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Marcus Williams
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LARKSPUR

IT'S ALWAYS RISKY to tinker with talent. To request those with specific natural gifts to compromise them for, you know, the good of the ol' company.

For a variety of reasons, it rarely works. That's why a good football coordinator may not make a good head coach, why a hurdler doesn't pole vault, why an aggressive cleanup batter probably won't thrive at the leadoff spot.

Which brings us to the Warriors and Monta Ellis.

And, finally, to Marcus Williams.

When Baron Davis unexpectedly parachuted out of the organization a few weeks back, the Dubs were left without a point guard. Scrambling to recover, they handed the job to Ellis, a natural shooting guard. It's an ill-conceived idea, spawned by desperation.

Ellis is quick as a blink and can score with any guard in the NBA. His assets are tremendous, and the Warriors would be sunk without them.

Moving Monta to the point, where ball-handling and passing are paramount, would expose weaknesses he has been able to hide. It would compromise his natural gifts. Disrupt his flow. Might even puncture his spirit.

Aware of this but reluctant to admit it, Warriors honchos Chris Mullin and Don Nelson knew they were doomed without a true point guard.

So they traded for Williams. Their least-publicized offseason acquisition is, on paper, the most essential.

Corey Maggette adds professionalism and athleticism. No. 1 pick Anthony Randolph adds versatility and energy. Big men Ronny Turiaf and Richard Hendrix add useful backup beef. Williams, acquired from New Jersey, is disaster protection.


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And potentially a lot more.

"I want to start,'' he said Wednesday, after appearing at a Warriors youth camp at Redwood High. "Definitely. You want to do that, no matter who's ahead of you.

"But mostly I just want to play. This is a new system, a great opportunity. This style of play ... there's no other kind. If you can make decisions on the floor and shoot a little bit, you have to like it."

Williams is a creator in the open court, with a knack for the drive-and-kick utilized by Nelson's system. His defense is a rumor, but the 6-foot-3, 205-pound left-hander has a nice jumper.

Moreover, he has something to prove. A lot to prove. Coming out of UConn in 2006, Williams was widely considered the best point guard in the draft and projected to be a lottery pick. He fell to 22nd overall, the Nets taking him as the heir apparent to Jason Kidd.

The drop was attributed to his being overweight and character concerns, surely related to his conviction for the theft and attempted sale of four laptop computers when he was a 19-year-old sophomore at UConn, a crime for which he was sentenced to 18 months probation and 400 hours community service.

After entering 2006-07 as the top-ranked rookie — based on summer league and preseason evaluations — Williams was by turns brilliant and awful in Jersey. His time was up when Devin Harris came over from Dallas in trade for Kidd.

But not before Williams, 22, learned a few lessons.

"He never took plays off," Williams said of Kidd. "He got dirty. He didn't yell at guys, but he was a leader on and off the floor. He told me a few things that have helped me."

So the Los Angeles native returns to California to find his place in the world's greatest hoops league. Consider this the first of his last chances.

The Warriors welcome Williams, convinced he'll be no worse than a good backup. Nelson's most emphatic advice: Get in shape, be ready to run.

Of the guards on the roster, Williams is best suited to run Nelson's up-tempo system. His profile — a creator who can shoot, played behind Kidd, still not established after two seasons — is not unlike the last point guard Nellie acquired.

His name was Steve Nash, and NBA types weren't convinced he had game when he was traded from Phoenix to Dallas in 1998.

Which is not to say Williams will be another Nash. Or another Kidd. Or, for that matter, another Davis.

At the very least, though, having Williams ought to let Ellis be Ellis.

Contact Monte Poole at mpoole@bayareanewsgroup.com.