He had his chance back in November when Glen Davis went down with an ill-timed injury to start the season and Doc Rivers moved Williams into the rotation as a backup power forward. He didn't do poorly, either — he could score in the high or low post, he could contest shots with the best of them and he beat opposing power forwards to every rebound he could see. Williams was the best 12th man in the NBA.
But with both Davis and Tony Allen back, and with Rasheed Wallace and Brian Scalabrine still getting a healthy dose of minutes, Williams has seen his playing time drop off dramatically. He's typically only stepping on the floor for six minutes here, or eight there, mostly in garbage time. And since Kevin Garnett returned to the lineup two weeks ago, it's not even that. He hasn't played a lick. Nine straight games now of DNP (Did Not Play) — Coach's Decision.
Williams is a better player than this. He was one of the nation's best big men in college, a standout performer at Duke and a two-time national Defensive Player of the Year. He was no slouch offensively either, topping the 1,500-point mark for his college career. At 6-foot-9 and 250 pounds, he's got the body to be a real NBA player, but he's never really gotten a solid opportunity to prove it. Not in Atlanta, not in Sacramento, not in Minnesota. And definitely not now.
"Right now he's got guys in front of him," Rivers told ESPN.com last week. "Right now he's not playing a whole bunch. He's just working. He's been a great teammate. We knew that when we signed him, that he could be ready to play when we needed him and, if he didn't, he'd still show up and practice hard. He's done all those things, so a lot of credit needs to go to him."
But he might deserve more than just credit. He might have earned some minutes. You could even say he's a double-double waiting to happen — per 36 minutes, he's averaging 10.9 points and 9.7 rebounds during his brief time in Boston — but he's not getting anywhere near enough minutes to really show what he can do. Will he ever?
"I don't know," Rivers said. "It's always a competition and there's a lot of bodies. Rasheed, Glen Davis, Scalabrine — all of them are going to play."
Williams is still there on the bench, just in case. He's a good insurance policy to have, in case something should come up. If KG's knee acts up, or if Davis hurts himself again, or if Sheed or Scal or anyone else finds himself out of action, Williams will be there to step in.
But he could be more than just a solution for a rainy day. Williams could be a real contributor to a good team, and there was hope a few months ago that he'd found that opportunity in Boston.
It isn't looking that way anymore. And that's a shame not just for his own career, but for the Celtics, who could really use another member of the rotation down the stretch. More of "Seldom Shelden" would be a win-win proposition.