Before the NBA trade deadline on Feb. 23, the Los Angeles Lakers traded away their leading scorer in veteran guard Lou Williams. The team shipped Williams to the playoff-bound Houston Rockets and received Corey Brewer and a first-round draft pick in return.
Since the trade, the Rockets have won four of their last five games with Williams fitting in perfectly off the bench. Williams, as he did with the Lakers, can light up in a reserve role and hasn’t missed a beat since averaging a team-best 18.6 points per game in Los Angeles.
With Williams now playing for a team that could contend for a title opposed to one that’s headed for the NBA Draft Lottery, the sixth man talked about the transition and how he feels about the change from Los Angeles to Houston, via ESPN’s Calvin Watkins:
“I smile more, I feel better,” Williams said. “It’s definitely easier, especially where I haven’t scored in double-digits the last couple of games and we still got some big wins that’s a new experience.” After scoring 28 points in a loss to the Pacers on Feb. 27, Williams has produced a total of 14 points on 5-19 shooting the last two games. Williams said there’s less pressure on him to produce. “I’m on a team where I can truly play my role and be the sixth man and just bring energy and play as hard as I can.”
Without Williams giving the Luke Walton and company firepower off the bench, Los Angeles continues to struggle. The team has lost six straight games coming into Sunday’s matchup with the New Orleans Pelicans, and there’s no telling when or if the next win is coming anytime soon.
In the four games without Williams, the team has been beaten easily by the Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, and Boston Celtics. The Lakers almost came out on top against Charlotte with some solid performances from Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell, but Kemba Walker and company proved to be too much to handle late in the fourth quarter.
With Williams now on to bigger and better things in Houston, the young core in Los Angeles will have to shoulder the load offensively for the rest of the season. Although the team will almost certainly continue to struggle, it may be a good experience for players like D’Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram, and Jordan Clarkson as they’ll be forced to step up in final 20 games of the 2016-17 campaign.