BOSTON — For the first time since the fall of 2006, Shelden Williams is a regular starter in the NBA.
After becoming a legend at Duke and a No. 5 overall pick in the NBA draft four years ago, Williams faded into the background and became a backup at the pro level, a fringe rotation guy in Atlanta, Sacramento, Minnesota and finally Boston last season. After a year with the Celtics, Williams has now caught on with the Denver Nuggets, where he's starting every game at power forward next to superstar Carmelo Anthony.
This is the opportunity he's been waiting for.
"When we presented a contract to him this summer, it wasn't about money," Nuggets coach George Karl said Wednesday night. "It was all about playing time. It was about opportunity."
Williams has become somewhat of a role player under Karl — he starts, but ultimately he only plays 20.8 minutes per game. He's in there to crash the boards, protect the rim and block an occasional shot. He's handled that role well.
"I have no idea at this moment who's going to be playing at the end of the game, and I have no idea how many minutes Shelden's going to play," Karl said. "But the minutes I've given him, he's been very responsible. He's delivered a couple of wins for us, and for a guy on a minimum contract to deliver a couple of wins, you're very happy with that."
Doc Rivers had nothing but kind words for Williams, who was always handy on the Boston bench last season as an insurance policy for injured bigs.
"It's great," Rivers said of Williams' time starting in Denver. "I'm glad to see Shelden doing well. He was great for us. Shelden, he and [Brian Scalabrine] were our two utility guys last year. We lost both of them, and one of them's starting and playing well. So it's good.
"He does what he does. He's going to rebound — he's going to be really offensive rebound. He's going to keep quiet and do his job. That's Shelden Williams."