Charlotte Hornets

On Team Unreliable, Hornets vet Marvin Williams has been Mr. Consistent

Charlotte Hornets forward Marvin Williams has been a consistent performer on a so-far unreliable team.
Charlotte Hornets forward Marvin Williams has been a consistent performer on a so-far unreliable team. AP

The word that might best describe the Charlotte Hornets’ 0-3 start? Unreliable.

One game they commit 20 turnovers. The next they shoot 4-of-24 in the fourth quarter. After a preseason that seemed so promising at 7-1, they look as unfamiliar with each other as you’d expect from a team with seven new faces.

That makes veteran power forward Marvin Williams a contrast. Reaching back to long before voluntary workouts began in September, Williams has been a steadying force in his 11th season. He’s the only Hornet who has played well in each of the team’s first three games, averaging 12.7 points, nine rebounds and 2.3 assists.

That Williams would have a featured role on this team was far from a given. The Hornets have all sorts of alternatives at power forward, from Cody Zeller to rookie Frank Kaminsky to Tyler Hansbrough. Williams, the oldest of those alternatives, says frequently he doesn’t care whether he starts. But that’s where coach Steve Clifford needs him.

He’s doing everything and he’s doing it every night. He’s in such a place physically and mentally.

Hornets coach Steve Clifford on veteran Marvin Williams

“He’s doing everything and he’s doing it every night. He’s in such a place physically and mentally,” said Clifford. “He guarded (Paul) Millsap really well, then he did a really good job on (Kyle) Korver when he was on him. He’s playing both (small forwards and power forwards). He can do both and he organizes the defense.

“He’s put himself in that place. When you put that much into something, you can really tell.”

Williams was frustrated and embarrassed by the Hornets’ 33-49 finish a season ago. A decade has passed since he entered the NBA at 19, coming off a single season at North Carolina.

So he set the bar for Hornets offseason workouts, staying in Charlotte and showing up at Time Warner Cable Arena nearly every day. The strength-and-conditioning staff had him do more cardio over the summer to augment the weightlifting he calls his “hobby.”

Result: He lost about a dozen pounds and showed up for training camp in exceptional condition.

He was unbelievable over the summer,” Clifford said. “We had a lot of guys who were terrific but none more than him.”

Williams’ success is about more than effort. On a team that is trending young, looking to integrate Kaminsky, Jeremy Lin and Jeremy Lamb into the rotation, Williams’ experience and versatility have become important.

That importance increased when the Hornets lost small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to shoulder surgery that will likely cost him the season. Williams started out as a small forward as an Atlanta Hawks rookie, but over the years he morphed into more of a power forward with 3-point range.

Marvin can literally play with any group of guys. He’s fine because he creates space because they’re afraid he’ll shoot (from outside the 3-point arc). And he never makes mistakes.

Hornets coach Steve Clifford on veteran Marvin Williams

Losing Kidd-Gilchrist means Williams now spends as much time as a backup small forward as he does a starting power forward. He treats all this with a no-big-deal shrug.

“Marvin can literally play with any group of guys,” Clifford said. “He’s fine because he creates space because they’re afraid he’ll shoot (from outside the 3-point arc).

“And he never makes mistakes.”

On a team that has been mistake-ridden this early regular season, that precision is extra valuable. Hornets center Al Jefferson also played with Williams on the Utah Jazz roster. He’s come to greatly admire how Williams approaches his job.

“He does all the little things, all the right things at both ends” of the court, Jefferson said. “Rebounding, playing two different spots. Anybody else might complain about that, say it’s horrible. He just adjusts and does everything well.

“One thing I love about him is how he can defend anyone from the 3 to the 5 (small forward, power forward or center).”

That broad-spectrum defense was on display Sunday versus the Atlanta Hawks. Over the course of 33 minutes on the court Williams guarded mostly Millsap, a power forward, but also some against center Al Horford and a big chunk of the fourth quarter against Kyle Korver, one of the NBA’s best 3-point shooters.

Korver ended that game 3-of-9 from the field and 0-of-4 from 3-point range.

“That’s something I take pride in – that I’ve guarded a ton of different guys over my career. I feel prepared. If coach needs me to guard somebody, he knows I can,” Williams said.

“If your job is to stick to Kyle Korver, then you stick to Kyle Korver. If you’re the low man in the (defensive) rotation, then you have to be there on the rotation. I watch a lot of film – we all watch a lot of film – but it’s just about doing your job each and every night.”

Bonnell: 704-358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell

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