Commentary

Williams eager to shine against old team

As role player in Boston, Celtics forward is finding his niche

Updated: November 4, 2009, 3:36 PM ET
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com

When the Celtics visit the Timberwolves Wednesday night in Minnesota, it'll be a homecoming for Kevin Garnett, but also one of sorts for Shelden Williams.

While Garnett still holds most Timberwolves career records after 12 years as the face of the franchise, Williams spent 15 rather forgettable games with Minnesota after being traded there from the Sacramento Kings late last season. Williams averaged 4.9 points and 5.0 rebounds in 13.8 minutes per game as the Timberwolves went 4-11 to close out the year.

Through five games, Williams has already logged more wins with the Celtics, and his statistics have perked up as he settles into his role off the Boston bench.

[+] EnlargeShelden Williams
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty ImagesShelden Williams is averaging 7.8 points and 6.6 rebounds this season while filling a spot previously pegged for the injured Glen Davis.

Williams is averaging 7.8 points and 6.6 rebounds this season, while filling a spot previously pegged for Glen Davis before a thumb injury sidelined "Big Baby" for the start of the season. Williams logged his first double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds in last week's win over Chicago, and you can see his confidence growing.

"[Williams is] getting comfortable; every day is a better day for Shelden with us," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "We just keep selling him his role. He's starting to get it, to [pick and] roll when he's able with Rasheed [Wallace], when to pop and when not to. He's starting to find his spot, that 12-foot little jumper area.

"When we first got him, he was so used to running down to the post and asking for the ball. Early on we explained that, 'We have Paul Pierce and Ray Allen; your job is this.' He's doing it, accepting it. He's been a big pickup and the one thing he does, too, is rebound."

Williams talked last week about finally getting a chance to let his talents shine. He noted how, after being drafted with the fifth overall pick in the 2006 draft by Atlanta, he seemed to be hitting his stride late in his rookie season. Over the final six games of the 2006-07 campaign, he registered five double-doubles (barely missing a sixth) and might have been shedding the perception he was a complete draft bust.

But the Hawks drafted forward/center Al Horford that offseason, and Williams started the 2007-08 campaign on the bench. By the middle of February, he had been shipped to Sacramento in a trade that brought Mike Bibby to Atlanta. The following season, the Kings sent him to Minnesota in another February swap.

"The last two teams, it wasn't a good situation," Williams said last week. "When I did get a chance to play [in Atlanta] ... I was averaging a double-double ... and earned the rookie of the month honor [for April]. I thought things were changing. I showed when I got a lot of minutes I can be effective at this level. But they made changes, other people got drafted."

In Boston, the man nicknamed "The Landlord" seems to have finally found a home. He admits he's still learning the intricacies of the system, but feels like instincts are starting to take over. He's become one of the key cogs in Boston's four-man bench nucleus that also includes Wallace, Marquis Daniels and Eddie House.

Against the Timberwolves, Williams hopes to show a former employer what he's capable of in a positive situation.

Slow going for Wolves

The Timberwolves (1-3) are off to another sluggish start, but it's no fault of the players obtained from the Celtics in the trade that brought Kevin Garnett to Boston.

Al Jefferson, coming off a torn ACL that limited him to 50 games last season, is averaging a team-best 16.5 points per game, while Ryan Gomes is averaging 11.3 points and a team-best 8 rebounds per contest. The pair is essentially all that remains of a deal that also included Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair and Theo Ratliff. The Timberwolves did reel in a 2009 first-round pick, selecting Wayne Ellington 28th overall in this past year's draft. Ellington is averaging 4.8 points and 2.8 rebounds per game in his rookie campaign.

Recent first-round picks Corey Brewer and Jonny Flynn help provide a promising young nucleus for Minnesota to build around under first-year coach Kurt Rambis, but it hasn't translated to wins quite yet.

For Garnett, this is only his third visit to the Target Center since the trade. Wearing a suit, he appeared briefly on the court during his initial return in 2008, but sat out the game with an abdominal strain. Last season, he scored a team-high 17 points in a 95-78 triumph for the Celtics. Garnett is coming off a dismal 1-of-7 shooting performance in which he registered just three points in Tuesday's win over the 76ers.

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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