ATLANTA – Lou Williams said he’s known Josh Smith from the time he was 13 and the two metro Atlanta natives had tried to get the other to play on their team for years. Although they were never teammates, Williams said they are close friends.
Finally, they will be on the same team.
Williams, who finished as runner-up for the NBA’s Sixth Man Award last season, signed a free agent contract with the Hawks and ought to be an integral part of the Hawks next season, along with Smith.
“Obviously, I’m excited to be back home, I’m excited to be back in the city of Atlanta,” he said. “I’m excited to be part of a franchise that has had good success in recent history with a very talented group of young guys and I’m just excited to be part of the process. I’m a hometown kid and I’m just looking forward to getting this whole thing started.”
On Friday, the Hawks introduced both Williams and fellow guard Devin Harris, who was acquired for Marvin Williams. Along with incumbent starting point guard Jeff Teague, the threesome will form an intriguing mix as to how they all fit together on a team that has made the playoffs for five straight seasons, advancing to the second round in three of them. The 6-foot-1 Williams, 25, averaged a career-high 14.9 points per game last season for Philadelphia.
“In the past in Philadelphia, my role was to light it up and score as many points as I possibly could,” Williams said. “Talking to coach (Larry) Drew and talking to (general manager Danny Ferry), I think my role will be similar, if not increased. Obviously, you have Devin and you have Jeff, who are very talented guards, and then you add myself in that mode. I’ve always been the type of guy that I’m a team player, I’m a team guy. I don’t plan on coming in here competing with these guys negatively. I think we can all compete and help us all win games.”
The question as to how the guards will fit together is sort of the $64,000 question entering 2012-13, especially since the threesome is somewhat short on size – and, despite the radical makeover that Ferry has given the Hawks – if they can continue to win. Harris, at 6-3, is the tallest among those three, which leaves the Hawks a bit small, especially in guarding the two-guard spot. He said he has played some off the ball in New Jersey, but mostly he has played point in his stops in Dallas and Utah during his eight-year career.
Harris, 29, started to take umbrage at a question about how he had once been one of the fastest players in the league with the ball, forcing the questioner to change his wording to “still” one of the fastest players in the league with the ball. But Harris evidently is aware of the logjam in the backcourt, as he chuckled to himself before answering a question about how he and Teague would fit in together.
“They’ve been talking a lot about playing us together,” Harris said. “It’s something I’m accustomed to doing. I played a lot in Dallas with Jason Terry (who is 6-2) in a small backcourt. I think it can work out kind of the same way. I’ve played against Jeff. He’s a great player. He’s one of the few guys on this team who knows the system and does it well. I’m looking to fit in any way I can and help him out and, obviously, if we play together I think it will be a great tandem for us.”
Harris said he thinks that with the Hawks’ assemblage of talent, that they will have one of the fastest teams in the league.
“I do think we have a unique talent with that speed we have and our ability to shoot the three,” he said. “We added some guys who can really shoot the ball from the outside. This team is used to getting up and down, so I think this going to be an exciting team to play for and play with. Some of those guys can stretch the floor and guys that can run the floor like Josh (Smith) and Al (Horford).”
Harris also said that in addition to the fast tempo, he thinks the shooters the Hawks have added – Kyle Korver and Anthony Morrow, two of the league’s best three-point shooters, and first-round draft pick John Jenkins – will benefit him.
“That’s going to open up the paint more for me, which is something I like to do,” Harris said. “Get in the paint and cause havoc that way and defensively get after it and changing defenses. It looks like it’s going to be a fun way to play.”
Williams agreed. He said part of what why he wanted to sign in Atlanta was that despite trading All-Star Joe Johnson, Ferry convinced him that the Hawks were not rebuilding. He said he did not want to be part of a rebuild with the stage he is at in his career.
“He felt like we still had the pieces to compete at a high level with the guys that were here and with the guys they were bringing in,” Williams said of Ferry. “At this point in my career, I didn’t want to rebuild. I wanted to be a part of a group that could win games and compete at a high level and they felt like they had the talent to do that and I think Danny was doing a good job of assembling a team like that.”
Entering the 2012-13 season, how the Hawks go about it might be as interesting as the question of if they can be as good as they have in recent seasons.