PLAYA VISTA, Calif. Winning is supposed to cure everything, but in the case of Mo Williams, it's going to take some time.
On a Los Angeles Clippers team filled with star power, Williams is suddenly a backup. It's not a role he figured to play this season, but it's one he was forced to assume when the team acquired point guard Chris Paul from the New Orleans Hornets last month.
Williams, a starter virtually his entire NBA career, has given the Clippers a visible energy off the bench. In Wednesday night's 117-89 victory over the Houston Rockets, he had seven points and seven assists in 22 minutes.
But the transition is coming slowly, which is understandable when you think about it.
"A month and a half ago, this was his team," teammate Chauncey Billups said. "It's going to be an adjustment period, but I don't worry about him. He's a mature veteran. He's been around the league. He'll be fine."
Williams, 28, sounded evasive when he was asked if was content with his current role as a backup.
"The team is first," he said. "At the end of the day, the team is first. That's all that really matters. I hope I answered your question."
Even if he's not happy, Williams is clearly a presence on the floor. In the Clippers' first five games, he's averaging 10.6 points and 4.6 assists in 27 minutes. When he and guard Randy Foye are on the floor in relief of starters Paul and Billups, they're essentially two starters backing up two starters.
"There's no question that Mo and Randy have a ton of experience, and that helps," coach Vinny Del Negro said. "Their energy, not only offensively but more importantly defensively is vital for us because they bring good energy. Mo gets into the ball really well and gets our tempo going. That's definitely something we want to use to our advantage."
Del Negro knows Williams isn't satisfied over losing his starting role. Williams took over the job last season when he was acquired from the Cleveland Cavs in the Baron Davis trade. In 537 career games entering this season, he had been a starter in 431 of them.
"Like everyone, Mo wants to play more, but the situation has changed for him since last season," Del Negro said. "Like I've said, Mo's a pro and Mo understands he's a big part of what we're trying to do here. He's been a leader, a pro. He's worked, he's gotten in games and given us great effort.
"Roles will change throughout the year depending on schedule and health and everything else. Everyone goes through their highs and lows through the season, but you have to stay consistent in what you need to do and know your role. More important than knowing it, you have to accept your role. It is team first."
Billups, a 14-year veteran, said he talks frequently to Williams about adjusting and accepting. Slowly, he's coming around.
"I've been knowing Mo a long time," Billups said. "He's never going to be 100 percent happy with that role because he feels like he's a starter, and he is. He's just in a tough situation right now. He's going to stay focused and stay locked in, but Mo's a starting point guard, no question about it. It's just a tough spot for him to be in right now."
If nothing else, Williams is producing, perhaps because he has a starter's mentality, regardless of when he comes into the game and how many minutes he gets.
"I'm a basketball player," he said. "If you know how to play basketball, it's the same. I'm going to be the player that you see on the court each and every day trying to help this team win."
And maybe, at least for the moment, that's the most important thing.