Williams is willing but, alas, unable
By STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun
The broken-down body of Alvin Williams is another on the growing list of sad tales about the Toronto Raptors. Another story of promise lost and money misspent and of an athlete aging far more rapidly than his birth certificate indicates.
For the record, Williams is not yet 30 years old. His birthday isn't until August. It only seems like he is older because he has been so slowed down by unco-operative knees and unco-operative ankles and by a body that at times he pushed too hard until it belied him.
This isn't supposed to happen to the Alvin Williamses of the sporting world. This isn't supposed to happen to the good guys, the honest guards, the ones you want to cheer for, who show up on time and play when they shouldn't and never take a practice off.
At least he is going to be paid for whatever happens. Which is good for Williams and unfortunate for the Raptors, who have continuously strangled themselves by their own contract settlements.
The Williams contract, like the Vince Carter contract, like the Antonio Davis contract, like the Jerome Williams contract, like the Hakeem Olajuwon contract, like the Lamond Murray trade, seemed like a good idea at the time.
An expensive idea gone wrong.
There aren't a lot of Alvin Williamses in the NBA. There aren't a lot who care as much. There aren't a lot who grow up with a team, see it to the playoffs, then believe there will be better days, even when the evidence indicates otherwise.
You invest in the Williamses of the sporting world because history shows that investment pays off.
Only this time, like too many others, the Raptors are left paying a lot of money for not a lot of player.
There are four years left on Williams' contract and almost $26 million US owing. The only way that changes is if Williams chooses to exercise a player option in his deal for the 2006-2007 season for $6.8 million. But why would any player on the decline consider that, no matter how honourable Williams may be?
This isn't terrible, the way the Murray deal is terrible. The Raptors are into Murray for more than $10 million over the next two seasons and he can't even find a way on to the floor of a team that has 30 wins in a laughable conference.
At least Williams, when healthy, will play.
The question is: How healthy will he ever be again?
He had surgery on his ankle and on both knees following the 2002 season. Then he had surgery again on his left ankle following the 2003 season. Last month, he had surgery on his right knee again. While the Raptors continue this porous fight for the playoffs, he genuinely hopes to be back in time to play.
Anyone else would take the rest of the season off, but Alvin Williams isn't anyone else.
He has been a Raptor for all but 41 of his 457 NBA games, a starter 324 times wearing a Toronto uniform. This is his team, his basketball home, his place. He doesn't complain, doesn't want to play anywhere else, doesn't blame, doesn't point fingers. Just plays when he can.
Which isn't often enough any more, even for a player whose numbers are down in scoring, assists and rebounds.
Healthy or not, he isn't the point guard the Raptors need, a real point guard. He isn't the No. 1 shooting guard on the roster either way. He is, when and if this team is ready to contend, a sixth or seventh or eighth man and, at 32 or 33, may be even too old or broken down to do that much. And he is, in spite of all he has given, someone the Raptors tried to trade away this season, unsuccessfully.
Alvin Williams has four years left on his contract, just not four years left of NBA game to play for his ankles and his knees.