CLEVELAND -- The journey to the NBA Finals has been more than a decade in the making for veteran point guard Deron Williams.
But after coming up short several times, Williams joined the Cleveland Cavaliers as a free agent in March of 2017, and now, finds himself thrust into the spotlight of the NBA Finals for the very first time in his career, and it comes in the third straight meeting against the Golden State Warriors.
“It's been a long journey,” Williams said. “A lot of ups and downs, but it's well worth it. Once you get here and once you're in The Finals, it's definitely exciting. I feel blessed to be in this position and to be able to compete for a championship. And just trying to live in the moment, relish it, and enjoy it because you don't know if it will ever happen again.”
In 821 career regular-season games that spanned 12 years with the Utah Jazz, New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets and Dallas Mavericks, Williams averaged 16.6 points, 8.2 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 1.0 steals.
During his final three years with the Jazz and one season split between Utah and New Jersey, Williams averaged a double-double of points and assists. A three-time NBA All-Star, two in the Western Conference and one in the East, Williams converted better than 48 percent of his two-point attempts and 35.6 percent of his looks from three-point range in his career before joining the Cavaliers.
Over 16 postseason games for the Cavaliers, Williams has averaged 4.6 points, 2.3 assists and 1.3 rebounds while shooting 44.1 percent from the field and 40.7 percent from three-point range.
“You're playing with the best player in the world, arguably the best point guard in the game, superstars, so for me, it was a team that's already established,” Williams said. “They won it last year, so for me, it was an adjustment.
“It was an adjustment coming over here and learning to not play where I had the ball in my hands for the whole game and didn't know if I was going to play 20 minutes or 10 or 15 or what. But after a while and kind of settling in to things and learning what they need from me, it's become a lot easier.
“I feel like I have a real grasp on what my role is, and I'm settled in and happy.”
Part of the reason why Williams was able to make the successful adjustment is because of the culture established by the play of small forward LeBron James.
By winning the Eastern Conference Championship with a 135-102 Game 5 victory over the Boston Celtics at TD Garden last month, the Cavaliers earned the right to face the three-time defending Western Conference Champion Warriors for the NBA title for the third straight season.
“It's been great, man,” Williams said of playing with James. “I mean, he's the best. Not only the best player in the game, but he's a great teammate, a great leader. He pushes guys. He holds guys accountable, and that's what you want from your best player. At the same time, he's the hardest worker on the team, so when you do all those things, you're going to be great.
“As I said, (it’s just) his leadership, how he talks to guys, explains things. He doesn't shy away from telling you how he feels, which is good and which is something you like, you know, is someone to be honest with you.”