Courtesy of Yahoo!’s Marc Spears (side note: please, please just switch it to “Yahoo,” guys.)
Mo Williams is 27, healthy and has three years and $26 million remaining on his Cleveland Cavaliers contract. But none of that mattered much to him this summer after he watched LeBron James(notes) leave the Cavs to join the Miami Heat. Williams said he was so depressed by James’ exit that he considered walking away from the NBA.
“That’s how bad it got,” Williams said. “I contemplated it. I really sat down and envisioned life after basketball. …I really saw myself not playing.
Commentary: There’s a big difference between “considering” something and doing it. I know this, and most other people do as well. That’s what you do when a very bad thing happens and you get depressed. You consider doing crazy things. I don’t really understand how people can question Mo’s desire to play or love for the game just because his mind went there at one point or another. These things happen.
“You get back here to Cleveland, get around the new coaching staff, start a few workouts, get around the young guys and basically accept the fact that we are not what we once were,” he said. “We don’t have the No. 23 jersey hanging in the locker before every game now.”
James wasn’t the only key figure in the organization to leave in the offseason. Brown was fired and eventually replaced by Byron Scott. Former general manager Danny Ferry parted ways with the franchise, and his assistant, Chris Grant, was named the new GM. Assistant GM Lance Blanks left to help run the Phoenix Suns. The Cavs didn’t make any headline moves, acquiring role players in guard Ramon Sessions(notes) and center Ryan Hollins(notes), while trying to preserve future roster flexibility. Veteran forward Antawn Jamison(notes) is still on the roster, but both he and Williams could eventually find themselves on the trade block as the Cavs continue to rebuild.
“This summer was very, very stressful for me,” Williams said. “I really lost a lot of love for the game this summer.”
“You play this game for one reason. You play to win games and win championships. I couldn’t understand why a lot of things were happening to our organization, to a really good basketball team. I couldn’t really understand it. And when you don’t understand things, it can really stress you out.”
Commentary: Here’s the unfortunate elephant in the room: a major reason that a lot of things happened to this organization was that Mo couldn’t get it done against Orlando or Boston. And it’s not because Mo choked, or didn’t try hard enough. He’s just a player with the tools to thrive against those kinds of defenses. He’s a great shooter when he’s open, he can create his own shot sometimes, but he needs space to operate. When Orlando and Boston were able to collapse on LeBron and rotate back to Mo, he became ineffective. Really ineffective. And that sucks, because he wanted to win those games so badly and he was such a great complimentary player to LeBron. He just wasn’t given the necessary gifts to crack those defenses when they loaded up on LeBron.
“It’s crazy because ever since [James left], everybody I see, they approach me and say, ‘Hey, you’re going to be able to play your game now,’ ” Williams said. “ ‘You are going to be able to show everybody what you got,’ or ‘you’re going to be able to do this.’ I was happy with my role. We were winning basketball games. I was coming home every night a winner.
“Who can’t love that? That is what playing a role on a team is all about. …Everybody can’t be the star. I was perfectly comfortable being that piece.”
How long will it take for Williams to grow comfortable with his new role? Not even he knows. But after two months, he also understands it doesn’t make much sense to sit around pining for his departed teammate.
“We just got to go to work, man,” Williams said. “…At the end of the day we still have to move forward because the only people who feel sorry for us are the ones who have the Cavs uniform on and whoever is in the stands rooting for the Cavs. That’s it. Everybody else could care less.”
Commentary: Again, that’s the perfect attitude. It was never about Mo being a diva, or taking shots away, or choking the offense, or not putting the work in — he went all-out a few times against the Celtics, only to commit a turnover when the defense collapsed on his drive or force up a shot when they closed up his window. He wanted to win. He wanted to be able to do everything it took to win. He just wasn’t able to do enough when it counted. And in the end, there are much worse things. I just hope he can approach being a key offensive player on the 10-11 Cavs with the same passion he approached being a secondary option on the 08-09 and 09-10 Cavs.