For years, John Williamson played in somebody else's shadow. First it was the shadow of Julius Erving and then Nate Archibald.
Now, Williamson is alone in the limelight. He is the one casting the shadow. He is the New York Nets' offense.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound guard known as "Super John," will lead the Nets into Capital Centre tonight for an 8:05 game against the Washington Bullets.
Bullet coach Dick Motta calls it a key game for the Bullets. A victory will make them a .500 team for the first time since Nov. 20. They also have a three-game winning streak going.
The Nets are struggling. And their fortunes turned even worse Sunday when Archibald broke his foot. He will be sidelined for at least a month.
Between them, Archilbald and Williamson accounted for 44 of the 98 points a game the Nets averaged.
Some National Basketball Association followers say it will be no problem for Williamson to score 44 points a game by himself.
"If I have to I can go out and score 40 or 50 points a game and I know there will be nights when I will have to," Williamson said. "I know the pressure is on me. Everyone is keyed to stop me. I expect to get double-teamed and banged around a lot.
"If they can stop me, they can beat the Nets, is what most teams think now."
But Williamson is tough to shut down.
He is rugged and aggressive and doesn't back down from anyone.
He likes to work one-on-one inside and will drill in jumpers from 20 feet.
"Yeah, I play aggressive," Williamson said. "That's my way. I don't know any other. Ever since I was growing up in New Haven. I always played with good players and I always took advantage of anyone who was smaller than I was. It's the same way here."
Williamson is seventh in the league in scoring with a 22.4 average.
Al Skinner of Bubbles Hawkins will probably start against the Bullets in Archibad's place.
The Nets' front court starters are Jan van Breda Kolff, Tim Bassett and Kim Hughes. The big man in reserve is former Chicago Bull Bob Love
Moota said he will probably put Dave Bing on Williamson.
The Bullets went through a two-hour workout at Bowie State yesterday after having Sunday and Monday off. There was much banging and Motta said he was pleased with the practice. "Everybody was loose and looked sharp," he said.
Bing and Wes Unseld have colds, but worked out. Kevin Grevey stayed home in bed with the flu.
Motta said he is thinking of moving the 6-5 Grevey to guard permanently when is well. Leonard Gray has moved ahead of him as third forward and Motta is looking for a good jump shooter to play behind the oft-injured Phil Chenier, Grevey is as good a jump shooter as the Bullets have.