After the trade, Williams contemplated retirement. He changed his mind, and the Hawks were the better for it.
“It took me a few days to get here because once I arrived, I wanted my energy to be positive,” the candid Williams said in his first interview after the trade. “I wanted my experience to be positive. I didn’t want the guys to look at it like I didn’t want to be here. It wasn’t personal against the Hawks. I just needed time to figure out what was best for myself at this stage of my career, but now I’m here and I’ve been embraced. Seems as though guys want me here, so I’m ready to get back to work and make this push.”
Several Hawks players, during the season and immediately after, praised Williams for his role as he added a veteran presence to a young core making its first postseason appearance.
Rookie Onyeka Okongwu directly credited Williams for his turnaround after he struggled early in his first season. He said Sunday he appreciated everything Williams did for him.
“He told me that he knew I wanted to get on the court and play bad, he had seen me playing robotic out there,” Okongwu said. “He told me, I know you want to play, but play basketball. Don’t worry about it because you want to be on the court. Go out there and do your thing and play ball. Ever since he told me that, it’s been going up north for me.”
Williams was drafted by the 76ers directly out of South Gwinnett High School in 2005. He played seven seasons in Philadelphia. He spent two seasons with the Hawks, then the Raptors, Lakers, Rockets and Clippers before another return home. The three-time NBA Sixth Man Award winner, averaged 10.0 points and 3.4 assists in 24 regular-season games with the Hawks. He averaged 7.7 points and 2.2 assists in 18 playoff games. He scored 21 and 17 points in Games 4 and 5 of the conference finals starting in place of the injured Trae Young.
Over his career, Williams has 15,239 points. In 2019, he set the NBA record for most points scored off the bench.