Derrick Williams: ‘Every single word Pat Riley told me was the truth’

Cleveland Cavaliers' Derrick Williams, left, drives past Milwaukee Bucks' Jason Terry in the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Feb. 27, 2017, in Cleveland. The Cavaliers won 102-95. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Cleveland Cavaliers’ Derrick Williams, left, drives past Milwaukee Bucks’ Jason Terry in the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Feb. 27, 2017, in Cleveland. The Cavaliers won 102-95. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

MIAMI — Based on expectations entering the situation, forward Derrick Williams’ quick stay in Miami was a disappointment. But both sides agree that it was productive.

After signing a one-year, $4.6 million contract with the Heat as a free agent this past summer, Williams struggled to earn a consistent role in the rotation and did not play at all in 25 games per coach’s decision. The Heat eventually released the former No. 2 overall pick on Feb. 6 to make room for Okaro White on the 15-man roster, and Williams signed a 10-day contract with the defending champion Cavaliers three days later.

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“Every day it was very difficult [to not get playing time],” Williams said in the AmericanAirlines’ visiting locker room before the Cavaliers lost to Miami on Saturday night. “But you got to be professional, that’s what this league is about. Sometimes it doesn’t work out, but there are 29 other teams out there that are watching.

“So I never want to it to be, ‘There’s a reason why this guy isn’t playing.’ It wasn’t because of my attitude, it wasn’t because of anything like that. If anything, I felt like I was probably one of the best teammates that they’ve had just because I never complained about playing time.”

In the 25 games Williams did play with Miami (11 starts) this season, he averaged 5.9 points on 39.4 percent shooting and 2.9 rebounds per game.

While Williams didn’t complain publicly about his lack of playing time, the Heat front office knew he wasn’t happy just sitting on the bench. That’s why Williams used social media after he was released to express his appreciation to team president Pat Riley for the way he handled the situation, tweeting “Pat Riley is a man of his word. Ultimate respect.”

“It was just mutual respect,” Williams said of his tweet regarding Riley. “I think we were both on the same page. It was never like, ‘I’m on this side of the fence, you’re on this side of the fence.’ I just think it was a mutual parting and I think that’s the best thing about it. He felt where I was coming from and I felt where he was coming from, and I think that was the best thing.”

Now, Williams finds himself in a a spot many players would love to be in. The 25-year-old has played in each of Cleveland’s 10 games since signing his first 10-day contract with the Cavaliers, and he’s played well enough that he was signed by Cleveland for the rest of the season after completing two 10-day contracts.

Williams is averaging 10.3 points on 54.8 percent shooting in 24.6 minutes per game since joining the Cavaliers, which are the favorites to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals.

“It’s awesome,” Williams said of being part of the Cavaliers’ roster. “Sometimes things happen for a reason. Everything works out for a reason. It just happened to be the last day of my 10-day last night and then I signed a contract for the rest of the season and we happen to play Miami. So I think everything happens for a reason, everybody has told me that. I’m just glad to be in a position on a winning team, on a championship-caliber team.”

The Heat are happy to see Williams happy.

“Even in a situation like this, we’re here to serve and help players hopefully become who they’ve always dreamed about becoming,” Spoelstra said of Williams before Saturday’s game against Cleveland. “So it didn’t necessarily work out exactly how either party wanted it, but we enjoyed it. Derrick is a hard guy not to like and we invested a lot of time with him.

“He embraced our culture and everything, and I think he wanted to be pushed to see who he could be. Then he went to, I think, a perfect situation with great play making, great structure in terms of a winning culture and he can just fit in with his versatility. You’re seeing the benefit of all that work, but also the right fit. We still root for him, just not tonight.”

And even though it didn’t go as he envisioned, Williams insists he didn’t leave Miami with any ill will toward the organization.

“There was a lot of talk between Dwyane Wade and Pat Riley and whatever happened in that situation,” Williams said. “I mean I don’t know about anybody else, but I know for sure that Pat Riley is a man of his word. Every single word he told me was the truth and that’s what you need. I don’t think we have enough of that around this [league].”

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