By Antonis Stroggylakis / AStroggylakis@eurohoops.net
Nigel Williams-Goss‘ way of introducing himself to the VTB League in just his second appearance with Lokomotiv Kuban couldn’t have been more ideal.
In his second official game since August, Williams-Goss made a splash (quite literally) by scoring the game-winning triple for his team in the very last second of the VTB powerhouse clash of Lokomotiv vs. Khimki Moscow. It was a much-needed victory for the Krasnodar side after a EuroCup upset to Partizan Belgrade, Williams-Goss’ first pro team.
“I felt it was my first real game,” Williams-Goss told Eurohoops. “In the game vs. Partizan I had one practice and I played three minutes a quarter. The Khimki game was my first real game so I just wanted to do to help us get the win. i didn’t know that it would result to the game-winning shot but it kind of worked out that way.”
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Williams-Goss hadn’t been on the court for a competitive basketball match since the first round of the NBA playoffs and Game 2 of the Utah Jazz – Denver Nuggets series. “It felt like it have been forever,” he said. “One in six, seven months. For me, it felt so good to be back on the court and really good to be back in Europe. Anyone who knows me, knows how I love being over here and playing over here. I’m now looking forward to get going with the rest of the season.”
After he got waived by the Jazz in December, Williams-Goss returned to Europe by signing a contract with Lokomotiv with two specific goals in mind: A) Join a competitive situation with a championship-aspiring team, and B) Be free to pursue any available option come summer.
“I wanted to come and compete, whatever type of championship is: EuroLeague, EuroCup or a domestic championship,” Williams-Goss said. “I wanted to be with a team that had a chance to still win something.”
“I talked to a few different EuroLeague teams. I don’t want to say any specifics but I talked to multiple EuroLeague teams and a few other high-level EuroCup teams,” the former Gonzaga star added. “But ultimately, I felt that at this point of the season, that this situation was the best for me. Kind of to get to the summer and be a free agent. I hadn’t been a free agent my entire professional career because the Jazz had my rights out of college. This summer I’ll be a free agent for whatever comes next. That was really important for me.”
Here are some parts of what Williams-Goss said on the Eurohoops Live Show and the conversation with Antonis Stroggylakis, Bugra Uzar and Johnny Askounis on:
His experience with the Utah Jazz in his first year in the NBA
“Overall, it was a great experience. For sure I learned a lot by just being in a great organization and around vets and guys like Mike Conley and Jeff Green, all the guys that we had last year. I definitely learned a lot. It wasn’t a wasted year by any means. But as far as playing, I just didn’t get a lot of opportunities. I can’t really judge how I did with the Jazz because I didn’t really get the opportunity. Obviously, that was a little bit disappointing for me just because of the way I work and I try to prepare myself for every situation.”
“I think… just the timing of everything. Last year the Jazz signed Mike Conley, signed guys like Jeff Green, Emmanuel Mudiay who had just started 15 games for New York. The goal last year, and the goal as you can see this year is to win now. Development wasn’t really part of the last year’s plan or this year’s plan. Which I get. When you put this kind of roster together, you try to make the most of it. That definitely played a part on why I didn’t get my opportunity.”
“I didn’t really get any opportunities but I understand the reason why. We signed a really veteran team, a really deep team. There aren’t many teams that have the guard rotation of Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, Mike Conley, Emmanuel Mudiay Jordan Clarkson. There are so many minutes and when you got five guys like that there’s not going to be a lot of opportunity for a first-year guy like myself. I understood the lack of opportunity. Was it tough? For sure it was tough. It just depends on the situation. It’s a little bit different in Europe because in Europe everyone tries to win right now. In the NBA, there are so many different agendas, from teams, coaches, general managers, whatever the case may be . People situation is completely different. Mine was mine and somebody’s else’s is somebody else’s. You can’t really compare. For me, I’m super grateful that I was able to make my dream come true and sign an NBA contract. For me, it was a just huge blessing.”
“There’s a business side in the NBA as well. Sometimes it helps players and sometimes it hurts players. It kind of hurt me as far as my time with my Jazz. I knew it was a possibility [to be waived] just when you look at the contracts and how things are going shake out. But for me, I don’t have any regrets as far as what I did for myself when it comes to training camp and preseason. I think that anyone, coaches, players would attest to that as well. It was kind of an unfortunate turn of events but, like I said, I understand there’s a business side as well.”
The “European” aspect of the Utah Jazz
“The coach [Quinn Snyder] was in Europe at the highest level (assistant to Ettore Messina on CSKA in 2012-2013). He really appreciates and understands the game over here. We had a very international team with Rudy Gobert, Joe Ingles, Dante Exum, Bojan Bogdanovic. Royce Young played in Europe (with Gran Canaria). We have so many guys who played in Europe. Everyone kind of understood how the game is played over here and really respects the game as a whole. For me, it was nice to be in this environment and be in that connection.”
His G-League coach Martin Schiller’s winning run with Zalgiris Kaunas in his first EuroLeague year
“It’s funny. Last year when I was playing for him, me and my dad had actually talked about it a lot. And we both thought that coach Schiller would be a great coach in Europe. We both felt that he had a great balance of the freedom of the NBA with a little bit of the structure of Europe. I thought he’d be a really good coach in Europe. I didn’t know when or if he’d go to Europe but I figured that if he did, he’d do really well. I think that everyone was a little bit surprised at how well Zalgiris did from an early standpoint. Jumping out the gates and being a top five in the league early on. But his success as a coach doesn’t surprise me just because I feel he has the best of both worlds and I could really see it translate in Europe, which it has.”
His 2018-2019 Olympiacos missing the playoffs after a winning record in the first leg of the regular season
“I still think to this day that this was one of the most talented teams I’ve ever been on. We had a really great roster. We had a Hall of Fame coach in David Blatt. I think that this season there were a lot of internal and external factors that kind of took our focus from what the ultimate goal needed to be. There was a lot of those distractions that I definitely think that played a part in us not reaching our ultimate potential. I think that was a great team and I think that if we’d been able to get to the playoffs we’d be tough for anyone. The EuroLeague season is so challenging and you have are going to hurt your chances. Because anyone can beat anyone. There are great coaches, great teams and you shouldn’t have anything that is going to give the opponent an edge. It was definitely disappointing because we knew the roster that we had. All the players went on to play at an extremely high level. Nikola Milutinov to CSKA, Zach LeDay went to Zalgiris, I went to the NBA, Janis Timma went to Khimki. We had a great roster. Obviously, if you add that with the fact that we have Greek legends like Vassilis Spanoulis, Kostas Papanikolaou and Giorgos Printezis.
We really had everything we needed. But, as I said, I just think there were a lot of internal and external distractions… Definitely a disappointment for us.”
Playing under David Blatt
“Obviously it was a great experience playing for coach Blatt. It was a super big honor for me. I was one of the first players he signed when he got the job. For me that was a huge compliment… someone who coached at the highest level both in the NBA and in Europe. It was unfortunate that he got that disease and he got sick. Again, it was one of the mini things that kind of affected our team that year. We were with him. All the players, all of our prayers and our thoughts were with him the whole time. He’s holding up alright right now. I talked with him not too long ago. He’s always checking in and keeping up with all of us. Just hope he can stay healthy and stay strong.”
Photos: Getty Images/EuroLeague Basketball