Portland Trail Blazers guard Mo Williams admitted his disagreement with Houston Rockets rookie Troy Daniels during the first round of the playoffs was all a ploy to get into the rookie's head, which makes Williams something of a tactical genius.
He said in an interview on NBATV (h/t Adi Joseph of USA Today):
My thing was, let me get him some attention. Let me get the reporters in his locker room asking him questions about me that has nothing to do with the game. Now, all his homeboys got to call him — all his friends, his mom, his sister, everybody. ‘What’s going on? Is something wrong with you guys?’ ‘There’s nothing wrong with us.’ The thing is, it’s all a tactic.
Well, either that or Williams is just a bully who couldn't figure out a physical way to stop Daniels from torching him.
Houston's sharpshooting rookie went a combined 7-of-11 from long distance in Games 3 and 4 after not playing a minute in either of the series' first two games. In fact, his performance down the stretch was integral to the Rockets' Game 3 win.
Out of ideas to stop Daniels, Williams confronted him as both teams headed to the tunnel after Game 4.
According to the Houston Chronicle's Jenny Dial Creech, before Game 5, Williams said: "Let’s see if the rook’s ready, whatever his name is."
Creech even noted at the time that Williams was probably up to something:
The ‘rook’ was guard Troy Daniels, who exchanged words with Williams after Game 4 in Portland although neither player is sharing any details about what was said or why.
Williams’ gamesmanship aside, Daniels has been making a name for himself in these playoffs.
It's hard to know if Williams deserves credit for Daniels' disappearance after Game 4, but it's only fair to point out that the rookie scored just five points in Game 5 and put up a goose egg in nine minutes in Game 6.
So we should at least consider crediting Williams for a successfully completed psyche-out.
Williams broached the topic of his beef with Daniels in the context of discussing the ongoing extracurriculars between Lance Stephenson and LeBron James in the Eastern Conference Finals—possibly alluding to the fact that Stephenson was employing a similar tactic.
If that's the case, Stephenson is probably in for drastically different result than the one Williams achieved.
James looked particularly feisty in Game 3, hounding Stephenson all over the court and taking every opportunity to get into the Indiana Pacers guard's personal space. Clearly playing with some added motivation, LeBron led his Miami Heat to a 2-1 series lead.
As the Heat look to take even firmer control of the series, Stephenson will probably regret his decision to hassle the game's best player. It's one thing to get inside the head of an unproven rookie, as Williams successfully did.
But it's quite another to throw a four-time MVP off his game.