You may have heard, but Lou Williams hasn’t been able to play basketball since July 22, the Clippers’ first scrimmage game. He left the bubble to attend the funeral of a personal mentor, engaged in an activity outside of NBA protocols, and was subjected to a 10-day quarantine upon his return.
Williams has explained his decision-making, and since he didn’t bring the coronavirus back to Orlando with him, appears to be forgiven. That means it’s now time to redirect our attention to Lou Williams, sixth man, who made his comeback on Tuesday.
In his return, Williams played 21 minutes and scored seven points on 3-of-8 shooting, adding six rebounds, six assists, and three turnovers. Rivers said that there was no minute limit, and that he would simply go by whatever Williams’ conditioning allowed for, and his star reserve was grateful for that treatment.
“I needed it,” Williams told the media postgame. “I don’t know if I was going to be able to just watch that game today with the last 10 days being by myself, being isolated, watching so much basketball ... It would have been difficult just to watch this game anyway. It was good for me to get out there, get a few minutes in, try to contribute the best I could. I’m sure my minutes will go up next game and moving forward. It was good just to get out there.”
Williams has averaged 29.1 minutes per game this season, though that came down ever so slightly before the hiatus as the team improved its guard depth. It’s unlikely he will get back to 29 during the restart, but 21 minutes also feels low for the super sub.
Williams already looked comfortable with the ball in his hands, even if he definitely will take some time to get back to his pre-hiatus form. He didn’t seem to function well as a spot-up outlet around Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, or at least not on Tuesday. Rather, Williams does his best work running the show, making him the perfect fit for the second unit.
Even if he’s not scoring, Williams was comfortable making plays for others, like when he set up JaMychal Green for an open three in transition, or later when he hit Patrick Patterson for an open triple after the defense trapped him on the sideline. Without Patrick Beverley, the Clippers are down a ball-handler, so creation from Williams is a welcome addition to the offense. Any time the Clippers can play Leonard and George off the ball, it makes them even deadlier.
That being said, Williams is a scorer at heart, and he was able to get to the rim and to his favorite spot at the elbow (going left, of course) multiple times against the Suns defense. As Leonard said postgame, “Lou can wake up and score the ball, you know what I mean?” It’s worth nothing that this happened more often in the first half, likely because Williams lost his legs as the game wore on.
There were some timing issues with Williams’ game. He threw two passes straight out of bounds because he was expecting a teammate to be elsewhere, though that should be resolved once he gets more time practicing again with the Clippers.
The Clippers got what they could have expected from Williams in his first game back. It wasn’t a magical reintroduction to the bubble, but it was nice to see him out on the floor and bring the conversation back to basketball.