The Portland Trail Blazers see guard Mo Williams as more than just a backup to Damian Lillard.
”You can look at me as a sixth starter,” said the veteran free agent who was formally signed Thursday to a two-year deal.
Williams has played 10 seasons in the NBA with stops in Milwaukee, Cleveland, the Clippers and Utah, averaging 13.8 points, 2.9 rebounds and 5 assists. Last season with the Jazz, the 6-foot-1 Williams averaged 12.9 points, 2.4 rebounds and 6.2 assists but he was hampered by surgery on his right thumb that sidelined him for two months.
He will wear No. 7, Brandon Roy’s former number, for the Blazers. He views himself as a ”piece of the puzzle” in Portland.
”I’m going into the 11th year in my career. I am who I am,” he said. ”The player you saw last year and the player you saw the year before. I’m not going to diminish.”
The Jazz, 22-24 with Williams in the lineup, finished 43-39 and just out of the final Western Conference playoff spot. Many of the players on that team were free agents, including Al Jefferson, who was signed to a three-year, $40.5 million deal by the Charlotte Bobcats, and Paul Millsap, who signed a two-year, $19 million deal with the Atlanta Hawks.
Terms of Williams’ contract with the Trail Blazers were not released, but it was reported to be a two-year deal worth $5.6 million, with a player option for the second year.
Williams, who will be 31 in December, was one of the last major unrestricted free agents still available this summer. At season’s end, he had expressed a desire to return to the Jazz.
But Portland came calling, and Williams’ previous relationships with general manager Neil Olshey and coach Terry Stotts facilitated the deal.
Olshey said Williams allows the Blazers to give maximum effort on both sides of the floor. Last season Lillard, who won the league’s Rookie of the Year honors, played in all 82 games for Portland and led the league with 3,167 minutes.
”I think we’re better today than we were,” Olshey said. ”We’re not where we want to be yet, but we’re getting there.”
Williams’ signing brings Portland’s roster to 15. Olshey said he doesn’t foresee any more moves this summer.
An All-Star in 2009, Williams was taken by Utah with the 47th overall pick in the 2003 draft out of Alabama. He returned to the Jazz last summer in the four-team deal that sent Lamar Odom to the Clippers
”I’m very excited to be back with Mo again,” said Stotts, who coached Williams when both were in Milwaukee. ”He adds versatility, scoring and veteran leadership to the team.”