Marvin Williams is now in his 14th NBA season and he’s very comfortable in his role as one of the Charlotte Hornets’ wise leaders. With that said, he still laughs and shakes his head when he thinks about being 32 years old and nearly a decade and a half into his professional basketball career.
While Williams didn’t emerge as a star after being drafted second overall in the 2005 NBA Draft, he became a terrific glue guy and model role player who contributes on both ends of the floor. He’s the kind of veteran who could help every single team – on and off the court – and he’s highly respected by his peers around the NBA. HoopsHype sat down with Williams to talk about his career, the Hornets’ offseason additions, the development of Kemba Walker, superstitions and much more.
This team added several new players over the offseason, most notably Tony Parker. What’s it like to add a future Hall of Famer and four-time champion to the squad, and what have you seen behind-the-scenes in terms of how he’s helping everyone?
Marvin Williams: Obviously, he brings so much with his experience and his leadership. He has been incredible. He’s more than willing to help guys. He’s been talking to all of us – from the youngest guys on the team [Miles Bridges and Malik Monk, who are both 20 years old] to the oldest guy on the team aside from himself, which is myself. He’s brought a ton of experience to the team. He’s so willing to teach everyone and he’s very patient with all of us. He’s obviously been in certain situations that a lot of us haven’t been able to experience yet, so that knowledge and that wisdom really helps us. He really wants to help us get to that next level as a team. He’s so willing to help us and teach us, which has been huge.
When you first heard the news that Tony Parker was joining the team, what was your reaction? It was a pretty big surprise that he wouldn’t be finishing his career with the San Antonio Spurs. What was that moment like when you learned of the acquisition?
MW: I remember Kemba and I found out at the exact same time and we just kind of looked at each other [wide-eyed]. I honestly didn’t believe it. It was literally unbelievable at first (laughs). But then, once I found out it was true and he really was coming to Charlotte, I was extremely happy. We were extremely happy. I remember Kemba’s reaction, just the excitement on his face. Kemba was so excited. I had the exact same look on my face; I really couldn’t believe it. He’s been to the highest level in basketball, individually and collectively. He’s a true champion, man. He’s a Hall of Famer. To have someone like that here and helping our team, it really is a blessing.
You mentioned being the second-oldest player on the team behind only Tony. It’s crazy how time flies, but it seems like you’ve embraced that veteran leader role. When you talk, everyone in this locker room listens. What kind of responsibilities come with that and how are you enjoying it?
MW: I think the biggest thing for me is that I just try to teach the younger guys all of the different things that I was taught back when I was just entering the league. I teach them different things about the game, how to carry themselves on the court, how to carry themselves off the court, how to work every day in practice, how to develop a routine and just how to be a professional. Those things are important.
I was blessed to have some really good vets to learn from when I was younger: Mike Bibby, Richard Jefferson, Joe Johnson, Lorenzen Wright – rest in peace – Tracy McGrady, Jerry Stackhouse… I’ve been around a lot of great veterans who taught me so many great things that really helped me. Not only did those guys have great individual success, they made sure to teach us [younger players] how to do things the right way. They always made sure to do that. I feel like if it weren’t for those guys, there’s no telling if I’d be here [in the NBA] right now. They had such an enormous impact on me and I’m forever thankful to those guys.
With how long you’ve been in the NBA, you’ve seen many talented young players. When you look at Miles Bridges – not only in games, but also what you’ve seen behind-the-scenes – what do you think of his ceiling and what are your thoughts on his game?
MW: The sky is the limit for that kid, man. I mean, he’s a kid! He’s 20 years old! It’s crazy what he can do. He’s such a freak athlete (laughs and shakes his head). In the three months I’ve been around him, he’s done some things that I haven’t seen guys do in a long time. He’s just an absolute freak athlete. He’s special. It’s also great to see that he comes in and works hard every single day. He has a great attitude; he’s always positive. He wants to get better, man. He’s going to be really good. We’re really excited to have him on the team.
This year, you have a new head coach in James Borrego. There’s always somewhat of an adjustment period that teams have to go through when there’s a new head coach, so what has that been like and what are your initial thoughts on Coach Borrego?
MW: It’s been awesome, man. JB has been awesome with us from day one. He was very honest with us, very upfront with us. He has a vision in terms of how he sees the team and how he wants us to play, and he’s told us all about his vision. I think the guys are really trying to buy-in to what he wants us to do. There’s obviously still work we have to do as players to get to that next level, but we all believe in him, man. We believe in him, we believe in his staff and we believe in his system. I can tell that the guys are really, really enjoying playing for him.
