Charlotte Hornets

Marvin Williams is ‘quarterback’ of Charlotte Hornets’ defense

Marvin Williams of the Charlotte Hornets reacts to a 3-pointer during Game 5 of an Eastern Conference quarterfinal of the NBA playoffs against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena on Wednesday in Miami.
Marvin Williams of the Charlotte Hornets reacts to a 3-pointer during Game 5 of an Eastern Conference quarterfinal of the NBA playoffs against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena on Wednesday in Miami. Getty Images

One of the many things I like about Nic Batum is if you ask him a serious question, you won’t be met with a series of clichés. He replies consistently in a thought-provoking manner.

Here’s the question I posed after Wednesday’s victory:

“Steve Clifford calls you the quarterback of the offense. He calls Marvin Williams the quarterback of the defense. How would you describe Marvin’s impact on games?”

Batum harkened back to Game 4 when Williams didn’t score a point. And yet, in Batum’s eyes, Williams was the best player on the court for all he contributed as a defender and a rebounder.

On Wednesday, Williams regained his shooting form, making seven of 10 shots for a game-high 17 points in the 90-88 road victory over the Heat. The Hornets are a victory away from advancing to the second round.

And Williams, regardless of how he has shot in this series, has been a huge part of the success.

This is how Batum put it: “Probably the coach loves no one more than Marvin.”

There are many reasons for that affection. Williams arrived for training camp in exceptional shape. He was disappointed with himself and his team based on the previous non-playoff season and turned that into remarkable motivation.

Then small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist – the self-described middle linebacker of the Hornets – suffered a severe injury in the preseason that required major shoulder surgery. Williams took on Kidd-Gilchrist’s role as the centerpiece of the Hornets’ defensive schemes.

He isn’t Kidd-Gilchrist. Not many players are MKG’s peer defensively. But Williams has the length and agility to guard a wide spectrum of players. He’s effective interchangeably playing either power forward or small forward.

And no matter how often Clifford calls on him to switch positions or assignments, he complies with a great attitude. He’s gone out of his way to assure Clifford he doesn’t care whether he starts or comes off the bench.

“I feel we always play well when we play defense. We have plenty of guys who can score,” Williams said after the game, wearing a sharp pale-green suit with a pocket square. “I try to keep them organized.”

He does keep them organized. And he doesn’t let up when his offense falls short of his defense. Williams missed all five of his shots in Game 4, but he finished with seven rebounds and a block.

It would be hard to picture a box score line being less representative of a player’s true impact than Williams’ line was Monday.

I talked to Williams about 15 minutes the other day after he shot 1-of-17 in Games 1 and 2. He was the exact opposite of flustered by the situation. He knew this would all even out over time, and even if it didn’t, there’d be other ways to affect the outcome.

“We got back home, got pretty confident (off two victories) and were ready,” Williams said of Wednesday’s road victory.

Which kind of sums up what Williams has contributed throughout this season. 

Williams had 17 points and eight rebounds and Lee hit the game-winning three-pointer for the Hornets.

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