EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Three years after a motorcycle
accident nearly ended his career, Jay Williams is getting a chance
to show that he belongs back in NBA.
Williams is expected to play in an NBA game for the first time
since his accident when the New Jersey Nets face the Pacers in
Indiana in a preseason game on Wednesday night.
"It's going to be a fun time," Williams said Tuesday after
practicing with the Nets. "I really don't see the crowd. I am into
the game. That's what I look forward to the most, the game and
playing against new competition. I want to get my legs right. I am
going to be ready for it."
Although he signed a contract with the Nets late last month, his
chances of making New Jersey's roster are slim. The Nets already
have the league-maximum 15 players under contract. They are looking
to buy out Jeff McInnis' contract, but that still might not open a
spot for Williams.
Jason Kidd is the Nets' starting point guard and Marcus Williams, the team's first-round draft pick, is expected to be his
backup. Eddie House, a shooting guard who was signed as a free
agent, also can play the point.
Jay Williams also has to show that he has regained the speed
that made him the No. 2 pick overall by the Chicago Bulls in 2002.
Nets coach Lawrence Frank has been impressed so far.
"We weren't there when it happened, so we're seeing the spoils
of the work, so to speak," Frank said. "I think it is tremendous
how far he has come. It's another step in the process, and
hopefully he can continue to perform at a high level and put
himself in a position where he is playing in the regular season."
A former national player of the year at Duke, Williams isn't
worried about his odds of making the Nets' roster.
"It doesn't matter to me. The opportunity will come about,"
Williams said. "I just have to take advantage of it when I can."
Williams has no idea how much playing time he will get.
"I am just here working hard every day and trying to fight
through this soreness I have," he said. "I am just waiting for my
opportunity. I am happy to be there."
When asked how sore he was, Williams smiled.
"There are five guys who are out [today], not me," he said.
Williams' career appeared to end on June 19, 2003, when he
crashed his motorcycle into a light pole in Chicago, fracturing his
pelvis, tearing knee ligaments and suffering nerve damage in his
left leg. The damage was so severe, doctors thought they might have
to amputate his leg. He was hospitalized for 3½ months.
The Bulls eventually bought out his contract for about $3
Williams, who averaged 9.5 points, 4.7 assists, 2.6 rebounds and
1.15 steals in 75 games during the 2002-03 season, tried out for
seven teams in the offseason before the Nets signed him to a
non-guaranteed contract. It basically allowed the New Jersey native
to be in camp for a tryout.
Williams grew up in nearby Plainfield, located about 20 miles
from where the Nets play their home games.
"I think you just try to manage everything and play as well and
as hard as you can," Frank said. "Things have a way of working