Marvin Williams has a summer on his heels
They passed each other in the hallway of the Lifetime Activities Center, one former Tar Heel entering the court and the other leaving it...
Seattle Times staff reporter
SALT LAKE CITY — They passed each other in the hallway of the Lifetime Activities Center, one former Tar Heel entering the court and the other leaving it.
"Yo, Marv!" Sean May hollered. "Keep your head up."
Marvin Williams turned, half-acknowledging May's words, and allowed the tiniest of grins to ease the tension in his face.
"I'm good," he shot back. "I'm good."
But May knew better. He spent the past 13 months with the Bremerton native and watched him transform from a McDonald's All-American to a sixth man on a North Carolina team that captured the national championship.
Knowing what he knows about the precocious 19-year-old, May repeated his encouragement.
Williams, who was selected No. 2 overall in last month's draft by the Atlanta Hawks, hasn't had the kind of start to his NBA career that he envisioned. A week ago, he injured his right hamstring in practice; and, through three games at the Rocky Mountain Revue, he has connected on just 24.2 percent of his shots (8 of 33) and is averaging a modest 8.3 points and five rebounds.
"Right now he's a little frustrated with his shooting," May said. "It's not falling as much as he'd like. I told him this is an opportunity that you're going to have to prove yourself. This isn't about the team, but it's an opportunity for you to get up and down the court with your teammates and have fun."
May learned about the rigors of the NBA from his father, Scott, who spent seven seasons in the league. So while Williams struggles, May, who was drafted 13th overall by the Charlotte Bobcats, has thrived at the Revue.
"It's harder to form that bond in a week and a half in camp," he said. "What we had was different. We were all best of friends. We talked every day on campus.
"When you step into the league, these are grown men. They've got families. It's not hanging out and, 'Let's go back to my apartment and watch TV and play video games.' These guys are grown, and they're going back to their wife and kids. It's an adjustment. And he's younger, so sometimes it's harder."
The big question surrounding Williams — a 6-foot-9, 228-pound forward — is his willingness to take control of a floundering Atlanta team that compiled a 13-69 record last season.
Admittedly, Williams is more Shareef Abdur-Rahim than Dominique Wilkins, which may frustrate many fans who are hoping the Hawks return to the playoffs for the first time since 1999.
Williams always has been a reluctant superstar — even at Bremerton, where he averaged 28.7 points and 15.5 rebounds as a senior but failed to win a state championship.
His dogged work ethic and yes-sir, no-sir personality endeared him to many spectators, especially North Carolina coach Roy Williams.
While most star prep players who could have been lottery picks would have balked if relegated to the bench, Marvin Williams refused to cause a ruckus when he played behind senior Jawad Williams last season.
"I think everybody should have that attitude," Marvin Williams said. "Basketball is a team sport and forever will be a team sport. The better your team does, the more credit everybody gets. I'll carry that attitude from now until whenever I stop playing. It will always be a team game. The team always comes first."
The Hawks, however, have been accused of being a misguided team filled with players unwilling to accept supporting roles. Atlanta has built around three players — Al Harrington, Josh Smith and Josh Childress — who all believe they should lead the Hawks.
And all three will battle Williams for playing time because they essentially play the same position.
"Having known Marvin since he was at Bremerton, he has a natural understanding of what it takes to help a team," said Hawks assistant Bob Bender, former Washington Huskies coach. "He's earned that right to be that guy. Some players take it as a given.
"Marvin knows he's going to have to earn it. Just because he's the second pick, it's about earning it. He wants to be out there. He wants the ball, and he wants the challenges. I don't think he'll ever be a guy that says, 'I'm the guy.' He's going to do it the right way and just go about his business."
• Mateen Cleaves led the Sonics to consecutive wins at the Rocky Mountain Revue, including yesterday's 78-74 victory against Atlanta. Seattle is 2-2. Cleaves finished with 18 points and four assists yesterday. On Monday, he had 11 points, five assists and four rebounds.
• Guard Alex Scales (13 points) was the only other Sonic who scored in double figures yesterday. Center Robert Swift finished with two points and five rebounds, and rookie center Johan Petro had two points and five fouls in nine minutes.
Seattle Times transportation reporter Mike Lindblom describes some of the factors that may have led to the collapse of the I-5 bridge over the Skagit River in Mount Vernon on Thursday, May 23.