Grant Williams is making an impact with the Hornets. And in more ways than one

Grant Williams kept repeating the same motion, using both hands more than someone guiding in a 777 parking at an airport gate.

Williams made an imaginary letter multiple times as the Charlotte Hornets trudged toward the bench at one point during their 115-107 win against Utah at Delta Center on Thursday night. It was the forward’s way of taking up for his teammates after Tre Mann and Nick Richards each got slapped with technical fouls earlier, drawing the attention of Williams and the rest of the Hornets.

Protection mode was activated.

“Yeah, especially when frustration builds up,” the former Providence Day star said. “Referees are human the same way we are. And when you are irate and go at them, they tense up the same way. So, sometimes another voice can help. And also I’m just very big on making sure everybody is consistent. In the situation that Tre was dealing with, ‘I was like, ‘Bro, keep your head. I got you. Go to the bench and don’t say another word to him. I’ve got you.’”

And indeed. Williams took matters into his own 25-year-old hands.

“I went up there and talked to Mark (Davis),” Williams said. “He’s one of those officials you can communicate with. He’ll hear your perspective and give you his. And I just told him what I saw and he said, ‘Ok, I’ll keep a look on it.’ And Jordan Clarkson had just got a dunk, and after his dunk he kind of swung on the rim. The argument could be that he had someone under him, which I didn’t agree.

“But it wasn’t the fact he was swinging on the rim, it’s the fact that I remember Keyonte (George) was pointing across floor on the court. And I was saying, ‘We have two technical fouls.’ … And they were receptive and they did a great job of communicating. And I just want to give them credit, too, because it’s a tough environment as officials.. Players are going to be on you, fans are going to be on you, social media. So, I always acknowledge that it’s a difficult job, but it’s all about keeping it the same way between those 13 guys that are on the court.”

Williams is more than a pseudo referee for the Hornets, though. He’s quickly woven himself into the team’s fabric since arriving with Seth Curry after being traded from Dallas to Charlotte for PJ Washington.

He posted 24 points against Utah, and despite coming off the bench, he’s topped double figures in scoring in all four outings with the Hornets, reaching the mark he accomplished only twice in his final 12 games with the Mavericks.

Charlotte Hornets forward Grant Williams (2) shoots the ball over Utah Jazz center Walker Kessler (24) during the second half at Delta Center.
Charlotte Hornets forward Grant Williams (2) shoots the ball over Utah Jazz center Walker Kessler (24) during the second half at Delta Center.

The Hornets are more balanced on each end of the court with Williams. It’s crystal clear.

“In these four games, when he’s been on the floor we’ve been really good,” coach Steve Clifford said. “And, again, he plays well at both ends of the floor. And that’s what you need — two-way players. Creates a lot of offense for his teammates with his space shooting and the way he plays on offense.

“And then he’s very much, he’s like the middle linebacker back there that organizes your defense, and he also plays with great physicality. So, no, he’s playing at a great level.”

‘G-Willy,’ as Miles Bridges calls him, indeed brings numerous things to the table.

“Just everything,” Bridges said. “Leadership, toughness, greater IQ, talk, all that. Everything that we needed. He’s been great for us. Hopefully, he can keep it going.”

Same goes for the Hornets overall. With this new group spearheaded by Williams and Mann, Charlotte is 4-0 and riding its longest winning streak of the season. And Williams has already helped the Hornets do something they couldn’t accomplish in nearly two decades: leave Utah victorious.

Utah Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen (23) is fouled by Charlotte Hornets forward Grant Williams (2) during the second quarter at Delta Center.
Utah Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen (23) is fouled by Charlotte Hornets forward Grant Williams (2) during the second quarter at Delta Center.

The Hornets hadn’t won on the Jazz’s home turf since 2006, but they finally broke that dubious streak, even clawing back from a seven-point fourth-quarter deficit to pull it out. That didn’t happen much before they shook things up at the NBA deadline earlier this month.

“It feels great,” Williams said. “It’s something that’s special for the city, especially. 2006, it’s been a long time. But realistically with this team, we have to kind of keep our heads on the next game. As important as this one was, we play a talented Warriors team (Friday) and it’s going to be even harder.

“So, step-by-step process, everybody believing in one another and everybody sticking together in this group. So as important as the win was, especially for the team and the franchise and the morale of this group, you always have to turn the page to the next day.”

Consider those sage words just part of the reason everything has come together extremely rapidly, with the newest Hornets meshing perfectly with the holdovers.

“Everybody just plays basketball, the right style of basketball,” Williams said. “Everybody here, you can tell, wants to win and has that mentality of all it takes, wherever it is. That’s what we are trying to do. And I think that the life of the group that came in and also the life that was here, all the perception across the league was crap.

“It’s really all about the guys in this locker room and believing we can do something special no matter how far we are behind.”