David Fizdale inspired Knicks forward by making him angry
Troy Williams, the lone Knick to play for David Fizdale, gives his former/current coach credit for one of his most memorable nights in the NBA during his rookie season with Memphis.
On Dec. 10, 2016, the Grizzlies were down to 10 healthy players and Williams was forced into the starting lineup against the vaunted Warriors at FedEx Forum.
Late in the first quarter, Fizdale let him have it.
“He made me mad,’’ Williams said in a phone interview. “He thought I wasn’t playing hard. He told me on the way to the huddle I was scared and didn’t look like I wanted to play. I ended up playing a lot better. It was one the highlights of my rookie year.’’
Williams finished the night with 11 points in 19 minutes as Memphis routed the Warriors. Williams threw down a resounding fast-break dunk in the second half that gave Memphis its biggest lead at 30 points.
“After the game, he said he knows I’m not a scared player,’’ Williams said. “He felt he had to get me going. He didn’t mean anything by it.”
Still, Williams was cut in late January that season after playing 24 games so Memphis could sign a veteran, ex-Knick guard Toney Douglas. Williams played a month for Memphis’ G-League team in Iowa before signing with the Rockets late in 2016-17.
“Even when I got waived, [Fizdale] was one of the first people to reach out to me,’’ Williams said. “He said to keep my head up, I belong in the NBA and don’t get down, just keep working.”
They are both Knicks now, and the 23-year-old believes he’ll have a role next season. The athletic 6-foot-7 small forward, who signed after the All-Star break when he was cut by the Rockets, was a revelation. Williams has a partially guaranteed contract for 2018-19.
“I texted him myself and told him I’m happy for him and said he was happy to have me on the team,’’ Williams said.
Williams swears any Fizdale rift with Marc Gasol came after he left. But Fizdale knows how to prod while still carrying an L.A.-cool exterior, according to Williams. (Fizdale hails from South Central Los Angeles).
“He knows how to bring the best out of everybody,’’ Williams said. “He’s more laid back, relaxed guy. It’s not a mental game he plays with people, but he wants you to be mentally stronger.”
Undrafted out of Indiana, Williams said he got a good review at his exit meeting with Knicks brass, which told him he added the athleticism that was needed on the roster. In his 17 games, Williams was good for at least one highlight dunk a night. He averaged 7.5 points in 17 minutes, shooting 49 percent, averaging 3.5 rebounds and 1.1 steals.
However, Williams missed the final five games with a broken jaw. On Monday, Williams had the wires removed and has just resumed basketball activities.
“I had to talk through my teeth,’’ he said.
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