Lou Williams is not in the upper echelon talent-wise, but has enough game to survive in the NBA.
The pint-sized guard, at NBA standards, was primarily a top reserve through his first seven seasons in the league with Philadelphia, starting 38 games as a Sixer -- all in the 2009-10 season.
Williams, more commonly known in Philly parts as Lou, was exiled from the City of Brotherly Love in what was dubbed as a payroll overhaul. Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand both felt the heat, too, and currently reside in Denver and Dallas, respectively. Williams wasn't making nearly as much as Iggy and Brand, and the powers that be decided his time was up even though he expressed a faint interest in returning.
Williams, who actually opted out of the final year of his deal to see what he was worth on the market, went to the Twitter machine to say his goodbyes.
"Philly, I appreciate you all. Unfortunately I will not be coming back, as an organization they decided to move in a different direction."
Perhaps the Sixers' addition of Nick Young was the first shoe to drop.
Never short on providing a spark or hitting a big shot in the clutch, Williams quickly found a job with his hometown Atlanta Hawks and was coming off the best season of his career, averaging 14.9 points and 3.5 assists per game off the bench. He finished second in Sixth Man of the Year voting behind Oklahoma City's James Harden.
Named Mr. Basketball in Georgia as a junior and senior at South Gwinnett High School, the four-time All-State selection had an admirable debut with his new team, leaving a strong first impression with 22 points, five assists, four rebounds and three steals in 31 minutes off the bench versus Houston on Nov. 2. The 22 points were the second-highest total for a player coming off the bench in his Hawks' debut since the team moved to the Peach State.
Williams has been keeping the pace ever since and averages 14.8 ppg. He has scored 10 or more points 24 times this season and coincidentally played every game as a reserve up until a Dec. 21 loss at the Sixers. Unlike Doug Collins in Philadelphia, Hawks head coach Larry Drew noticed what he has at his disposal and decided not to waste any more time with Williams on the bench.
Drew has made Williams a starter in each of the past six games and the 6- foot-1 guard is taking every advantage with 16.8 points, 5.8 assists and 4.0 rebounds in his new role. In Collins' defense in terms of using Williams in the starting lineup, he had Iguodala, Evan Turner and Jrue Holiday on the floor at tip-off. Not too shabby.
"Lou has done a phenomenal job since I've inserted him in the starting lineup," Drew said. "He's a guy that could score. He gives up a little size at his position but he plays big. I will stay with that. It's been working for us so there's no need to change it."
Drew's right, Williams is undersized and has to grind it out against some bigger guards such as Dwyane Wade, Monta Ellis, Holiday, etc. But size doesn't really matter that much, just as long as the results keep funneling in.
The Hawks are 5-1 with Williams as a starter and seem to have turned the corner, sitting right behind the Miami Heat for the Southeast Division lead. Williams played on some talented rosters with the 76ers, but this Atlanta team could be his best yet. Josh Smith and Al Horford are two of the more talented players in the Eastern Conference, and with a sprinkle of Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver and Zaza Pachulia, you could have a successful stew going there.
Atlanta is 12th in the NBA with 97.9 ppg and seventh in opponents' scoring, allowing 95.6 ppg. The Hawks are seventh in field-goal percentage (0.458).
It appears Drew will keep Williams in his starting lineup for the time being, or until Williams starts putting up irresponsible shot after shot. He has been known to do that. We haven't seen it yet with the Hawks, however.
QUICK OBSERVATIONS AROUND THE NBA
TORONTO - The Raptors have won three in a row and eight of nine games, and are unbeaten in five straight games at Air Canada Centre. Rookie Terrence Ross is averaging 14.0 ppg in his last five and scored a career-high 26 points off the bench in a 102-79 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers Wednesday.
DETROIT - Currently riding a season-best three-game winning streak, the Pistons are 5-1 in the past six games. Rookie Andre Drummond has recorded 10- plus rebounds in five of his last six games to help an already-strong inside game led by Greg Monroe and Tayshaun Prince. Detroit is undefeated in four straight at The Palace.
SACRAMENTO - Kings big man DeMarcus Cousins just had 18 points, 16 rebounds and six assists for his fourth straight double-double in a win at Cleveland and is averaging 16.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 5.8 assists over that span. Cousins, of course, just served a one-game suspension and missed another for conduct detrimental to the team. He is trying to "keep out the negativity" and that could work in the long run for the team. The Kings have won five of their last eight games and could get Tyreke Evans back soon.
BOSTON - The Celtics have experienced both the best and worst of times this season, and now they're going through the latter. Having lost a season-high four in a row and eight of 10 games, Boston may be starting to show its age among such players as Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Jason Terry is no spring chicken, but the C's did welcome back young guard Avery Bradley this week.
ORLANDO - They don't miss him, then they do. That has been the juggling act for the Magic without Dwight Howard this season. A four-game winning streak from Dec. 14-19 had the Magic feeling high on themselves until a subsequent and current seven-game losing streak. The Magic have been competitive in every game save a 123-88 blowout at the hands of Toronto Dec. 29. The road gets tougher ahead with the Knicks, Blazers, Nuggets and Clippers on the horizon.