This is now your fifth season playing with Kemba Walker, so you’ve seen his development up close. When you got here, he was 24 years old and entering his fourth season. Since then, he’s made two All-Star teams and gotten better every year. Right now, he’s averaging career-highs in points (28.3), assists (6.2), rebounds (4.4) and field goal percentage (45.3 percent) among other things. I’m sure you’ve watched him mature as a person too, since you grow up a lot from 24 years old to 28 years old.
MW: He’s been the same game off the court, honestly. He’s still the same as when I met him for the first time five years ago. When I was first coming to Charlotte, I had heard nothing but good things about him. Then, when I finally met him, he really was great. And he’s still that exact same guy. He hasn’t changed one bit.
But on the court, his development has been really, really fun to watch. When you see how hard he works, when you see his routine every day, when you see how much he puts into this [to improve his game], he definitely deserves all of the success he’s having right now and all of the success he’s going to have in the future.
If you never played basketball, what career would you have pursued instead? I know you started getting NBA attention at a young age, but have you ever thought about that?
MW: I’ve thought about it many times, but I honestly don’t know. I’m very much a workaholic type of person, so I definitely see myself having a great job – or maybe I’d be working two jobs. I love to work; that’s how I was raised and that’s what I’ve always seen my parents do. But I don’t know what field I’d be in. I mean, I love to work with kids. Maybe I’d be working with an after-school program? Maybe I’d be a teacher? Something like that seems great.
Are you superstitious at all or do you have any pre-game ritual?
MW: I wouldn’t say I’m superstitious, but I’m very big on routines. I think I walk that fine line between being superstitious and following the exact same routine (laughs).
What’s your routine? Can you walk me through it?
MW: I lift weights every single morning before shootaround. Then, I come to shootaround and go through that. After shootaround, I’ll come back home to shower and then eat. My pre-game meal is always either grilled salmon or grilled chicken. I’ve done that for 14 years and I will not change that. With the salmon or chicken, I’ll always have white rice and either green beans or broccoli. That’s my meal literally every single game day. Then, I come to the arena, get shots up, ice, watch some film and get ready for the game.
I’m really big on routines, but I don’t need to have, like, the same socks or a certain pair of shoes or anything, which is why I say I’m not really superstitious. I wear the same pair of shoes as much as I can for comfort, but it has nothing to do with superstition. Let’s say I had 20 points tonight and then I had 2 points tomorrow. It’s not like I’d change my shoes, you know? So I don’t think I’m superstitious, but I’m definitely someone who sticks to the exact same routine.
Sometimes, unexpected things happen or you’ll have to play a day game. If your routine is screwed up, how do you feel on those days?
MW: Now, I think I’ve learned to adjust [my routine] and I know it’s going to be okay. But early in my career, it was hard. You go from having games at 7:00 or 7:30 game to, boom, now you’re playing at 2:00. Everything is a little different, you can’t get on the court at your normal time [to get up shots] like you usually would and a lot of little things are different. Now, I know what I need to do in order to get ready for games like that, so it’s not as bad anymore. But I definitely had to adjust to it when I was younger.
Have any of your teammates been really superstitious?
MW: I haven’t really come across too many superstitious guys in the NBA. But my high school coach, Casey Lindberg, was incredibly superstitious. I remember we went on a nice run, winning five or six games in a row, and we had been listening to the Nate Dogg album. One time, one of our upperclassmen forgot the album and my coach was not happy. But yeah, he was really superstitious down to the clothes he wore, which socks he wore, which shoes he wore. He and I and stay in contact to this day. He’s definitely the most superstitious person I’ve ever been around in my entire life.
How do you view your relationship with the media? I know some players view it as adversarial, but some players feel like the media can help them get exposure and tell their story. You’ve always been a guy who’s friendly, accessible and gracious with your time, which is greatly appreciated. What are your thoughts on the dynamic between players and the media?
MW: Thankfully, I’ve had really good interactions with the media. Obviously not all of my interactions with the media have been good, but [in those cases] I just try to keep things really professional. But most of my interactions have been good. I just think athletes, in any sport, just want the media to be fair. Here’s what I mean by fair. When you’re not playing well, it’s okay when the media has some things to say about it. But then when you are playing well, you shouldn’t still be getting criticized. It should just be fair. I think that’s all you can ask for when you’re dealing with the media.
I understand that you guys have a job to do, just like we do. This is your profession. But obviously, we aren’t always able to go out and write a big story like you guys are able to do [to change the narrative or tell our side of things]. That’s why I just try to keep it as professional as I can with those guys. And, again, thankfully I’ve always had pretty good interactions with the media.