Change of heart

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:15 AM ET

Raptors malcontent Eric Williams reportedly has decided that life in Toronto is not quite as bad as serving time in a Siberian Gulag.

After being shipped north from New Jersey in the Vince Carter swap last season, Williams watched his game and his minutes go south with the the Raptors and continually expressed his unhappiness and his desire to be traded.

It seems, however, that Williams has had a change of heart. Raptors general manager Rob Babcock said yesterday he had a positive and constructive talk with the hard-nosed forward over the summer and, in a surprising development, added that Williams wouldn't mind remaining with the Raptors, who are embarking on a youth kick.

"It was a tough situation for him," Babcock said of the trade.

"But what he told me (this summer) was that after finishing off the season (with the Raptors) and getting to know the young guys and getting to understand what we're trying to do, he really liked the direction this team is going and thinks he can be a positive part of that.

"He said 'I know I asked to be traded, and I could be traded at any time and if it happens, it happens, but I'm completely positive about returning here and helping this team get back into the playoffs,' " the GM said.

Williams, a native of Newark, N.J., signed as a free agent with the Nets last year in the hopes of playing out his career in his home state.

The trade to Toronto deeply troubled the normally easy-going forward, and his resentment showed.

Averaging 9.0 points during his 10-year NBA career, Williams, considered an excellent team leader when he is content, averaged only 4.7 with Toronto.

Babcock said the Raptors, a team full of young, impressionable players, could benefit from the leadership traits offered by Williams, 33.

The hunt for a backup point guard continues with former Chicago Bulls rookie star Jay Williams the one player the Raptors most covet.

Williams, whose NBA career nearly ended as a result of a motorcycle accident after his rookie season (2002-03), is said to be about 85% healthy. He has worked out for the Raptors, Miami Heat and Houston Rockets.

Babcock confirmed yesterday he also is interested in former Raptor Jermaine Jackson, who played 21 games for the New York Knicks last season.


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