By Ben Golliver
Less than 11 months ago, Shawne Williams was a starter for the Nets. One injury, one surgery, one trade, one buyout, zero contracts and one arrest later, Williams found himself behind bars this week.
Williams, who played basketball at the University of Memphis before being selected in the first round of the 2006 Draft, was arrested on drug charges in Tennessee, according to multiple reports.
The Commercial-Appeal offers details from the police report and noted the Williams has posted bail.
Shawne Williams was arrested Thursday in Raleigh after police reported finding marijuana and codeine cough syrup in his car. An officer was on routine patrol outside a Cricket wireless store in the 3400 block of Austin Peay near the Raleigh Springs Mall. The officer approached Williams in his nearby Porsche Panamera after smelling marijuana, according to a police affidavit, and the 26-year-old Williams was asked to exit his vehicle.
Williams then said, "Officer I ain't gonna lie to you, there's a blunt in the car and some syrup," according to the affidavit. Police reported finding inside the car a partially smoked marijuana blunt, another blunt that had not been smoked, and a bottle containing 83 grams of codeine cough syrup, for which Williams did not have a prescription.
The Associated Press reported that Williams was arrested on charges of "possession of marijuana and possession of a controlled substance with intent to manufacture, deliver or sell."
This is about as textbook as cautionary tales come in the NBA. Williams signed a two-year, $6 million contract with the Nets in December 2011 after being courted by both the Nets and Knicks following the lockout. For a player like Williams, who had never previously averaged more than 15 minutes per game and had bounced around from the Pacers to the Mavericks to the Knicks, this was an excellent wage and an excellent opportunity.
That opportunity came after multiple previous drug arrests and issues with his conditioning. The New York Times reported in 2010 that Williams' career was at a crossroads.
Before joining the Knicks, Williams drifted among Indiana, Dallas and the Nets. He had troubles at each stop. Three times in Indiana, friends from Memphis ran afoul of the law while in Williams’s company. In Dallas, the Mavericks eventually asked Williams to stay away from the organization.
Authorities in Memphis indicted Williams, one of 24 defendants facing drug charges in January after a seven-month investigation called Operation: Lockdown, on eight counts. The Nets had just waived Williams after he reported out of shape. He pleaded guilty to four misdemeanor drug charges, including the possession and conspiracy to possess a controlled substance, in this case, hydrocodone, a codeine-based syrup. Then over the summer he was charged with driving with a suspended license. A passenger was charged with possession of marijuana and carrying a handgun.
“You’ve got one skill, one God-given ability, and you’re doing everything you can to throw it away,” Judge James Beasley Jr. told Williams in August, according to The Commercial Appeal in Memphis. Most of his troubles involved a common thread: Williams would be with hometown friends. With Memphis a day’s drive from Indiana, the hangers-on could and did hang on.
Williams averaged a career-high 7.1 points and 3.7 rebounds for the Knicks in 2010-11 and was averaging 4.5 points and 2.7 rebounds for the Nets in 25 games last season before he underwent season-ending foot surgery. The Nets, in preparation for what would be a very active summer, traded the final year of Williams' contract along with Mehmet Okur's expiring contract and a first-round pick to the Blazers for forward Gerald Wallace. Portland, entering a rebuilding process, never represented much of an opportunity for Williams, and he was abruptly bought out over the summer. Following the buyout, Williams was linked to a few teams in rumors during training camp but no contract offers materialized. This arrest, less than two months into the season, sure makes Judge Beasley's words look prophetic. At 26, Williams should still be able to find work playing professional basketball somewhere, if not in the NBA. The obvious question is whether he's willing to commit to pursuing that chance.