Jay Williams took plenty of criticism when he called out his Chicago Bulls teammates during a dismal rookie season, but the tactics of the former Duke star found support from the franchise's biggest star.
Williams, the second overall pick of the 2002 NBA draft, lost more games in his first month of his NBA career than he did in three seasons at Duke, where he was the national player of the year as a junior.
He said his frustrations grew as he watched his teammates during a 30-52 season.
"I was so frustrated because it seemed like guys didn't care," Williams said Thursday on "The Afternoon Saloon" on ESPN 1000. "The energy, the atmosphere wasn't right."
Enter Michael Jordan.
"I remember I got killed in the papers, and I got a call from Michael Jordan, and Michael's like 'Hey, listen, keep speaking out because eventually people are going to listen. You need somebody to really demand the best out of their team.'"
It's that kind of vocal leadership that might do the Bulls some good, according to Williams. Asked about the inconsistencies of a fellow Duke alum, Luol Deng, Williams said: "I've never really seen Lu lead. I didn't see him lead when he was in college, and I haven't really seen him lead as a pro. I always see him kind of fitting in, following the flow."
Deng, the seventh pick in the 2004 NBA draft, signed a $71 million extension in the summer of 2008 and his production -- and ability to stay on the court -- has suffered since. If those are tied to the big contract, Deng wouldn't be the first, Williams said.
"I don't know if Lu has gotten a little content after he got the big contract. I'm not saying that I've spoken to Lu or that he has, but you see that in the NBA," said Williams, now a basketball analyst for ESPN. "All of a sudden Eddy Curry comes up in his contract year, and he loses 25-30 pounds, he's in shape, he's dunking everything, and he's a beast. Then he gets his contract and everybody is like where's Eddy Curry at? That happens around the NBA all the time."
Williams, who played just one season in the NBA after a career-ending motorcycle accident in the summer of 2003, defended coach Vinny Del Negro for the Bulls' inconsistent season and pointed to the players.
"It's not always the coach that gets the best out of the talent. It's the best player who gets his team to play the hardest," Williams said. "Kobe Bryant demands his teammates to be the best every night, and he's not afraid to challenge them. He's not afraid to challenge them publicly, he's not afraid to challenge them in the locker room, and that's what you need from a leader. The coach can only take you so far.
"You need that one guy who is just a beast who brings it every single night, is vocal and can demand the best out of his team."