Williams' alter ego JunkedIt's impossible to be a cartoon-ish character with such a dog of a team
By BILL HARRIS, TORONTO SUN
The Junk Yard Dog has been put down. The critter was humanely destroyed last Dec. 1, the day the Raptors traded Jerome Williams to the Chicago Bulls. We should rephrase. There was nothing humane about it.
Williams' alter ego simply does not exist in Chicago. There's no Dog Pound at the United Center. Instead of the Junk Yard Dog, he's just Jerome Williams, one of 12 zombies playing out the string with the worst team in the NBA.
Still, the zombies were good enough to beat the Raptors 96-91 last night, making one wonder which group is more dead.
The Toronto crowd gave Williams a healthy ovation that befit one of the most beloved players in Raptors history. The only other person with an alter ego who might elicit such a positive response in a return game at the Air Canada Centre would be Lucie a.k.a. Lindsey Marshal, the former Raptors Dance Pak member who was fired this week when it was discovered she had posed for a soft-porn website.
The cheers that greeted Williams were as predictable as the boos that rained down upon another ex-Raptor, Antonio Davis, as the Bulls made their first appearance in Toronto since the big three-for-three trade. But Davis answered the crowd with his play, racking up 18 points and 14 rebounds.
"Antonio is one guy, if you boo him, it will motivate him," said Williams, who had five points and three rebounds.
Asked about the bipolar reactions from the crowd, Williams said, "Well, they know there was no part of me that wanted to leave Toronto, and Antonio wanted to leave, so that's the story of the tape. I didn't want to crack a tear out there, but (the fans) really made me feel appreciated."
Davis said the booing both bothered him and helped him.
"When you get booed, you're constantly reminded to concentrate on what you're doing," Davis said. "But I played here four years and tried to be everything they wanted me to be. When you don't feel that's appreciated, it does hurt."
Despite the warm reception for Williams -- one of the pro-JYD signs read, "How much is that Doggie in the window?" -- there was a sadness in the air, too. It was nostalgic, a memorial service for a canine entity that won't rise from the grave unless the Raptors re-acquire him.
After Williams' first home game with the Bulls three months ago, he startled local reporters by physically seeking out a TV camera and barking into it. But as comically endearing as that may sound, the playful notion of JYD has not caught on in the Windy City. There are four main reasons for this.
- The dwindling legion of Bulls fans is not in the mood to embrace a cartoon-ish character.
- The beleaguered media that covers the Bulls also is not in the mood to embrace a cartoon-ish character.
- It's tough to be a cartoon-ish character when you don't play all that much, and Williams has been thwarted this season by a series of minor injuries.
- It's even tougher to be a cartoon-ish character when you're depressed.
"It's almost like you don't really get a chance to say goodbye," a sombre Williams said, regretfully thinking back to his sudden departure from Toronto.
Williams and Raptors coach Kevin O'Neill weren't the best of pals during their short stint together, but O'Neill understood why the Junk Yard Dog was a crowd-pleaser.
"This is a hockey town that prides itself on toughness and hard play, and Jerome had those things," O'Neill said.
Fan favourite or not, Williams took a little shot at his former club. "When I left, we were in the playoffs," he said with a deliberately innocent smile. And just for a second, he had a sparkle in his eye. He looked like the Junk Yard Dog again.
But as quickly as it arrived, it was gone. Then it was back to the crushing reality of life with the Chicago Bulls, and the grudging acceptance that he has been banished to a city that does not want to play along.
Rest in peace, JYD.