Indulge me, if you will, in a few moments of navel-gazing regarding the Orlando Magic's signing of Jason Williams. Eddy will cover the news conference today, and we'll have more analysis (I'm sure) in the immediate future.
So let me start by saying that Williams was one of my favorite players when I was a middle-schooler during the early years of the Magic's Tracy McGrady Era. I wrote WHITEBOY across my knuckles in Sharpie, in emulation of/appreciation for his infamous tattoo. I wrote JDUB55 (his nickname and jersey number with the Sacramento Kings) on my backpack in Wite-Out. And once or twice, I even practiced basketball while wearing thick gloves, as Williams did as a youngster, which helped him develop the slick handle on display in videos like this one Eddy posted yesterday.
Yet now, in 2009, I can hardly muster any excitement for seeing Williams in pinstripes. The key phrase is "in 2009," because were this signing to take place 7 years ago, were a 26-year-old Williams joining a 25-year-old Vince Carter and a 23-year-old Rashard Lewis in Orlando (while 16-year-old Dwight Howard honed his craft at Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy), the media and fans would tout the as one of the most dynamic young teams in the league.
We can't overlook time and age when assessing this signing, is what I'm trying to convey here. Some sportswriters--Tim Povtak might have been the first--have suggested that Williams could push Jameer Nelson for the Magic's starting point guard job, or at least play more crunch-time minutes than Nelson. Nevermind the fact that Williams wouldn't have pushed Nelson two seasons ago, in Williams' last NBA go-'round and Nelson's first under Stan Van Gundy. A far more realistic outcome is Williams supplanting Anthony Johnson as the team's second-stringer, pushing Johnson to the fringe of the rotation.
Try to think of the story in this way. Instead of asking, "Will Jason Williams move Jameer Nelson to the bench?" ask, "Will Jason Williams move Anthony Johnson further down the bench?" That story just lost quite a bit of its appeal.
Ultimately, GM Otis Smith got his third point guard, one who happens to be a reasonably reliable veteran (a Pure Point Rating of 6.0 in his last NBA season) and a household name (because he threw passes off his elbow a decade ago). That second point, though, is what's making this story bigger than it should be.