PBA: TNT's Williams stays focused as negotiations continue

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 27 2022 12:06 PM

TNT guard Mikey Williams in action against Phoenix Super LPG in the 2022 PBA Philippine Cup. PBA Images.
TNT guard Mikey Williams in action against Phoenix Super LPG in the 2022 PBA Philippine Cup. PBA Images.

MANILA, Philippines -- TNT guard Mikey Williams earned plaudits from his coach for his professionalism, even as the two sides continue to negotiate the terms of his contract.

Williams, the reigning PBA Rookie of the Year, missed the Tropang GIGA's first five games in the Philippine Cup and only made his debut last Thursday in an overtime win against the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters.

He had 15 points on 5-of-20 shooting that night, as TNT won, 89-85. Three nights later, Williams torched Phoenix Super LPG for 27 points in an 87-72 win, with 11 points coming in the fourth quarter as the Tropang GIGA blew the game open.

"I'm getting there," Williams said of his fitness level. "Each and every day, I'm just trying to continue to keep working, just put the time in, get that rhythm back."

TNT coach Chot Reyes said they are staying patient while Williams works to regain his usual explosive form, with the guard expected to see plenty of time in the Tropang GIGA's four remaining games in the elimination round.

"We knew naman coming in that he has to get into game shape, and game shape is going to come by playing games, actual games," said Reyes.

Neither Reyes nor Williams confirmed on Sunday if the player had already signed his contract with TNT, but Williams stressed that he remains completely focused on the task at hand. The 30-year-old guard, selected fourth overall in the 2020 PBA Draft, had led the Tropang GIGA to last year's All-Filipino title which triggered a clause in his contract that allowed for a re-negotiation.

"I'm just trying to play basketball. That's my focus right now. When it gets done, it gets done, but we're pretty close. So I'm not really worried about that right now," said Williams, who earned Finals MVP honors when TNT won last season's Philippine Cup crown.

"Just focused on these games coming up and preparing for playoffs," he added.

TNT head coach Chot Reyes. PBA Images. 
TNT head coach Chot Reyes. PBA Images. 

Reyes commended Williams for compartmentalizing the business side of his job with his actual on-court production, noting that the guard has been a consummate professional even when they were in the early stages of their negotiation. 

The coach had taken the lead role in discussions before TNT tapped Jojo Lastimosa to be their new team manager recently.

"Even from the start, when we were talking, I think the critical part was we had to keep our player-coach relationship strong and differentiate that from the player-manager relationship," said Reyes. "I think that was a big step with what you're seeing now, that no matter having protracted negotiations, the communication as player and coach remains very direct, very open."

Their communication -- both on the court and off it -- remains strong despite the protracted negotiations, with Reyes also commending Williams for his work ethic.

"The key with Mikey that a lot of people don't know is that he's very coachable," Reyes said. "And coachability is the mark of a true professional. And the other things are the things that he does that people don't see — just coming in earlier and staying later to shoot more shots. Work on his body in the weight room, lifting."

"Those are the things that you don't see but you see the product here, in the game that's played. So all of those things, the extra work, the coachability, those are the things that go into being a consummate professional," he added. 

"So, despite the contract negotiations ongoing, we've been able to compartmentalize that."