Kelly Williams has nothing left to prove in his storied PBA career, but on Sunday, September 5, he felt the need to remind others and himself what he is still capable of in his first conference back from a near two-year retirement.
Against the second-ranked Magnolia Hotshots, no less, the 39-year-old TNT mainstay turned back the clock with a stellar line of 13 points, 15 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 2 steals to go with a perfect 3-of-3 clip from three in a 32-minute run.
The Tropang Giga certainly needed every single bit of Williams’ production as they hung on for an 83-76 win and kept their hold of solo first place with an immaculate 6-0 record.
For the 2008 PBA MVP, it was certainly a game to remember given that he is still working his way back into game shape under the familiar guidance of head coach Chot Reyes.
“It feels good to start feeling like myself again. It’s been a while since I played a game [like that]. So, like what I told coach, heading to this conference, it’s been a while since I’ve been excited to play,” he said in the postgame presser.
“Knowing that coach Chot was coming back, it relit a fire because the system is proven, the coach is proven, and it allows us to play. It’s definitely been a while since I’ve been in this position and I’m just grateful for the opportunity to be back.”
So far, Williams has started every game, and is leading the team with averages of 2.0 steals and 0.8 blocks per game. He is also norming 24.6 minutes a night, the fifth-highest on the squad.
While these numbers may surprise some fans given the age and mileage on the six-time PBA champion forward, Reyes is not the least bit surprised with what his longtime ward can still bring to the table.
“No, [not surprised]. Actually we’ve talked before this game, or a couple of days ago, because I think there was a lot more to improve in his game,” he said.
“We got him here to be our presence in the middle, to defend other teams’ post players, to be our stalwart in rebounding. I thought he delivered fantastically tonight.”
The eight-time champion tactician also revealed that his return to PBA coaching after a nine-year hiatus heavily relied on Williams’ decision to come back as well.
“Even before I gave my final answer to management, I had to make sure that Kelly was coming in because when I took a look at the squad, and the talent that was here, I thought that Kelly was going to play a big role, not only with the skills, but also in the intangibles,” he said.
“We would need his leadership more than anything. So that’s how important he is.”
Given how TNT is already knocking on the door of another playoff run, it’s safe to say that Reyes’ vision was spot on, as it has always been throughout the years. – Rappler.com