TORONTO - They called him damaged goods. They said his best basketball was behind him.Lou Williams used it to drive him.The Toronto Raptors sharpshooter — whose exploits inspired a Drake song — won the NBA's Sixth Man Award on Monday as the league's best reserve player. The honour comes less than two years after a torn anterior cruciate ligament left his career in doubt."It fuelled me just to work," Williams said. "When you experience a certain level of success and you know you can play at a high level, and then your legs get swiped from under you with an ACL tear, anything you can use as fuel to get back on the court, to get back to playing at a high level, we all use anything that we can."So I appreciate all the people that said I was damaged. But today is a special day to commemorate everything I've been through."Williams averaged a career-high 15.5 points in his 10th NBA season, helping Toronto win a franchise-record 49 games. He's thrilled fans with his clutch three-point shooting, which prompted a team official to run the length of the court trailing a giant "Looouuuuu!" flag with each made basket.Toronto rapper Drake, who's also the Raptors' global ambassador referenced Williams in his song "6 Man," which goes: "Boomin' out in South Gwinnett like Lou Will, 6 man like Lou Will. . .""The song is cool, I have a soundtrack to go with the award now, so it's pretty cool," Williams saidOn whether he received a memento from Drake, he said, laughing: "Yeah, I got like 100,000 Instagram followers.""Drake got it right," said Raptors reserve Patrick Patterson. "He made the song for a reason. He predicted the future. It's a huge accomplishment for Lou. We're all extremely proud of him and we're happy for him."Williams is the first player in Raptors history to win the award, after earning 78 first-place votes and 502 total points from a panel of 130 sportswriters and broadcasters throughout the United States and Canada.GM Masai Ujiri acquired Williams in a trade last summer with Atlanta. Williams was coming off one of the worst seasons of his career as he adjusted to his new reality."(I was) scared. Once I tore my ACL, that was the closest I felt to retirement," Williams said. "Just because you don't know what's ahead, the fear of not knowing. Once I finally got back on the court, I realized I couldn't jump as high, I wasn't as fast, it takes me a little while to get my legs going. It's a frightening thing, but to be here today is very gratifying."Ujiri summed up Williams' contribution, saying: "He's done far and beyond what we expected."Williams accepted the trophy at a posh downtown hotel, and posed beside the 2016 Kia Sorento that would be donated to The Remix Project in his name.His mom, brother, two daughters and his South Gwinnett High School coach Roger Fleetwood, from Snellville, Ga., were there to support him. Williams spoke gratefully of Fleetwood, calling him mentor and father figure. He recalled how the coach would pick him up for school every morning and take him to breakfast. Their car rides became coaching sessions."Everything he wanted me know, it was taught to me right there in the car," Williams said. "He's been everything to me. He had 10 seniors and a scrawny freshman and he had the heart to start the freshman over these seniors."Teammates DeMar DeRozan, Amir Johnson and Chuck Hayes were at the news conference, hours after DeRozan told reporters Williams "is the coolest dude in the world. If you can't tell on the court, now you know.""Is that a fact? Is that what you said?" Williams asked DeRozan, laughing.Boston's Isaiah Thomas finished second in voting with 324 points, and two-time winner Jamal Crawford of the Los Angeles Clippers was third with 131.Williams came off the bench in all 80 of his appearances and averaged 25.2 minutes a game. He led or tied for the team lead in scoring 18 times, second most in the league for a reserve. The Raptors went 14-4 in those games.The 28-year-old also led the Raptors in free throw percentage (86.1) and made a career-high 152 three-pointers, nearly double his previous high of 88 set with the 76ers in 2010-11.
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