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Official Target -- Playing Time May Help Williams Curb Foul Play

By Fred Kerber
New York Post.

Let's see, there's Bavetta and Javie and the two Crawford guys and Violet Palmer and . . .

Sean Williams is honing up on his NBA officials, studying their traits and habits. At the same time, he'd like all of the whistle blowers to get to know him as well, as he tries to overcome his recent bouts of foul trouble.

"I'm still learning the refs, the refs are still learning me," Williams said before the Nets sought to tie their season-high winning streak of a modest three games last night, although a most formidable foe, the Pistons, stood in the way.

"They have to learn you also," the rookie forward continued. "As they see me more and more and I play with them more and more and they see my game and I know the NBA game and how they officiate, it's a learning process."

It's not that Williams has been picked on or completely negated. Far from it. But now that he is in the starting lineup, the Nets think itwould be sort of nice if he could stay on the floor. Against Golden State on Saturday, he had three fouls by halftime. Against the Heat in the previous game, he had two fouls before the 5-minute mark. That can get frustrating for a rookie.

"Nah, no frustration at all," Williams said. "On the bench, that might be the time I'm frustrated.

But (you) just look at the game film and see where you messed up, see your mistakes and try to learn from them."

Williams, along with Josh Boone, has infused some life and energy into the Nets, who had become stagnant and still wallow in nasty inconsistency. Coach Lawrence Frank, who has seen gamecosting injuries or ailments strike eight players, has trotted out nine different starting lineups.

So Frank is not bugging out over back-to-back foul trouble games for Williams. Part of the problem is correctable, Frank said. It's all just part of the rookie growth process in the league. But with the Pistons and their powerful frontcourt ("They're really, really good," the Nets coach said) invading to start a stretch of three games in four nights, Frank was a bit anxious about keeping his best shot-blocker on the floor.

"It's just getting comfortable," Frank said. "Some of it is understanding, just being in the right place at the right time. Part of it is just knowing personnel. Some of it is not his fault, but I think a lot of it is positioning and also just getting a feel for the personnel which you do with film study and also just by doing it."

Williams, the runaway leader among rookie shot blockers at 2.14 per game, which placed him seventh overall, was aligned against Antonio McDyess last night.

"When he was back in Denver, he was one of the best athletes in the game," Williams said of McDyess. "He not have the same spring but clearly, he's just a great basketball player."

*

Antoine Wright, who sat a second straight game with a sprained right ankle, said he is shooting to return Jan. 2 at Orlando. Said Frank: "The timetable is indefinite. . . . I don't think it's going to be in the next couple games, otherwise we probably wouldn't have brought up Billy Thomas." . . . Jason Kidd entered needing eight assists to move past Gary Payton on the all-time NBA assist list and six points to slide past Kerry Kittles (7,096) into third place on the Nets' all-time scoring list. "It would be great to pass him (Payton, 8,966) because he's had a Hall of Fame career," said Kidd. "But with the talks of him coming back, maybe that's why he's coming back, so he won't let me pass him."