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IS IT TIME TO CELEBRATE? : Reggie Williams Doesn't Lose and Hopes to Turn Clippers Into Winners, Too

November 12, 1987|CHRIS BAKER | Times Staff Writer

Reggie Williams, the Clippers' standout rookie swing man, likes to party after victories. But he hates to go out after a loss.

Williams, a 6-foot 7-inch, 190-pound forward-guard who was the fourth player picked in last summer's National Basketball Assn. draft, was able to go out about as often as he liked during the four years he played for Georgetown.

But he may become as reclusive as Howard Hughes if he maintains his policy, now that he has joined the Clippers. They have the NBA's worst record over the last decade.

A few days before he signed his $2.4-million, three-year contract, Williams was spotted at Paradise 24, a trendy Hollywood dance club frequented by Magic Johnson, Prince and Janet Jackson, among others.

He hasn't been back since.

Before the Clippers beat Utah Tuesday for their first win this season, Williams was spending a lot of time in his hotel room, contemplating last weekend's embarrassing blowouts.

"It's hard for me to go out when I'm losing," Williams said. "If I get beat by 40, I'd rather stay in my room, watch TV and have a sandwich.

"It's tough. I can't accept losing. But I have to deal with it. I've got to get it off my chest."

Being new to this, Williams still doesn't have the glazed stare that seems to come with playing for the Clippers.

Potentially, Williams is the best player the Clippers have drafted in their lackluster 18-year history.

His nickname is Silk, as in smooth as, and he wears a heavy gold bracelet with his nickname written in diamonds. Actually, Williams would probably blend in better with the defending NBA champion Lakers than with the Clippers. In any event, he will get a close look at them tonight when the Clippers play the Lakers at the Forum.

Playing for a losing team is the biggest adjustment that Williams, 23, has had to make since he became one of California's newest instant millionaires.

"I love the NBA," Williams said. "It's easier than I expected. In college, teams would use zones to stop me. But they've got to play man-to-man in the pros."

Williams would seem to have a good chance to become rookie of the year, since he figures to play a lot for the Clippers, who have four other rookies on their 12-man roster.

"I want to win it," he said of the MVP trophy. "My goal is to win it. But if I don't, I won't be upset."

He was a hit in his NBA debut, scoring 16 points off the bench in the Clippers' 46-point season-opening loss at Denver. He started at forward the next night and had a team-high 25 points in a 25-point loss to Portland.

Williams was the leading rookie scorer in the NBA after those two games, averaging 20.5 points, but that average fell when he scored just nine points off the bench in the Clippers' 100-88 win over Utah Tuesday night.

That isn't because he is shy about shooting, though. In fact, he may shoot too much.

Although he is tied with Mike Woodson for the Clippers' scoring lead with a 16.7-point average, he is shooting only 36.4% from the field. He has made just 20 of 55 shots in his first three games.

"Reggie Williams has got to learn how to play," Denver Coach Doug Moe said after seeing Williams' first pro game. "But he'll get better as he goes along."

His defense needs some work, too.

Portland forward Kiki Vandeweghe scored 33 points against Williams last Saturday and Denver forward Alex English had 22. They are, of course, a couple of noted scorers.

"Alex English is a great player," Williams said after his first game. "He always looks like he's not doing much but he's always there on the scoreboard. The big difference between college and pro ball is that you can get away with a lot of fouls in the NBA.

"The main difference is the physical play. Guys are bigger and stronger. But also defense is man to man, which gives a guy like myself a lot more freedom to do what he wants to do."

Williams figures he is behind schedule because he missed the first two weeks of training camp and the Clippers' first five exhibition games while holding out.

He still hasn't mastered Coach Gene Shue's play book, which is about as complex as a law book.

And Shue is still trying to determine where best to play Williams, who played every position except center in college.

Although no one has ever questioned his intensity or toughness--ask Woodson about the bump on the head that he got from Williams in practice Monday--Williams may be too thin to play inside in the NBA.

Still, Williams is considered the cornerstone of the Clippers' three-year rebuilding plan.

And they gave him the richest rookie contract ever, other than for a center.

Williams will receive $800,000 a season for the next three years, with a $1.2-million option for the fourth season.

His agent, David Falk of Pro-Serv International, rejected a longer contract, gambling that Williams' market value will increase quickly.

Meanwhile, the Clippers are counting on Williams to help them rebound from last year's 12-70 record, third-worst in NBA history.

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