Jay Williams attempting a comeback, sort of
August 12th, 2009

Former Bull Jay Williams plays again, for the first time in two and a half years.

Former NBA point guard Jay Williams is aiming to relaunch his career through the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA).

Williams, the second overall pick by the Chicago Bulls in the 2002 NBA draft – behind Yao Ming, almost lost his life in a motorcycle accident a year later and his promising career appeared to be over.

(more at the link)

Since his accident in June 2003, Jay’s basketball journey has taken many forms. Williams spent three and a half months in hospital, recovering from the multiple torn ligaments, broken pelvis and nerve damage that almost saw him lose his leg (but not his life, contrary to the article’s verbiage). His rehab had only begun in earnest; it would be three more years before he returned to the court.

During the early stages of his rehab, Williams kept a blog on, which still survives to this day (as long as you can tolerate five and a half years of dust). The optimistic tone of the blog made it sound like a comeback would be possible, if a long way off. And this proved to be kind of true, as Williams did eventually sign another NBA contract. But he never played another regular season NBA game.

In October 2006, more than three years after the accident, Williams signed a training camp contract with the New Jersey Nets. The contract was not guaranteed, and both Williams and the Nets signed it knowing that his chances of making the team were about as small as a tadpole’s corset. Nevertheless, however unlikely of a gesture it may have been, the signing was symbolic; Jay had made it back from the brink.

Unfortunately, he struggled mightily. And that ruined the fairytale. Although understandably extremely rusty, Williams played in five preseason games, totalling only 19 points, 3 assists and 13 turnovers, shooting 37% from the field and fouling every six minutes. He was waived by the Nets a week before the season started, and never threatened the NBA again. Williams’ only other basketball stint came with the Austin Toros of the D-League the following month, when he averaged 6.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg and 5.3 apg in 3 games, before being waived due to a nagging groin injury. And that was that.

Until now, of course.

Between being waived by the Toros in December 2006 and the present day, Williams has been involved in all sorts of basketball related activities. In addition to his rehab, his abortive comeback attempts and his blog, Jay has worked as a commentator for CBS and an analyst for ESPN, as well as an abortive attempt to become an agent. (Seriously, that’s a great read.)

Jay has always been adamant, though, that another playing comeback has not been on the cards. When this erronous story came out in November 2007, reporting Jay’s impending move to Italy to continue his comeback, Jay shot it down, claiming that he was happy with his new pursuits. (The story was nearly right, but they got the wrong ex-Bull point guard with that surname; it was actually Frank Williams who signed there.)

A comeback never looked on. Perhaps a small hint lay in this piece from last September, where Jay alludes to a small desire to return, if not a great deal of intent to make it happen. But nothing happened to suggest that it would happen; Jay never signed anywhere, never seemed to try to, and looked natural with his full-time job as an ESPN analyst, exuding delicious chemistry with Hubert Davis and his sultry vowel sounds.

Until now, of course.

What the future holds for Williams is impossible to predict. The Chinese Basketball Association features a lot of ex-NBA players – notables from last year include Bonzi Wells, Kirk Snyder and Rodney White – but also a low standard of domestic talent. For example, Wells and Snyder both averaged over 30 points per game, and former Magic centre Olumide Oyedeji averaged 20/20. No, really. He did.

If Jay sticks around and plays the next CBA season, he’ll get a good deal of exposure (that I can guarantee him), and plenty of court time. If he’s healthy enough to play, he’ll no doubt get some good statistics for his resumé, and at age 27, he might be able to rebuild a playing career before it’s too late. The CBA is a good stepping stone for anyone looking to put themselves back into the public eye, particularly to any open-minded executives.

But, ultimately, where is this going to lead to?

Posted by at 10:04 PM