Chot Reyes the driving force behind Kelly Williams' return

Kelly Williams is raring to go once more for the TNT Tropang Giga after emerging from a months-long retirement.

Williams, 39, announced that he was hanging up his sneakers in September 2020, partly due to how his career was moving at that point, but it turned out to be premature.

"You know, there were some disagreements that I wasn't happy with at the time. On the court, the last several years, I wasn't happy with how I was being played so when the business side of things got a little murky, that's when for me, maybe it's time to get myself out of the way," recalled the 2008 MVP Saturday in a lengthy interview with Noli Eala on Radyo5's Power & Play.

"I felt like it was just tearing me apart inside," he added.

After that decision to step away from the PBA, the veteran forward got offers from other tournaments, but decided against those because he did not want his final memory in a league that has given him so much to leave a bitter taste in everybody's mouth.

With nothing to do during his short-lived retirement, Williams watched all Tropang Giga contests in addition to about "90% of the [league's] games."

And then came TNT's run to the 2020 Philippine Cup Finals.

'Machine Gun Kelly' was candid enough to admit that watching TNT wage war with Ginebra for the All-Filipino Cup was hard since he felt he should have been there helping his former teammates.

Fast forward to early February and at 3 a.m., he woke up to a course-altering Instagram direct message. It was from Ryan Reyes, his longest-tenured teammate.

"And the text said, 'Hey man, Chot's back. Are you coming back? When are you coming back?'" narrated Williams.

Stunned by the magnitude of the message, the six-time champion decided to check the running feed of the photo sharing service. It was there that he confirmed that, indeed, Reyes was coming back to coach TNT.

"From that minute on, I was like, 'Alright. Let's see how he might be able to do this.' So, 100%, Chot coming back pushed me over the edge," he detailed.

Coach Chot's return rekindles a relationship that has stretched from Williams' playing days at Oakland University, when the tactician recruited the 6-foot-6 prospect to play for the Philippine national team.

He had also played in three championship teams under Reyes from 2010 to 2012, the time regarded as the most successful stretch in the PBA for the franchise.

"Chot's one of those coaches that you know, you come in, come be in shape and if you're ready to play, he's going to let you go and be free and play a game. That's what I love the most about playing with him," shared the former no. 1 overall pick.

"I'm looking forward to that. I told Chot when we had dinner maybe days after that Instagram exchange, this is the first time in a long time that I've been excited about basketball. It's a different kind of feeling and it's a fresh feeling and I'm just looking forward to being out there with my guys and getting a shot, being able to play fully and see what happens," he continued.

Now looking back to his premature retirement, Williams realized that he did not handle the situation as well as he wanted to, especially since he held the TNT franchise, which he has been with since 2010, in high regard.

"I try to play the game the right way and conduct myself within the business side as best as I can, the best as I know so I felt that it was the best decision for me then just to leave it alone altogether because I felt if I fought anymore, it would just get really ugly. I don't want that to be the image I left on whatever legacy I might have here in the Philippines," he shared.

"With that said, I just wanted to make sure it didn't get any worse. So yes, I made a rash decision, but I pulled out not making it any worse for myself and for everyone else involved," he added.

That is now water under the bridge as Williams, who has spent tons of hours in the gym to maintain his playing shape, came back to the Tropang Giga's practices at the Moro Lorenzo Gym and not long after, signed a two-year contract.

He returns to a retooled TNT side that also augmented its frontcourt with Glenn Khobuntin and Dave Marcelo.

However, they are still waiting on first-round pick Mikey Williams to sign with the squad and steady its backcourt that will likely not have Bobby Ray Parks for the foreseeable future.

The Tropang Giga's comebacking team leader, though, remains hopeful for a resolution sooner than later.

"I think the focus is just to just keep the ball moving and keep the train moving and if he's here, that would be great. If not, we just got to focus on what we have, which is already an amazing group of guys. Hopefully again, hopefully they can work things out and get him over soon," stated Williams.