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A 34-year-old who considered retiring after being traded to the Hawks helped save their season, then brought wine to his press conference

Lou Williams dribbles the ball.
  • Lou Williams scored 21 points in place of Trae Young to help the Hawks get a Game 4 win.

  • After the game, Williams arrived at his postgame press conference with a bottle of red wine.

  • Williams considered retiring when traded to the Hawks but now is two wins away from the Finals.

  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Lou Williams’ heroic Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals almost didn’t happen.

When Williams was traded from the LA Clippers to the Atlanta Hawks in March, he contemplated retiring. Williams spent three and a half seasons with the Clippers, winning two Sixth Man of the Year awards. He and the Clippers were pursuing a championship for a second straight season when he was dealt.

Williams ultimately decided to stick with the Hawks, who at that point were surging in the Eastern Conference standings after making Nate McMillan head coach.

The move paid off.

On Tuesday, Williams started in place for the injured Trae Young in Game 4 and paced the Hawks, scoring 21 points on 7-of-9 shooting to go with 5 rebounds and 8 assists in 35 minutes. The Hawks got the 110-88 win over the Milwaukee Bucks to even the series at 2-2.

It was a significant increase in a role for Williams, who before Game 4 had only topped 20 minutes once this postseason.

Yet, according to Williams, he needed very little preparation for the role change. He told reporters after the game that the moment he learned he was starting was fairly nondescript.

“Nate walked up, said, ‘Trae is going to be out, so I’m going to start you.’ I said, ‘OK,’ and he walked off. That was the conversation,” Williams said. “It’s not like a ‘Remember the Titans’ thing that happens in the locker room. I promise you it don’t. That was it.”

Williams helped set the tone for the Hawks, scoring 13 points on 4-of-4 shooting in the first half.

After the game, Williams was apparently going to celebrate.

According to The Athletic’s Joe Vardon, Williams arrived at his postgame press conference carrying a 2019 Caymus bottle of red wine. When asked about the wine, Williams reportedly joked, “I’m not even going to pretend like I know what’s going on with this.”

Williams is a semi-legendary figure in the NBA. He has been one of the purest scorers in the NBA for years but has rarely been featured in a starring role. He has a known love of the nightlife, once telling ESPN’s Zach Lowe that he doesn’t bring teammates out who can’t keep up with him. According to Lowe, Williams only occasionally lifts weights.

Yet in the first postseason start of his career, Williams didn’t miss a beat.

“It doesn’t matter if he’s scoring 21 a night or if his minutes are down another game and he doesn’t get much of an opportunity,” Hawks guard Kevin Huerter said, according to Vardon. ” He’s kind of just even-keeled, steady Lou. He’s kind of a legend, just his way about him … He’s somebody you’ve got to be around, like an OG type of feel, he’s walking in with his hat and his chains on and coming in with – last game I don’t know how many minutes he got, he comes in, drops 21 like he’s been playing 40 minutes all playoffs.”

Williams also told reporters how he was unsure of joining the Hawks, who at that point did not look like championship contenders. But now, he said, he has been welcomed by a team that is two wins away from the Finals.

“Once I had an opportunity to get around these guys, get around the organization, get a good feel for what was going on around here, I felt like there could be great potential there,” Williams said. “But one thing that’s been steady since I’ve been here, this team has always been confident in their abilities, and that’s shown throughout the playoffs.

“We’re enjoying the ride. We feel like we deserve to be here. We’ve earned the right to be here, and at the same time, we’re enjoying it. Did I look ahead and say we can be a championship contender day one? Probably not. But we’re two wins away like everybody else, and we feel good about it.”

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