By Chip Scoggins, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) –
MINNEAPOLIS — Derrick Williams tweeted a seven-word message Saturday night that didn’t require too much effort reading between the lines.
“Anybody ever felt like a caged lion?” the Timberwolves rookie wrote.
Williams smiled when asked after Monday’s practice if it’s time for the lion to be released with Kevin Love set to begin his two-game suspension for planting his size-19 shoe on Houston’s Luis Scola’s chest and head.
“That’s funny,” Williams said in a tone that suggested he didn’t find it funny at all. “That’s why you guys are here. I’ve been ready. I just want to get out there and play a little bit more. I think everybody does. But at the same time, I can’t do nothing about that. It’s not my decision.”
Animal analogies aside, Williams clearly seems frustrated with the start of his NBA career. He’s averaging only 18 minutes and 7.3 points per game and has not made the kind of impact anticipated of a No. 2 overall draft pick. Love’s suspension should create an opportunity for more playing time and a chance to prove himself. Williams admitted he needs to earn the trust of Rick Adelman and the coaching staff.
“Hopefully, I pick up his trust and I have the ball in my hands more often,” Williams said. “I kind of feel like it’s a lack of confidence. Not in myself. But him in me in that position of scoring the ball. I’ve just got to earn his trust.”
Williams’ role through 24 games is an interesting development and popular discussion around town, but in reality, it’s not that surprising once Adelman decided Williams is better suited to play power forward to start his pro career. That’s also Love’s position and he currently leads the NBA in minutes played at 39.4 per game. The Wolves need Love on the court as much as possible, but that means long stretches on the bench for Williams.
Williams usually sees action when Love gets a breather or in a smaller lineup with Love at center, but neither of those situations lends itself to extended playing time. Ideally, Williams would play small forward with Love at the ‘4.’ That presumably was the Wolves’ intention when they selected Williams last spring.
Maybe that will eventually happen. We can’t forget he’s only played one-third of a condensed NBA season that allows for little practice time. It’s perhaps premature to overreact to early returns. The Wolves certainly hope Williams becomes adept at both forward spots, particularly on defense. Until then, his role is backup to a guy who rarely leaves the court.
“I’m just out here playing,” he said when asked he feels more comfortable at either forward position. “If you put me in the right position to succeed, I’m going to be right there to do whatever it is. Three or four, it really doesn’t matter. That’s the good thing about me. I can play either one and can guard either one. Just put me in there, let me do my best and hopefully at the end of the day we get more wins. So far we’re doing pretty good.”
To his credit, Williams consistently is one of the last Wolves players to leave the court after practice. He stayed an extra 30 minutes Monday working on his jumper. He’s putting in the necessary work.
“I relieve all my anger out here,” he said. “Whenever I have a problem, that’s always the easiest way to solve things. Hopefully a lot of people will see that.”
Williams said he’s had a number of conversations with the coaching staff, not necessarily about his playing time but more so about how he can develop and improve his game. The biggest adjustment, he said, is figuring out how to score without having the ball in his hands as much as he did in college.
“Just my whole career, I’ve been more in the flow of the offense,” he said.
He’s searching for ways to fit in and define his role. He is an explosive leaper but he’s also attempted 40 three-pointers (and made 10). He can create mismatches and use his athleticism to his advantage, but he needs to show better decision-making. Maybe this is just part of his rookie learning curve.
“People say I’m playing a little bit more hesitant than what I did in college just because I was being able to do the things I know I can do,” he said. “It’s just a different role. Everybody adjusts. Hopefully I pick up a little bit more.”