Lou Williams Discusses The Sixth Man Of The Year Award And What It’s Like Playing With James Harden

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After months of anticipation, we will finally get the answers to who will take home the hardware at the inaugural NBA Awards Show on Monday. And while the winner of the MVP award will rightfully garner the most attention, there are a few other awards that are also up for grabs. One such award is the Sixth Man of the Year, which has three candidates in Lou Williams, Eric Gordon and Andre Iguodala vying for the accolade.

Iguodala’s candidacy for the Sixth Man of the Year is quite valid as the Warriors reserve’s Jack-of-all-Trades versatility was crucial in Golden State’s championship run this season. But while Iguodala does a little bit of everything really well, the Sixth Man of the Year award traditionally has gone to a player that comes off the bench and scores with reckless abandon. For that reason, it seems quite likely that either Gordon or Williams will end up being the winner of the award this season.

You can make an impassioned argument for either.

Gordon’s revitalized his career in Houston, where he thrived in Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni’s offense, which heavily relied on the three-pointer. Gordon took full advantage of D’Antoni’s three-point agenda by attempting almost nine threes in 31 minutes and averaging 16.2 points this season.

Williams, on the other hand, averaged a career-high 17.5 points and led the Rockets and the Lakers (where he started the season) off the bench in scoring. This has been Williams’ modus operandi for essentially his whole career and is a big reason why the 2015 Sixth Man of the Year award winner could end up winning the trophy again this season.

However, despite the two Rockets teammates battling each other for the award, Williams says that he and Gordon didn’t actually talk about it. There was no trash talk or friendly bets. It was just all business on the Rockets.

“By the time I got to the team, we were focused and locked in making a playoff run,” Williams told DIME via phone from the DEW NBA 3X competition in Brooklyn on Sunday. “So we never really got into the individual stuff.”

Williams can acknowledge, however, that now that the season is over, the winner of the award will more than likely do some trash talking at the others’ expense.

“Knowing these guys, of course, there will be some trash talk,” Williams told DIME. “There will be some back and forth, just having a good time. I played with Andre for seven years of my career and I’ve been with E.G. this year, and those are the two guys that talk a little trash, so it will be fun.”

But like Williams says, when he joined the Rockets mid-season via trade, led by MVP-candidate James Harden, Houston was focused on maintaining their top-3 seed in the West. The Rockets were able to end the season as the No. 3 seed and then proceeded to beat the Thunder in the first round. Averaging 21.4 points in five games, Williams was especially key off the bench against the Thunder.

The Rockets faltered in the second-round against the Spurs, however, as Harden couldn’t get into any rhythm. And as Harden goes, so does Houston. But Williams believes the Rockets All-Star’s work ethic will allow him to bounce back and only get better.

“James lived in the weight room; he lived on the practice floor,” Williams told DIME. “The guy was just trying to get better day in and day out, he was trying to do the best job he could, to lead us to as many victories as he could. I think with other guys that I’ve played what set him apart was just how serious he is about where he is in his career and how much more he wants to keep growing and developing.”

The Rockets are heavily banking on Harden to keep getting better both as a leader and as a player. Harden is key to everything Houston does, especially since as Williams says, the Rockets All-Star opens up the entire floor offensive for his teammates with his play.

“It was great to play with such a high caliber guy like James that demands so much attention,” Williams told DIME. “Teams kind of forget about you on one wing, and then you have another guy in Eric that’s on other wing, it loosened up the game and made it easier for us all.”

The openness of D’Antoni’s system and Harden’s creativity helped Williams’ instant offensive game become that much more potent. Williams was a seamless fit for the Rockets, as evidenced by his 27 point performance in his first-ever game with Houston.

Despite being a good fit in Houston, Williams’ name has been mentioned in recent trade rumors. Houston, like all teams, wants to continually upgrade their roster in an effort to build around Harden and challenge the Warriors in the West. And since Williams has a movable contract and is a serious offensive weapon, several teams will surely want him on their roster. Williams, however, is just focused this summer on sharpening his skills and truly wants to keep helping the Rockets continue to be a championship contender.

“The summer time is when you have the opportunity to work on your game and do all of the things to get prepared for the season,” Williams told DIME. “So I’m excited for the season to happen. I’m excited to grow with this basketball team and try to make a deep playoff run again.”