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Timberwolves’ Derrick Williams needs to make ‘giant strides,’ Adelman says

Ray Richardson, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn. –

Derrick Williams wants to prove he was worthy of being drafted No. 2 overall. After what he describes as an “up and down” rookie season, the Timberwolves forward is ready to take a lighter approach.

“I want to do what Kevin (Love) did last summer and slim down,” said the 6-foot-8 Williams, who is a muscular 241 pounds. “I want to tone up to improve my quickness. It really paid off for Kevin. He had a great year. I want to get in the gym, back off the weights a little bit and work on my lateral movement.

“There’s a lot I want to do to come back stronger and be better next year.”

Love lost 30 pounds last offseason and went from being an all-star to one of the NBA’s premier players. Williams hopes to return next season as a

dramatically improved player and earn a starting role alongside Love at small forward, the position Williams says he’s more suited to play.

“We need him to make giant strides,” Wolves coach Rick Adelman said. “If you can’t make improvements at the position in free agency or trades, then you have to do it with the people you have on the team right now. He has a pretty good power forward in front of him, so maybe the other spot is the one for him.”

Williams’ challenge is clear. Nikola Pekovic’s emergence this season filled the hole at center and meant that Love wouldn’t be needed to play the middle. That made it tougher for Williams to see much time at power forward, while Wes Johnson and Michael Beasley struggled to take over the small

forward spot.

Beasley, a restricted free agent after the season, is due $8.142 million in 2012-13, and the Wolves have yet to decide if they’re going to pick up the final year of his contract. His uncertain status makes Williams’ offseason development even more pivotal.

Williams said he wants to get down to 225 to 230 pounds to help improve his quickness and make a push for the small forward position.

“We definitely would like to see him do what Kevin did last summer,” Adelman said. “Kevin is a real case in point for Derrick. He got himself in great shape and had a great year.”

Adelman isn’t ready to say Williams is better at one position than the other.

“I want him to be an effective and consistent forward,” Adelman said.

Willams would prefer to blame inconsistent minutes for his inconsistent play. He is the only Wolves player to have played in all 64 games, but he is averaging only 21.4 minutes and has played fewer than 15 minutes in 13 games.

He is averaging 9.0 points and 4.8 rebounds.

“I’ve had a few games where I’ve stood out and showed some flashes of what I can do, but I know I have to be better than that and play like that on a regular basis,” Williams said. “As a high draft pick, people think I’m supposed to do this and do that right off the bat. A lot of people don’t realize that we have an all-star ahead of me at the position.

“It’s a little tough for a rookie to get out there and play a lot. Sometimes you have to watch a great player like Kevin and learn about the things he does.”

Adelman wants to see more consistency in Williams’ all-around game. He said Williams has a tendency to “worry too much about his shot” instead of concentrating on other areas that can help the Wolves win. Defense, for instance. And decision-making with the ball.

At times, Williams has been very effective, scoring a season-high 27 points in games against Denver and the Los Angeles Clippers. But Williams’ inability to sustain that level of play has generated Adelman’s concern. The veteran coach plans to have Williams play with the Wolves’ rookies, free agents and second-year players in the Las Vegas Summer League in mid-July.

With so many players going down with injuries, including Love, Williams could have seized the opportunity. Instead, he as much as any player seems to have been affected by the loss of Ricky Rubio, who suffered a season-ending knee injury March 9. Williams benefited from Rubio’s playmaking skills, converting his fellow rookie’s slick passes into highlight-caliber dunks.

Williams has struggled in the past 18 games, shooting only 33.5 percent from the floor and making just 9 of 50 three-point attempts. Before the slide, he went through a 17-game stretch in which he was shooting 50.8 percent, including 42.5 percent from three-point range.

“The consistency thing has bothered him all year,” Adelman said. “He has to figure out ‘How can I get myself going again?’ “

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