The Phoenix Suns aren’t very good this year.
Case in point: every big play in their decisive win over the Bulls - their first home win in a month - was met with excited but apprehensive cheers from the rare sellout crowd (thanks Bulls fans!) as the Suns held onto a lead no smaller than 6 points for the final 27:11 of the game.
But if there was one guy who received unbridled cheering for every big play, it was Big Sauce Alan Williams, who delivered his third double-double off the bench this season.
Devin Booker put various Bulls defenders on skates all night, on the way to a game-high 26 points. Eric Bledsoe led the third-quarter stand to hold the lead, and scored 16 big second half points.
But those two weren’t the players of the game for the Suns, and weren’t the darlings of the crowd’s adulations.
BIG SAUCE was the player of this game.
In the wake of Tyson Chandler’s ankle injury, Alex Len’s one game suspension, Marquese Chriss’ foul trouble and Dragan Bender’s ankle surgery, coach Earl Watson turned to Alan Williams as his primary big man.
And “Big Sauce” delivered as he always has, despite not playing more than 10 minutes in a game since Thanksgiving.
“Just by staying ready,” Williams said of going from DNPs to big minutes. “Do a good job with trying to stay in condition and take shots with the coaching staff and of course my teammates just supported me, as I try to do for them, so it was matter of taking advantage of the moment.”
“It feels real good,” Booker said of Williams’ big night. “Alan does a lot of things that are unnoticed for this team. He is a leader on this team. You see how he supports us with his reactions of the week, but he brings it every day in practice, he brings it every day on the bench, so to see him out there shining and getting this opportunity in front of his hometown, it’s unbelievable.”
On Friday night, Williams delivered four blocks, along with 14 points and 11 rebounds in 24 minutes off the bench. He may not be tall enough for a traditional center (6’8”) or be able to jump very high, but he’s got something every marginal NBA player needs to succeed.
“His heart and his 100% effort, that’s never a question,” coach Watson said before the game.
The 24-year old 6’8” 260 pound center, undrafted a year ago out of UC-Santa Barbara, has appeared in just 21 of the Suns 54 games this season, and received more than 10 minutes of court time in just four of them.
Yet in the THREE games he’s received 20+ minutes of game time, Williams has delivered a double-double every single time:
- 15 points, 15 rebounds on November 18 in a 20-point win over Indiana
- 12 points, 11 rebounds on November 20 in a 15-point loss to Philadelphia
- 14 points, 11 rebounds on February 10 in an 18-point win over Chicago
The Suns are 2-1 with a +8 scoring margin when Sauce gets 20+ minutes in a game.
When he doesn’t get 20+ minutes? The Suns are 15-36 with an ugly negative scoring margin.
So play him every game, right!? Put him out there coach!
Not so fast. Even if Chandler is out again (ankle), Len will return tonight as the Suns face the Rockets, and Williams will come off the bench. But if the Rockets go small with a five-out lineup, it could be that neither approaches 20 minutes. Big Sauce doesn’t defend the perimeter all that well, preferring to hang in the paint on defense and set picks on offense.
Does Williams think that he earned big minutes after his third double-double in three opportunities?
“No, sir,” Williams said promptly. “I will just continue to do what I do and when my number is called, if that’s tomorrow, if that’s next week, I will just do what I can.”
Williams has an entire career loaded with big rebounding and opportunistic scoring on his resume. He was the NCAA leader in rebounding and has been stellar in back-to-back Summer Leagues. Before that, Williams won two state titles at North High School in Phoenix and played for UC-Santa Barbara from 2011-2015, where he finished as the Gauchos all-time leading rebounder and second-leading scorer. As a senior, he led the nation in rebounding with 11.8 per game in 2014-15.
But he wasn’t drafted in 2015, and had to wait for his opportunity to grab onto a roster spot until the Suns came calling last spring. He appeared in 10 games, posting his first NBA double-double on closing night, setting the stage for a continued honeymoon.
This year, Williams gets the joy of playing for his home town team, but still finds himself at the end of the bench as an “only in case of emergency” big man.
Does Sauce get frustrated with his lack of playing time, especially since he produces a double-double when given the chance?
“No, sir. Not whatsoever,” Williams said. “Not with this team, not how I’ve been raised or how I’ve always tried to see the game of basketball. At the end of the day, these are my brothers, so anytime I see them being successful, I want to be a part of that in any way I can and cheer them on every single way I can. I don’t see it as the last guy on the bench kind of area, more of a support role as a teammate and try to be a great teammate and try to help this organization in any way I can.”
Listen to him yourself. One of the nicest guys in the world.