Energy off bench suits Blazers' Williams

Reserve point guard could be X-factor against Rockets

By Erik Gundersen, Columbian Trail Blazers writer

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X-factor.

It might rival “clutch,” as the playoffs most frequently used word.

And for the 2013-14 Portland Trail Blazers, it has always been and will likely continue to be back-up point guard Mo Williams.

A man who keeps his words at a small volume, his dribbles at a much higher volume and his pre-game suits looking dapper as can be, Williams has been the ultimate wild card at times.

He’s been called “The Hitman” and he calls himself “Mo Gotti,” which if anything solidifies his business-man like persona.

Every member of the Blazers team is going to have a new tailored suit they will debut for the playoffs.

It was Mo — who has posted a photo of his pre-game outfit for nearly every game of the season on his Instagram page (@mogotti25) — who was the driving force behind the idea.

“I don’t think Mo’s role changes at all as what it was during the season. We needed that for all the games that he played in,” teammate Wesley Matthews said. “He’s been an X-factor and he’s going to continue to be an X-factor as far as pushing tempo, scoring and facilitating.”

The Mo Williams experience — which creates a great deal of shots as well as turnovers at high speeds — can seem untenable at times, especially in the age of valued efficiency.

However, his constant injection of pace, his ability to find his own shot and find easy shots for others has been quite literally a game-changer every night he’s been on the floor.

As Blazers coach Terry Stotts once said: “When Mo comes into the game, you notice a change in the feel of the game.”

Stotts coached Williams the last time he was the head coach of a playoff team, back in the 2006 playoffs with the Milwaukee Bucks.

“He’s really grown as a player since I had him,” Stotts said. “He’s played in big games, played in the playoffs. He understands the NBA, the game better. He just has more of a way about him.”

In the playoffs when opponents make full use of their scouting staff to take away pet plays, the ability Williams has to create something out of nothing could be even more valuable.

Dorell Wright, who played against Williams back in the Eastern Conference, knows Williams will be a key.

“When he was in Milwaukee, he was like a Heat killer every time he played he had a good game,” Wright said.

“I know he’s capable of instant offense off the bench. He’s a willing passer and playmaker as well. You got to guard him and hope he don’t hurt you so we going to ride on his shoulders a lot on this second unit.”

Neither the Rockets nor the Blazers rely heavily on their benches, but both have second point guards that are important to their success. While Portland has Williams, Houston’s Jeremy Lin is just as important to the Rockets with his quick first step and ability to finish around the rim.

In Houston’s overtime win on March 9, the last meeting between the two teams, Lin finished 26 points off the bench.

Wright, whose play in the second-half of the season has given Portland an answer to Houston’s shooting-heavy second-units, also played with Lin in Golden State.

“He gets in the lane at will,” Wright said. “He’s an underrated finisher. The way he gets into the paint and finishes is kind of crazy. A lot of people don’t probably pay attention to it, but he’s a very underrated finisher.”

It’s no longer “Linsanity” but Lin, who has missed the last two postseasons due to injury, has the ability to swing a game in the Rockets favor in the same way Williams has swung a good many in Portland’s favor.

Both players are essentially sixth starters, as both play extended minutes alongside their starters and far more minutes than anybody else on their benches.

So what about that match-up, Mo?

“You guys will look at it,” he said to the media. “It’s just about winning a game.”

Business as usual.