Charlotte Hornets

After Hornets’ summer of change, Marvin Williams still has big role

Marvin Williams’ 3-point shooting and defense should keep him viable this season in the Charlotte Hornets’ playing rotation.
Marvin Williams’ 3-point shooting and defense should keep him viable this season in the Charlotte Hornets’ playing rotation. AP

There is a lot new at the power forward position for the Charlotte Hornets this preseason in acquisitions Frank Kaminsky, Tyler Hansbrough and Spencer Hawes.

But the so-called “old guy” -- if you can hang that label on 29-year-old Marvin Williams -- arrived for training camp in the best shape on the roster.

That was the assessment of coach Steve Clifford, who doesn’t believe Williams will be marginalized by all the roster moves over the off-season.

Williams enters his second season with the Hornets after signing a free-agent contract the summer of 2014. His strengths -- versatility, defense and particularly 3-point shooting -- will likely keep him in the rotation if the first week of the preseason is any indication.

Williams stayed in Charlotte most of the summer, intent on maintaining great conditioning. That was partially about the aging process after 10 NBA seasons. He was originally drafted second overall in 2005 by the Atlanta Hawks after a single college season at North Carolina.

“You’ve just got to work a little harder,” in your late 20s, Williams said. “When I was 20 or 21-year-old, I could take a month off and then be back in basketball shape in two weeks. I feel like it takes a little bit longer now, so I need to constantly be getting conditioning and lifting weights.”

“I did more cardio this summer. I’ve always loved lifting weights, it’s kind of a hobby of mine. But I did more cardio than ever in the past: 30 to 40 minutes every day and it really helped me.”

Williams is a very different player than the one who left Chapel Hill the spring of 2005. With the Hawks he played mostly small forward and was no 3-point threat. With the Utah Jazz two seasons before signing with the Hornets, Williams played more power forward and developed a reliable 3-point stroke.

Last season Williams made 36 percent of his 3-point attempts, far better than the Hornets’ overall average of 31.8 percent. Hornets center Al Jefferson, who also played with Williams in Salt Lake City, says the evolution of the NBA game has worked to Williams’ benefit.

“The game has changed so much in his favor,” Jefferson said. “He spreads the floor for me. He gives me a lot of room (in the lane) because guys need to respect (Williams’ shooting range in the corner). He’ll open up the floor for guys like me and Kemba (Walker) and Jeremy Lin.”

Most NBA teams play some variation of one-in/four-out sets, where a single post player is surrounded by four viable 3-point threats. Small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist doesn’t have that much shooting range, but new acquisition Nic Batum and Williams should be able to stretch the floor with their shooting.

“I definitely think I’m a guy who benefited” from the popularity of one-in/four-out sets, Williams said. “Look at Golden State with Draymond Green: He’s a smaller guy who can do a lot of things at the (power forward) position. He can shoot the ball and put it on the floor. A lot of teams are going small that way. I read about the Indiana Pacers moving Paul George (to power forward). And Carmelo (Anthony of the New York Knicks) as well.”

Clifford wants to play one-in/four-out as much as possible this season, so it’s natural that Williams would still have value.

“He’ll play the majority of his minutes at (power forward), but he could play (small forward) some nights depending on matchups,” Clifford said of Williams. “He’ll space the floor and be a very good defender. He adds versatility because he can switch (defensively) with some of the perimeter guys.

“Really the way the NBA is going he’s becoming the prototypical (power forward) now -- 6-8 or 6-9, can make 3s and guard different guys.”

Williams has settled in at power forward, but he’d have no problem shifting back-and-forth as circumstances dictate.

“I started out my career as a small forward, but as I got a little bit older, a little less athletic, I moved down to the (power forward) spot,” Williams said. “But if coach needs me to move back (to small forward), I’m fine with that. I’m never uncomfortable at either spot.”

Williams is second only to Jefferson (11 NBA seasons) in experience among Hornets. The team turned over seven roster spots in the off-season, but Williams hasn’t noticed any of the newcomers struggling to pick up Clifford’s system.

“We have a lot of smart guys and a lot of professionals,” Williams said. “Coach usually just has to show something one or two times and these guys have it figured out.”

Bonnell: 704-358-5129; @rick_bonnell

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