On Saturday night the Legends defeated the Windy City Bulls, affiliate of the Chicago Bulls, on the road to improve to 1-1 on the young season.
CJ Williams’ 18-point Performance
Legends forward C.J. Williams scored 18 points and helped lead the Legends over the Bulls 108-98. “It was good to bounce back,” Williams said. “We actually felt we played solid in the first game against Maine. We needed to clean a couple things up and fortunately we were able to do that.”
A good player always recognizes the ways to enhance their performance, even in victory. “We still have room for improvement,” the 26-year old knows. “We have to get better in the 4th quarter. I gotta take some responsibility for that.
“I felt that I didn’t continue how I was playing in the first couple quarters all the way through the 4th. It happens in the game but we feel really good about what we were able to do and we just want to continue that.”
Williams also led the team in threes, making 5-of-9 attempts. He knows that this part of his game is what will elevate him to the next level.
“I feel that that’s what I’m going to have to do to be successful,” Williams indicated on the ever-expanding three ball. “Especially for this team but also for my own personal agenda. I have to be able to shoot better from the three. As long as I do that I think I’ll be fine. I do work on it a lot so when I’m open I’m going to take the shot.”
The 6’5” Williams is a tremendous athlete, playing bigger than his already elastic frame. He tied Jameel Warney (16 points, 13 rebounds) for a game-high two blocks. He attributes just as much of his defensive expertise to his basketball mind as to his basketball body.
“Well the thing is, when you play basketball a while you start to see and you learn more about what’s going on and you learn how to get the timing of things,” answers Williams. “So because of that I was able to get a couple blocks. I was put in the right situation for it, so it worked out for me. Really, blocking shots is timing with a little bit of athletic ability so that helps a lot.”
On media day, Williams told me about his prior experience with Coach MacKinnon, something which has made it easier to get off to a fast start.
“Knowing how he likes to play, knowing what he expects out of his players and everything is really good for me. I know what he’s asking for and I can provide that every game.”
“It’s a confidence thing as well. He definitely has a lot of confidence in me and I have a lot of confidence in myself. Knowing that he knows how I can play and where I’m at my best allows me to perform at a high level for him.”
Coach G Returns Home
Legends Assistant Coach George Galanopoulos had an especially unique experience in Saturday’s win as the Chicago native made his coaching debut in front of a few familiar faces.
“I had about 20 family members, good friends, and family friends there,” says Galanopoulos. “It was good to see them and I got to go to dinner with them afterwards. It meant a lot. I had a lot of support, our team had a lot of support. It was just good to see some familiar faces there.”
“Even though I was coaching in my hometown as an opponent it was fun to make a coaching stop there. Obviously it’s more about the team and getting the win on the road which was tough for us so I’m happy we pulled it out.”
Galanopoulos’ team-first attitude extends throughout his answers. On whether he had the game circled on his calendar, “in the sense that I called my family and said ‘hey I’ll be in Chicago on the 19th do you guys want to go to the game?’”
“So obviously you try to treat every game like it’s just the same and just as important as the others and they definitely are. But that was, personally, just special for me to go back home. Regardless of Chicago or Dallas or somewhere else, it’s business as usual once we hit the court. So I’m glad we took care of business.”
I asked Coach G what adjustments were made between game one vs. Maine and game two at Windy City. He stressed offensive rebounding and defense, and the results certainly paid off. “Our defense, our overall defense. Guarding the basketball, man-to-man and also helping out our defenders. Help defense, one-on-one ball defense and our offensive rebounding.”
“Our first game of the season we had seven offensive rebounds, (Saturday) we had 22. We had a decent amount of second-chance points off of those offensive rebounds which definitely helped us. Having a week in between games allowed us to focus in and work a lot on the defensive pressure we needed as well as crashing the offensive boards.”
“You could see it on film, the difference between the two games, how much better we were, how much more active we were on the offensive glass as well as defensively. We’re really happy to see the improvements we made.”
The Legends took it easy on Sunday after a busy travel day including connecting flights from Chicago to Reno where they will face the Bighorns, affiliate of the Sacramento Kings.
“We’ll watch some film and have a light practice tomorrow,” says Galanopoulos. “Walk through some things to prepare for Reno and then Tuesday morning we’ll probably have a shootaround. Refresh on what we’re trying to accomplish that night, then we’ll play the game and head to Salt Lake in the morning.”
The Legends face the Reno Bighorns Tuesday night at 9:00 PM CST and the Salt Lake City Stars, affiliate of the Utah Jazz, Wednesday night at 8:00 PM CST. They return home Saturday night in an encore effort against the Stars at 7:30 PM CST. You can catch all the games live at facebook.com/Texlegends.