Williams adding a spark to close-knit Raptors

Raptors analyst Eric Smith on Tim and Sid to discuss how great it is to start a Raptors training camp with hardly any turnover on the roster, and cover a team with high expectations that can now focus on strengthening chemistry and familiarity.

A fresh start. That’s what Lou Williams is striving for as he gets set for his first season with the Raptors. The last two years have been long and forgettable. But Toronto offers new hope.

Signing with Atlanta in the summer of 2012, Williams left behind the familiarity of seven seasons in Philadelphia hoping to help a Hawks team looking to make moves in the East. But less than halfway through his first season in Georgia, Williams tore his right ACL and was forced to miss the rest of his 2012-13 campaign.

Rehab on the knee injury spilled over into 2013-14 and the veteran guard was used sparingly. When he did see court, he spent that time trying to adjust his game without the speed and explosiveness he had been so accustomed to.

“It was definitely a difficult two years,” says Williams. “Just dealing with the injury and missing half of a season, not being in training camp and then playing ten minutes per game, fifteen minutes here, can’t play back-to-backs … it was definitely a trying time. But I came out of it and I’m healthy now and I look forward to the fresh start.”

Williams holds no ill will towards Atlanta. In fact, leaving the Hawks was probably hard to handle considering he grew up in nearby Snellville, Georgia. But, as the personable guard puts it, he “got lost in the shuffle” with the Hawks last season and he’s “looking forward to getting back into the fold” with the Raptors.

“Once I found out that [I] was going to Toronto, I was excited,” says Williams. “These guys are a very close-knit group and I’ve always worked better in family environments. These guys know each other so well. They want to win basketball games; they want to be taken serious. They’re not going out on the court and just throwing their shoes out there. They’re really out here to compete. And I’m really looking forward to [that].”

Williams feels like he’s coming to the Raptors with a built-in knowledge and appreciation for what Toronto is all about as an organization. In a sense, he scouted his new team while playing for Atlanta last year.

“[The Raptors first-round matchup against the Brooklyn Nets was] the only playoff series I watched outside of ours,” he says. “I was rooting for [Toronto]. I was rooting for them because of the crazy fans outside and everything that was going on—the attitude they took going into the playoffs. I really enjoyed their demeanour. They felt like they could win that series and [though] they fell just a little bit short, I was excited to be added to that process.”

In looking back to that series against Brooklyn, Williams believes the Raptors laboured to score at times—something he thinks he can help Toronto improve upon. Dwane Casey now has an offensive weapon in his second unit that has averaged 11.4 points (on 41.9% shooting) over his nine seasons in the NBA.

“Sometimes they couldn’t find that spark,” Williams says of the Raptors’ first-round loss. “I feel like I can be one of those guys that can add to Greivis [Vasquez] and Patrick [Patterson] and these guys that are coming off the bench. Just give this team some depth and build some more chemistry.”

Williams has the personality to make his transition into a new locker room an easy one. Upsetting Toronto’s tight-knit balance will not be an issue, especially given the preexisting relationships he has with teammates Kyle Lowry and Amir Johnson.

“Those guys have been two shoulders that I’ve been able to lean on this past month,” he says. “It’s great to just lace-up with some guys that you know that you’re comfortable with and they know what you bring to the table and they have confidence in you. I’m looking forward to getting back into the fold of things and people just respecting my game for what it is and just being on a team that can win and helping be a part of some success.”

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.