Ex-Bulls guard recovering from motorcycle crash

Updated: June 22, 2004, 5:11 PM ET
Associated Press

A year after a motorcycle crash left Jay Williams fearful he would never walk again, the former Chicago Bulls guard is holding out hope that he'll return to the NBA.

"I'm not running and dunking on people yet," Williams said by phone Tuesday from Durham, N.C., where he has been undergoing intensive rehabilitation since last summer. "I wish I could. But I'm definitely making huge steps compared to where I was last year."

The former No. 2 draft pick out of Duke said he started doing some shooting and light jogging about four months ago, and recently jumped off his injured left leg for the first time. His next goal is to work his way up to sprinting and cutting.

"The big thing is trusting in the leg again," he said. "I'm finally starting to believe in it again."

On June 19, 2003, Williams crashed his recently bought motorcycle into a light pole in Chicago, fracturing his pelvis, tearing knee ligaments and damaging nerves in his left leg. He was still on crutches when training camp rolled around in the fall, and he wound up missing the entire season.

The Bulls honored the Plainfield, N.J., native's contract last season -- despite the fact that he violated a standard contract clause that prohibits players from engaging in dangerous activities like riding motorcycles -- but waived him in February after reaching a settlement on the remaining two years.

The buyout was reportedly worth about $3 million.

Williams said he has not had contact with the Bulls in recent months, but would like to play for them again.

"My door is still open with Chicago," Williams said. "When my time comes to come back, I will definitely give them the right of first refusal. I'd definitely play for them as long as I can, but if it doesn't work out, I just want to play somewhere."

Whether Williams, 22, can return at all is in question. The nerve damage left part of his left leg without feeling, though he said most of that has been restored. Williams has taken inspiration from Duke assistant coach Johnny Dawkins, who was hampered by injuries early in his pro career and recovered to play several more seasons.

Nevertheless, Williams has prepared himself for a future that does not include pro basketball. He said he plans eventually to go back to school and get an MBA -- he graduated from Duke in three years with a degree in sociology in 2002 -- and would like to work in a sports-related enterprise.

Whatever he ends up doing, it is doubtful he will be tested more -- both physically and mentally -- than he has in the last year.

"Playing basketball, you think you've been challenged, by different coaches, different players, different situations," Williams said. "But for me, this is the most challenging thing I've ever had to go through."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press