Williams' big loss means big gains

THE BALTIMORE SUN

For Sacramento Kings forward Walt Williams, it was a move intended to make him a more versatile player. But when Williams increased his weight to 250 pounds last season -- heavier than Alonzo Mourning, Patrick Ewing and David Robinson -- all it did was hinder his progress from the previous season, when he made the All-Rookie team.

"My body wasn't used to that, and it wasn't comfortable," Williams said. "I wasn't out of shape. I was just a big person. I didn't have the quickness."

And it showed in his play. Williams averaged 11.2 points last season (he averaged 17.0 as a rookie) and missed 25 games because of injury.

In dropping to 225 pounds, Williams has watched his game soar. He's first on the Kings in steals (1.7 per game), second in scoring (15.8), second in assists (4.3) and second in three-pointers (63).

He's been even hotter in the first seven games since the All-Star break, averaging 20.3 points, shooting 55.2 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the three-point line (13 of 26). His numbers for rebounds (5.6 per game) and steals also have increased.

"He's played a real key role on our team," Kings coach Garry St. Jean said. "Last season was tough for him, and he's come back nicely."

Williams said the added weight didn't have him at a comfort level when the season started.

"In the beginning of last season, I didn't come out aggressive. I just sat on the perimeter not doing anything," Williams said. "This year, I came out in the best shape possible. And with [rookie forwards] Brian Grant and Michael Smith, they're a force down low and it allows me to go out on the wing."

Grant (13.1 ppg, 7.4 rpg) and Smith (7.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg), as well as All-Star MVP Mitch Richmond (22.1 ppg), have helped Sacramento record the third-biggest turnaround of the season. The Kings (28-25) have matched last season's win total (28-54).

But Williams won't be completely happy with his -- and the team's turnaround -- until the Kings are playing in the postseason. It hasn't happened since 1986, but Sacramento holds the eighth spot in the Western Conference.

"I'm not satisfied now because we're not in the playoffs," Williams said. "If we fell short of that, it wouldn't be a good season."

Hurley's season

It's been a good season for the Kings as a team, but it's been one of frustration for Bobby Hurley.

In December 1993, a two-car accident after a Kings game almost left him dead. His injuries included a torn trachea that was severed from the main airway and required eight hours of surgery. Hurley has made a miraculous comeback just to get back on the court, but he's not happy with the minutes he is averaging (15.8) as a backup to Spud Webb.

"A point guard needs to feel like he's in control of the team," said Hurley, who's averaging 4.1 points and 3.0 assists. "I can't show the things that made me successful in college if I'm playing 13, 14 minutes. This is very frustrating."

Hurley got his chance at increased minutes last week after Webb injured his groin muscle but did poorly. In a season-high 33 minutes on Thursday against New York, he scored six points and had five assists. Starting his second straight game on Saturday against the Washington Bullets, Hurley scored two points in 21 minutes.

Hurley's problem doesn't appear to be playing time but a lack of strength and quickness. At 165 pounds, Hurley gets pushed around by other guards and has yet to demonstrate the penetration in the lane that made him successful at Duke.

He wants his 'Sanford and Son'

New Jersey Nets forward Derrick Coleman has a clause in his contract that requires the team to put him up in a suite on the road. Michael Jordan's contract with the Chicago Bulls allowed him to play basketball at any time. So what request did Steve Smith make when he was traded to the Atlanta Hawks earlier this season?

"Steve Smith asked if he could have tape of every episode of 'Sanford and Son,' " Atlanta Hawks president Stan Kasten said. "We [TBS] own it. He got it. All 138 episodes."

"Sanford and Son," starring the late Redd Foxx, first aired in 1972 -- when Smith was 3 years old. It's shown in reruns nightly on TBS, although Smith's busy schedule doesn't allow him to watch the show. Now he can do it at his leisure.

"I've got all summer to watch these shows," Smith said.

Quote of the Week

From Denver Nuggets center Dikembe Mutombo after he and his teammates had a 2 1/2 -hour practice last week -- a rare occurrence under former coach Dan Issel.

"I need to go see my general manager and tell him what our coach is doing to us," Mutombo said.

Bernie Bickerstaff, the team's GM, took over as coach last week.

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