MANILA, Philippines -- It comes as no surprise to TNT coach Chot Reyes that Kelly Williams continues to produce at a high level for the Tropang GIGA in the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup.
Williams, who briefly retired in September 2020 but decided to return to the team in March this year, is averaging 6.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game for the Tropang GIGA so far in the conference.
Against Magnolia on Sunday, Williams produced his best game of the season, tallying 13 points, 15 rebounds, three blocks and two steals as TNT improved to 6-0 and tightened their hold on the No. 1 spot.
"We actually had a talk before this game, or I think a couple of days ago. Because I thought there was a lot more to improve in his game," Reyes said after their 83-76 triumph over the Hotshots. "So just simple coach-player talks that we normally have in our ways of working, as a team, those discussions between coach and player."
The heart-to-heart worked wonders as Williams earned Player of the Game honors in their win over the Hotshots.
He set the tone for the team with his physical play, and helped limit Magnolia big man Ian Sangalang to just 10 points on 5-of-14 shooting. Williams also drilled big shots to keep TNT in control, making all three of his attempts from beyond the arc.
Yet for Reyes, Williams' true value to their team cannot be measured by the statistics.
"We got him here to be our presence in the middle, to defend the other teams' post-players, to be our stalwart in rebounding, and I thought he delivered fantastic (against Magnolia)," the coach said.
"The other things he does, his three-point shots, if he's making them, that's a bonus, but his value is way more than just that," Reyes added.
A former PBA Most Valuable Player and a six-time champion, Williams had agreed to come out of retirement when Reyes returned to the TNT franchise earlier this year. According to the coach, he reached out to Williams while he was making his decision, knowing how crucial the veteran forward would be for the Tropang GIGA.
"Even before I gave my final answer to management, I had to make sure that Kelly was coming in. 'Cause when I took a look at the squad, the talent that was here, I thought that Kelly was going to play a big role," said Reyes.
"Not only with the skills, but also with the intangibles, as we would need his leadership more than anything. So, that's how important he is," he stressed.
Williams, for his part, said he is embracing the role that he has for TNT now, and is thrilled that he is showing glimpses of his peak form.
"It feels good to start feeling like myself again," he acknowledged. "Coming into this conference, it's been a while since I've been excited to play."
"And knowing that Coach Chot was coming back, it re-lit a fire because the system is proven, the coach is proven, and you know, he allows us to play," he added. "It's definitely been a while since I've been in this position, and I'm just grateful for the opportunity, to be back with the organization, to be under coach and be with these guys."
TNT returns to action on Wednesday against the San Miguel Beermen.