Shawne Williams sometimes still can’t believe he’s starting for the Heat.
Through the first eight games of the season, Williams has been the Heat’s unlikely starter at power forward, and he’s not ashamed to say it. This offseason, Williams was just happy the Heat gave him a chance. Starter from Day 1? He wouldn’t have even imagined it this summer when he was trying to drop weight and learn the Heat’s complicated defense.
Williams is only in the lineup because of early season injuries to Udonis Haslem, Danny Granger and Josh McRoberts. But that doesn’t mean the journeyman hasn’t deserved to be there. He has proven himself early by leading the Heat in three-point shooting at just under 50 percent (18 of 38 for the season).
“I just came in and wanted to be in the rotation, you know, coming off the bench, but I believe with the rough start with Josh and Danny and [Haslem] being hurt, the opportunity just kind of opened up, and I just kind of fell into it,” Williams said.
Williams is manning a familiar role for the Heat, but the Memphis man has made it his own by adding an enforcer element that wasn’t there with Shane Battier and Mike Miller. He might not win any popularity contests around the league like Battier, but Williams is commanding respect in a different way. He’s protecting the Heat’s stars on the court while also knocking down wide-open shots.
“He’s in this role right now, and we’ll see where he goes from here, but he’s versatile and he brings a toughness, so the things that he brings I like,” coach Erik Spoelstra said when asked about the similarities between Williams and Battier. “But he’s that type of shooter. I will never say anything even if he’s contested and has someone draped all over him. He has the absolute neon green light.”
Williams isn’t expected to remain a starter for long, but plans could change if the Heat continues winning. As of now, though, McRoberts is projected to join the starters once he works himself back into shape. McRoberts couldn’t do much game-simulated conditioning while recovering from offseason toe surgery.
So, for now, Williams is relishing his role. On Wednesday night against the Pacers, he went 5 of 6 from the field and 4 of 5 from three-point range and scored 15 points. He said the Heat’s commitment to ball movement has helped him find his form.
“I got two great guys around the ball in Chris [Bosh] and Dwyane [Wade], and they’re not skeptical to pass it,” Williams said. “They want to pass. They get more static off of getting everyone else going, especially when they’re peeping out the double team and seeing that everyone loads up on them.
“This year, a lot of teams are going to say they don’t want Dwyane to beat us, so they’re going to send two at them.”
Spoelstra knows how to deliver memorable phrases and catchy one-liners, but he was in rare form after the morning shootaround. In nearly one breath he delivered “work the process” and “sweat equity.”
“It’s not even about that right now,” Spoelstra said of the team’s 5-2 start. “It’s about our habits. Are we coming in to work to get better? And the guys have been great. They have a real lunch-pail, hard-hat mentality to come in here and work and work the process to try to get better.
“You’re seeing some of the improvement, but we have a long way to go, particularly on the defensive end. And there is no shortcut to it. You just have to put in the time. You have to put in the sweat equity.”
This and that
▪ Justin Hamilton remains sidelined with a sprained hip adductor. He and rookie Andre Dawkins were inactive.
▪ Pacers coach Frank Vogel isn’t really impressed with the Heat’s new offense.
“I don’t really buy into the notion that they’re moving the ball now and they didn’t in the past,” Vogel said.