R.I.P Art “Hambone” Williams, Boston Celtic champion

After using his first choice in the 1970 NBA Draft on future Hall of Famer Dave Cowens, Red Auerbach selected a hot-shot guard from a Final Four team named Rex Morgan in Round 2, a floppy-haired Pete Maravich look-alike who’d benefited from playing with Artis Gilmore at Jacksonville.

About six months later, and with significantly less notice, Auerbach shipped a fifth-round pick in the following draft to San Diego for an ultraquick, undersized, overaged back-up nicknamed “Hambone.”

Fast-forward about 18 months more … both backcourt men are members of Coach Tom Heinsohn’s first roster to qualify for the play-offs, repelling Atlanta in six games before falling to the Knicks in the ECF in five. Morgan logged the final ten minutes of his NBA career that post-season.

Art “Hambone” Williams participated in all 11 contests, contributing nearly 16 minutes per game of steady relief work for starters Don Chaney and Jo Jo White. Even at 32 years of age, Williams was the fastest guy on the squad. And Artie understood his role: push the pace, be a pest, and set up his teammates. Basketball-reference.com credits him with a 24.6 Assist Percentage for that playoff run, tops on the team.

Hambone hung around long enough to earn a championship ring in 1974 – he again led the team in playoff Ast% (39.7) despite playing about half the time. (BTW, Art had led the NBA in Ast% during his final season in San Diego.)

Alas, in 1972 Red had drafted a Pete Maravich play-alike in Paul Westphal. So Williams became expendable and his professional basketball career – absent a brief stint with his hometown SD Conquistadors of the ABA in late 1974 – was over at age 35.

Can you measure the Intangible?
Last Thursday morning Art Williams, the 1959 Southern California prep player of the year, passed away of a stroke at the age of 78.

Check out TB’s informative WTHHT on Art Williams – maybe even a few more of my thoughts on the man.

While bask-ref inadvertently offered Art a happy 79th birthday yesterday – Ouch!! -- …

… I’d like to think that Mr. Auerbach was right there with St. Pete to welcome his guy at the Pearly Gates.

Condolences from the Celticslife community to Art’s family and friends.