After missing his last chance to play against the Jazz in the Salt Palace, Reggie Williams is in town tonight with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Traded from
the Los Angeles Clippers to Cleveland last month, Williams says, "I always thought I needed a change."
That became clear last April, when Williams was so unhappy with the Clippers that he refused to enter a home game against the Jazz. Coach Don Casey suspended him for the game in the Salt Palace the next night - which the Clippers won.No wonder Williams said, "I just want to leave the Clippers far behind me," when he arrived in Cleveland.
The trade involving Ron Harper and draft choices for Williams and the rights to Danny Ferry ended Williams' rocky stay in L.A., after he was the No. 4 choice in the 1987 NBA draft out of Georgetown. Injuries and position changes headlined his first two seasons, while he averaged 10 points and shot 40 percent from the field and joined New Jersey's Dennis Hopson (No. 3) as a major disappointment in a draft that produced David Robinson, Kevin Johnson and Ken Norman, the Clippers' third choice in the first round.
"He just never got off to a good start," said Barry Hecker, the Clippers' director of scouting. "It's just a question of how good a player he wants to become. He's got the talent - you can't say that about everybody in the league."
Ironically, Hecker drafted Harper the year before, while working for the Cavs. "We knew that Reggie and Harper couldn't co-exist on the same team," Hecker said of the trade. "That was the biggest consideration - somebody was going to be unhappy. Plus, Cleveland wanted him - it wasn't like he was a throw-in."
With the Cavs, Williams is playing strictly at off guard behind Craig Ehlo, a journeyman who's become a cult hero in Cleveland. So it's Ehlo and not Williams who's replacing Harper, meaning less pressure on the new guy. Of his Clippers days, Williams has said, "You'd look up in the stands and see people shaking their heads when you miss a shot."
That probably happened again last Thursday, when Williams missed all six of his shots in his return to Los Angeles while Harper was scoring 29 points for the winning Clippers. That game came between two decent outings for Williams - three 3-pointers against the Jazz in Cleveland and 11 points Saturday in a win at Sacramento.
"It's going to get better," Williams said after the Jazz-Cavs game. "I'm very happy about the change. This is like a second chance for me."
Complete with a Salt Palace visit.
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Jazz forward Jose Ortiz, on the injured list since Nov. 9 with mononucleosis, was scheduled for another blood test today. According to trainer Don Sparks, Ortiz will "very likely" be cleared for full-scale practicing.
For the last month, Ortiz has dressed for practice but was held out of contact work. Rookie Nate Johnston, who replaced Ortiz on the roster, has appeared in only six of 15 games for a total of 13 minutes. Johnston's contract will become guaranteed only if he is still on the roster on Dec. 27, by NBA rule.