Nic Batum is the Charlotte Hornets’ most versatile player. Kemba Walker is the Hornets’ most spectacular player.
But if you graded this Hornets team 1 through 15 on a consistency scale, everyone else would line up behind Marvin Williams.
From the start of training camp, Williams was the player in the best shape. He was a rock throughout the Hornets’ 48-34 regular season, which made it all the stranger that he more resembled a pebble in the first two games of the playoff series against the Miami Heat.
Williams, a 10-season veteran NBA forward, made just one of his 17 shot attempts in Games 1 and 2 in Miami. So coach Steve Clifford met with Williams before Game 3 Saturday in Charlotte, to make sure Williams’ head was in the right place.
Clifford left that meeting knowing there was nothing to worry about. Williams said he was on top of things, reminding Clifford that his first responsibility was to be the anchor of the Hornets’ defense.
Clifford moved Williams to small forward Saturday and started rookie Frank Kaminsky at power forward in the absence of the injured Batum. Williams broke free from his recent slump, making five of nine shots from the field and finishing with 12 points and 14 rebounds. The Hornets beat the Heat 96-80 for the franchise’s first playoff victory since the NBA returned to Charlotte in 2004.
Williams said he was never worried about his shot, pointing out that if his two bad games were in, say, March rather than the playoffs, they wouldn’t have drawn so much attention.
I probably know Williams as well as any Hornet. He’s stoic and steady in a way that allows teammates to lean on him for advice. He practices a quiet form of leadership, because he’s so respected for his professionalism.
So rather than getting flustered by his struggle putting the ball through the basket, Williams outworked the problem.
“I was literally missing tip-ins and put-backs, and that’s why I never worried about it. It was one night, and then it was another night,” Williams said Sunday. “So I got into the gym and worked with my dad. He and my cousin or my brother came here to rebound for me at night.
“Thursday I was in there. Thursday night I was in there. Friday morning, I was there. And I came in early Saturday morning before our walk-through to put some shots up. “
Practice might not have made perfect, but it got Williams back on track. Once the No. 2 overall pick in 2005, following a single season at North Carolina, Williams has played roughly 800 NBA games.
So he didn’t get rattled by a two-game scoring slump.
“My focus has always been on defense. I look for ways to help my teammates be in the right positions,” Williams said. “I can shoot the ball. Anybody who shoots knows you can have a couple of off nights. Unfortunately, mine came in the playoffs.
“I’m not going to let two nights of bad shooting get in my head at all. I know I can shoot the ball.”
Again, the high-percentage shots Williams was missing was the best illustration to Williams this would pass.
“You never expect to go one for your first 17, but look at the shots I was taking: I missed five tip-ins in a row. I missed three layups,” Williams said. “So it’s not like all those shots were from the 3-point line, where I’ve also been good all season.”