The Hawks host the Raptors tonight and that means the return to Atlanta for South Gwinnett’s Lou Williams.
The Hawks traded Williams to the Raptors in the offseason after two seasons and one torn ACL.
Raptors coach Dwane Casey had high praise for Williams before the game.
“One area that is higher than expected is his defense,” Casey said. “I was shocked because you hear all these stories that he is a scorer off the bench. He has been one of our solid defenders on our second unit, being in the right position in the schemes, understanding the schemes, being in the right place, pushing the ball as a quasi-point guard ball-handler. A great teammate. He has been more than we expected. I knew he was an excellent player but you go in with reservations coming off the injury. He is back 100 percent. He is fully healed. He is stronger from it. He has been a pleasant plus for us this year.”
I was unable to speak to Williams, a fan favorite in Atlanta, before the game as the went through pre-game warmups.
Williams was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week on Monday. He scored a career-high 36 points in an 18-point comeback win over the Cavaliers on Nov. 22. He averaged 23.7 points in three games, shooting .526 (10 of 19) from 3-point range and a perfect 21 of 21 from the free-throw line.
The Raptors trip to Atlanta also includes a bit of a homecoming for Lucas Nogueira. The center was a first-round pick (through trade) of the Hawks in 2013. He spent a year playing in Spain before being included in the Williams trade.
Nogueira said he is thankful for a chance to play with the Raptors and for the faith the placed in his abilities. He has appeared in just one game, playing nine minutes, with two points and five rebounds.
I had to ask Nogueira about his hair – which he referred to as his “marketing” during his introductory press conference with the Hawks last year.
“I cut my hair a little bit, not too much,” he said. “Because my mom, she is in Brazil, she called me and said ‘You look ugly on TV. Please cut your hair a little bit.’”