In what looks to be another lottery-bound season for the Los Angeles Lakers, 11-year veteran guard Lou Williams has been one of the few bright spots. Williams, in his second year in purple and gold, has put together arguably his best statistical season and has many around the league penciling him in as an early favorite for Sixth Man of the Year.
Williams, 30, discussed his opinion on the NBA's "one-and-done" rule, his mastery of drawing fouls and playing with Allen Iverson in a recent conversation with ESPN.com.
You came straight to the NBA from high school. What's it like playing in a league where players can no longer do that [because of the NBA's one-and-done rule]?
Lou Williams: It's a dumb rule. Some guys don't even want to go to college. You have guys going overseas. You have them doing different things and [Philadelphia 76ers rookie] Ben Simmons was very open about his process with how he spent his year at LSU in his documentary. Basically, our league was held up by the guys out of high school. LeBron, KG, Kobe. You have those guys and those have been the pillars of this NBA community. I just think it's a dumb rule, personally.
I'm assuming you'd want that rule to be changed?
LW: I would just like for everybody to be in control of their own destiny. Personally, I understand the NBA and government and all of these things are extremely different. You can go to war at 18, so you should be able to make a living at 18, especially if college isn't what you see for yourself. You're not realistically going there to be a "student-athlete" and wake up at six in the morning and lift weights and then have your day full with study hall and all these things. If you're really not committed to that process and you're only there for basketball, then I think that hurts the university as well.
On the Lakers, you've been referred to as a quiet leader who doesn't say much, but when you do speak, everyone listens.
LW: There's a lot of talk from coaches, a lot of talk from players. Everybody has something to say at some point in the season. You just try to make your words mean something and make it make sense instead of just being a guy who talks all the time. I like to lead by example. I like to lead by my actions.
You're excellent at drawing fouls while shooting, and everyone knows it, so do opposing players ever tell you before games that they won't fall for it? Ever hear anything like that?
LW: Yeah, I'm sure it's in the scouting report. It's the same kind of thing we do with other guys. It's [just] player tendencies and you can go over it as much as you want with some guys, but they're still going to do things that are their strengths and drawing fouls is one of mine. They may be able to minimize it a few possessions, but I'm probably going to get you a couple times.
I'm sure players are frustrated when that happens. Have you seen them lose their temper after?
LW: It's more so the coaches than the players. It's like I said, I'm sure it's in the game plan not to foul or not to have your hands out. But I've seen more coaches get frustrated than players.
When you tore your ACL in 2013, how did that change you?
LW: It changed how I played. I used to play faster. I used to play through a lot more contact. Now I try to get contact before the play really even starts. That's where the foul drawing came from. I realized I wasn't going to be as quick as I once was in my career. I had to find other ways to put points on the board and I created a knack for drawing fouls.
Speaking of that, do you have a list of all the players whom you've drawn fouls on?
LW: Nah. It would be a long list, man. It's something I do every game.
Is there one guy who you haven't gotten who you'd like to get?
LW: Nah, I don't look at it personally. I don't even think about the guy that is standing in front of me. I just look for a random arm; if I can find it, I'm going to go up in my shooting motion.
They all know it's coming and yet, it still happens.
LW: There's nothing you can do. There's nothing you can do. You can put your arms behind your back, but then I still shoot, so, you've got to pick your poison.
We were just in Philadelphia, where Hall of Famer Allen Iverson was honored. You were teammates with him there. Any favorite Iverson story?
LW: A lot of the stories I got on A.I., I can't say publicly. Overall, I just really appreciated how he went about going into games. He got a lot of flak for the "practice" comment, but every game, he gave it his all. And I watched this guy be sick a bunch of times, watched him be injured, and go out there and get 40, 50 points and give his all to his team. He was a tough dude. It showed in his play. He wasn't to be picked on. He went out there and he battled and he was lionhearted for his size.
In your career, how much of a change was it going from a starter to a reserve player? And what's the key to being able to stay ready when you're coming off the bench?
LW: It doesn't really matter to me whether you start or not. I play a lot of fourth quarters. I think that's what's most important to me. I think that's what I've always cared about, just having an opportunity to finish games when it's really winning time. So I never really cared about starting to begin with.
I believe I've read that you refer to yourself as a "closer?"
LW: It's something I've always just cherished, just having an opportunity to go out there -- like I said, the fourth quarters are, a lot of times, the most important part of the game. That's when you've got to play your best basketball. And that's when I want to be out on the floor. I don't want to be out on the floor in the first six minutes when guys are getting warmed up anyways. By the time I get into the game, we're in the thick of things and that's when the game is really fun. It's just an opportunity to go out there and really show what you got. I've led teams in scoring coming off the bench.