a lot of teams they wouldn’t probably get, but we’re trying to accelerate their development and find out who can play. It’s nothing that he hasn’t heard from us and … nothing different than the situation we’re in right now.”
—Though they aren’t the NBA’s hottest team, the Jazz have been playing some pretty excellent basketball as of late. They’ve won seven straight and 19 of 21 to move into the eight-seed, by way of tiebreaker over San Antonio, in the Western Conference.
“Their defense,” Triano said, explaining Utah’s recent run. “Since (Rudy) Gobert has been back and the way he can protect around the rim makes it real tough, and I think the guys in front of him have a lot of confidence to get out and pressure and force you to take tough shots. If you go past them, you got a big guy back there that’s excellent at defending around the rim.”