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Through Difficult Season, Elliot Williams Finds The Value Of Patience

03/21/13
  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 5.0

    BY ERIK GUNDERSEN

    Trail Blazers Head Coach Terry Stotts is what they call in shorthand, a basketball-lifer. He's been around the league for several decades and played at the highest levels of college and overseas basketball. So, when he doesn't have an experience in dealing with something, you really value how truly unique that something is.

    Such is the case of Trail Blazers guard Elliot Williams.

    When asked if he had coached a player who was out for the entire season due to injury, Stotts didn't have a clear moment or player to point to.

    "For the entire season?…Trying to think…"  Stotts was stumped.

    He then recalled his first year in Milwaukee that Joe Smith had  his knee scoped and missed the first half of the season. Smith only played 44 games that year but it is still 44 games more than Elliot Williams will play this season.

    The crazy thing when it comes to Williams is this has happened to him twice in his three years in league as he missed his rookie season after getting surgery on a dislocated patella.

    "The difference (between the knee injury and this one) is, this injury I played. I know how the NBA is and I know what I needed to do this year."

    Williams says that this year's injury was especially difficult because he came into this season, his final one guaranteed under his current contract, very ready.

    "It's been very difficult. Especially with this injury, knowing how ready I was coming into this season. But, things like this basically just make you stronger and test your dedication. But I love the game and I'll be back strong."

    What Williams said can be expected from an athlete dealing with a serious injury. However, even though Williams has just started shooting and doing some light work with coaches, Williams has carried an aura of positivity with him. Williams is always quick to make jokes with his teammates and is just as equally quick to debate with them and carry on the banter that goes on in locker rooms from high school to the pros. Williams has been out the whole season, but he has made an effort to not only get healthy but to be a Trail Blazer.

    "Just being able to be around the guys is very important," Williams said. "Being able to pick up how the coaches are actually coaching and be around the guys and get their personalities and learn about them and learn the game at the same time as me healing and becoming a better basketball player."

    Williams' situation is not an easy one. He has played only 24 games in three years with his free agency on the horizon after the season. Yet Williams isn't worried about what the future will hold, mostly because it is out of his control right now. But what is in his control is his mental state and even when asked if there were times he wishes he could be out there to help his team, he says so with a smile.

    "Oh of course, of course, every second, I wish I could be out there. You know, I'm very competitive, man and I love the game so of course I want to play. But, same time, it teaches you patience. That's a thing that's helped me out."

    A common theme with NBA players that sustain long-term injuries is adding something to their game. Williams is still in his healing stages and saying he knows he has things to work on, but that healing comes first. Williams has also sought out advice from other's who have had experiences with him and his injury.

    "I've gotten advice from, of course, Dan Dickau (former Trail Blazer player and player development assistant coach). He went through the same injury as me. Nate McMillan called me the day I got injured. He tore his achilles and let me know everything will be alright, I was really talented and I'll bounce back. I've gotten other guys to talk to, guys like Chauncey Billups (tore his achilles last season), things like that to get advice on your achilles. Of course I talk to my doctors."

    The love of the game of basketball is very vibrant in Williams, even while his body has kept him away from something he loves so dearly. But Williams' experience is one that teaches a valuable lesson: that love and patience are two virtues that when put together, can get one through even the most bizarre of circumstances. Even if the thing that you love has caused you pain.  

    Williams' NBA future beyond this season is uncertain but love, positivity, patience and of course his talent, give him tools he needs to survive.

    Williams in some ways embodies the attitude the Trail Blazers and fans should have moving forward. You can see the progress already made and when you see this year's team, yet you also see there's more progress to be made. Patience, as Williams shows us, can go a long way. There are certainly exceptions to the rule, but the process to building a winner is just that, a process. One that can take multiple seasons, but that doesn't mean you should lose sight of how far they've come.

    Whether Williams will get to help the team build once he heals is unknown. Because much like needing patience in building a winner, free agency and offseason uncertainty for players a reality of the NBA.

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