MONTREAL - Shawne Williams is quick to bring up the troubling issues of his past before you do. At this point of his career, he knows better than to pretend that past doesn't precede him.
But he also says that whether he makes this Knicks roster as the 15th man or not, his life has to change. And after multiple drug-related arrests - one in 2007 and two earlier this year - he insisted those problems are behind him.
"That -- is over with," he said before Friday night's preseason finale here against the Raptors. "It's out."
Williams played a little more than four minutes Friday night in the Knicks' 108-103 loss and scored seven points.
The 15th player on this Knicks roster has a future on the inactive list most nights this season, and most fans at the Garden probably will wear a Knicks jersey more than he does. But it has serious meaning for two players who are vying for that final spot.
For Patrick Ewing Jr., it's the obvious. But for Williams, 24, it's a shot at redemption and a shot the Knicks were willing to give as a favor to agent Happy Walters, who, it should be noted, represents Amar'e Stoudemire (24 points Friday night). It is a chance to save a career that never got started after he was selected 17th overall by the Pacers in the 2006 NBA draft.
Williams, like many young NBA players, often is sandbagged by the irresponsibility of friends from back home who do not have nearly as much to lose.
"Exactly. Being young, a lot of stuff, your mind thinks a different way," he said. "Just me going through this, I feel like I've grown up a lot and matured a lot . . . I just want to get my life back on track, being a professional and having a regular life."
It would appear that Ewing Jr. would have the advantage because of his obvious connection to franchise history and status as a fan favorite. Ewing Jr. also has the advantage in that he was signed to a partially guaranteed contract worth $473,604. Williams is here on a non-guaranteed training camp agreement. "Whatever happens,'' he said, "I'm going to take it as a stepping-stone."
Notes & quotes: Commissioner David Stern said he had no problem with Carmelo Anthony's decision to leave a three-year, $65-million contract extension offer from Denver on the table and, as a result, force the Nuggets to either trade him this season or lose him in free agency. "Here we have a player who's keeping his options open," Stern said. "That's his right under the collective-bargaining agreement and I don't think it's fair to hold him to a higher standard." . . . Danilo Gallinari (sore right wrist) and Toney Douglas (sore right shoulder) sat out . . . With the shooting guard position still somewhat up for grabs - though it sounds as though Douglas might start in the backcourt with Raymond Felton - rookie Landry Fields (12 points) made his first start of the preseason.