By Jerry Zgoda, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) –
MINNEAPOLIS — With just two games remaining in this lockout-shortened season, Timberwolves rookie Derrick Williams has his eyes set on a transformational summer in which he intends to lose 10 to 15 pounds so he can prove what he contended way back before last summer’s draft: He really is an NBA small forward.
His coach wants to see change, too. Except Rick Adelman doesn’t want to label it with numbers such as 3 and 4, basketball’s designations for the small-forward and power-forward positions.
“I want him to be an effective, consistent forward,” Adelman said.
That could be as big a leap as streamlining his body, like teammate Kevin Love did last summer.
A trendy preseason pick to win Rookie of the Year, Williams has survived an uneven first NBA season, displaying uncommon athleticism one night, struggling to find minutes and the basket the next.
Love’s concussion suffered at Denver 10 days ago opened the door wide for last summer’s second overall pick in the NBA draft, but Adelman started Anthony Randolph at Love’s power forward position the past three games while Williams has played just 16 and seven minutes off the bench in the past two games and was just 6-for-24 shooting in the past three.
Williams has struggled all season to prove he’s the three-point shooter he believes he is and he also has struggled to finish around the basket with a variety of gyrations and scoop shots that often never find the net.
Asked if Williams has slammed into the proverbial rookie wall or if his recent play merely is consistent with the inconsistency he has shown all season, Adelman said, “Probably both. I don’t know. He has really struggled with his shot. He has really struggled with energy on the court. The inconsistency has really been something that has bothered us all year long with a lot of guys. He’s got to figure out how to get himself going in the game, and a lot of times that’s just effort, going to the boards, not worrying about your shot, being aggressive. It’s hard to put your finger on why he has tailed off.”
Adelman has played Williams mostly at power forward this season because Williams, at 240 pounds, has struggled to defend small forwards out on the floor.
That’s why he aims this summer to sculpt his body by dropping at least 10 pounds so the same guy who weighed as much as 250 pounds when he played college ball at Arizona comes to camp next fall at 225 or 230.
“Coming into camp, I want to be in the best shape possible,” Williams said. “Getting down to 230 is not a problem. That just comes down to the determination of trying to get there. I don’t think it’s that hard, honestly. At Arizona, they wanted me to be a little heavier because I was guarding bigger guys. Here, you’ve got to be able to guard a 3 if you’re going play the 3. I want to slim down and get my agility back a little more.”
Adelman wants Williams to both slim down and toughen up around the basket, a possible contradiction Adelman says is possible because Love did it.
“I’d like to see him do what Kevin did, so he’s much more active,” Adelman said. “Even at power forward he becomes a factor then, too. Unless it’s a big, physical guy, he has got the skills to do it. Players have to learn that when they come into the league. They have to find there are other ways to do it, and Kevin’s a real case in point: He lost that weight, got himself into great shape and had a great year.”
Williams worked out with his own trainers most of last summer because of the labor lockout that hit July 1. This summer, he said he will be back and forth from Los Angeles, working out periodically under the supervision of Wolves coaches for instruction and development he never received a year ago.
“We need him to really make great strides, as well as some other guys,” Adelman said, without specifically referring to former No. 4 overall pick Wes Johnson. “If you can’t do it (improve the team) in free agency, if you can’t do it with trades, then you need to do it with the people you have on your team right now. That’s what we have to evaluate and figure out. Do we have that?”