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Dan Devine

Shelden Williams as goon? Really?

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Back in his days at Duke University, Shelden Williams(notes) was apparently called "The Landlord." Frankly, I mostly remember calling him "Shelden Williams" or, if I was talking too quickly, "Sherwin Williams," like the paint people. But enough folks referred to him as "The Landlord," it seems, to "justify" a mind-bending tribute video soundtracked by a nearly unbelievable composition called "Landlord" that includes lyrics like "He can jump h-higher / h-higher than God / and crash down like a Russian space station."

(I will insert a paragraph break here. Please view this as your opportunity to view — and, more importantly, listen to — the video linked above.)

As I was saying, Williams was called "The Landlord" because he lorded quite mightily over the lane, making opponents pay a price if they tried to live there, and rejecting shots like they were frivolous requests to fix a door that wouldn't stick if you didn't slam it so hard, Hercules. Viewed in the pros as a last-ditch option at the end of the bench, Williams was once considered something of an intimidator.

And after an Orlando Magic victory in a very physical Game 5 that sent the Eastern Conference finals back to Beantown and numerous Boston Celtics to the infirmary, he needs to be one again, according to Boston Herald columnist Ron Borges:

There is a time and place for everything. Tonight is the time, and the Garden is the place. It is time for Dwight Howard(notes) to be Rambis-ed.

Boston may be on the East Coast, but the time has come for the Celtics to employ some frontier justice on the Orlando center after two straight games in which he has felt free to decapitate one guy after another.

[...]

Shelden Williams, your time has come. Instead of taking one for the team, Rivers needs to tell his backup big man to deliver one for the team. Enough is enough. Friday night, at some point, Dwight Howard needs to be given a reason to be glad he has full dental insurance because, hey, basketball is a very physical sport.

Borges' call for a disposable player to commit an unabashed act of payback hooliganism is sure to rankle some folks. And that's totally understandable, though those familiar with the columnist's history of overboard, arch-stance-taking might be inclined to take his words with a salt mountain, accept it as standard caffeinated tabloid practice, dismiss it and move along to other pursuits. Especially since there's a snowball's chance in hell that Celtics coach Doc Rivers would ever call that kind of focus-shifting audible with his team up 3-2 and a trip to the NBA Finals at stake.

(NOTE: Having said all that, I often find Borges interesting and fun to read. He writes the kind of stuff that makes BlogBros tear their hair out, but don't get it twisted — that's what he's being paid for and he does it well. I feel about him the same way I feel about Swedish songwriter-to-the-stars Max Martin; you don't have to like what he's producing to acknowledge that he's quite good at producing it.)

Setting aside for a moment whether or not it would be ethical, justified, appropriate or prudent to put a hit out on Howard, upon reading Borges' take, I immediately wondered: "Is Shelden Williams really the guy you're going to tap for this?" Like, for real? He's your best goon option? Looking at the roster, the answer is, "Yeah, I guess, kind of."

You'd obviously want the violator to be someone outside of the regular rotation, which knocks out Paul Pierce(notes), Kevin Garnett(notes), Ray Allen(notes), Rajon Rondo(notes), the oft-teched Kendrick Perkins(notes), Tony Allen(notes), and the team's most obvious pick and most decorated wrestler, good ol' Rasheed Wallace(notes). (I will eliminate Big Baby as an option separately, since I'm still a little uncomfortable using "Glen Davis" and "knocks out" in such close proximity.)

Marquis Daniels(notes) isn't recovering so well from his Game 5 concussion, according to ESPNBoston.com's Chris Forsberg, so he's out. Michael Finley(notes) hasn't engaged in fisticuffs since someone spilled a phosphate on his waistcoat during the Hoover administration. With Wallace fighting back spasms and Davis still clearing the cobwebs, Brian Scalabrine(notes) might actually need to see some minutes backing up the C's starting bigs.

That leaves Williams, pint-sized spark plug Nate Robinson(notes) and two late-season additions: Tony Gaffney(notes), a 6-foot-8, 205-pound forward out of the University of Massachusetts, and Oliver Lafayette(notes), a 6-foot-2, 190-pound guard from the University of Houston. Listed at 6-foot-9 and 250 pounds, Williams does seem to be the option most likely to physically affect Howard. But still, something feels off about this.

We're sending a Duke guy — one of Mike Krzyzewski's four-year players, a dude who graduated with a degree in sociology and a certificate in markets and management studies — out there as a button-man? A guy who's logged four technical fouls in a four-year NBA career? A former member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes?

A guy whose Twitter feed is so vanilla, genial and placid it makes J.K. Rowling's seem like Fake Gary Busey's? A guy who's now a happily married father and who seems to have made peace with the fact that his wife is always going to get more shine than he is? This is our hitman?

Ultimately, I find myself agreeing with those who think the premise of Borges' column is ridiculous — not because it'd be wrong, mean or against the spirit of the game, but rather because it'd be against the spirit of Shelden Williams. If anything, he should grab Howard before the game and make Superman watch his seven-part vlog of an all-star weekend trip to Russia, which is every ounce as exciting as watching someone else's vacation movies normally are. That's the kind of punishment Williams seems best suited to dish out.

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