Derrick Williams broke his way into the Timberwolves starting lineup this week following the suspension of All Star power forward Kevin Love. The rookie out of Arizona, who cemented his draft status with a monster showing in March Madness last year, has made the most of the opportunity. Williams came up with a big three-point shot with 56.8 seconds remaining to propel the Minnesota Timberwolves to a narrow victory over the Sacramento Kings this week.
The increased playing time might be helping Williams get comfortable right now in what’s proving to be a challenging rookie season. The lockout didn’t help matters much, and Williams notes how difficult and ‘crazy’ the schedule has been on the rookies. No.7 is averaging 7.8 points per game as he looks to make a bigger impact this season.
Derrick Williams joined 1500 ESPN in Minneapolis with Reusse and Mackey to discuss waiting for his chance to play as a rookie, transitioning from college basketball to the NBA, being comfortable out on the floor after coming off the bench, not being comfortable with one position just yet and the NBA schedule during the lockout being brutal on his body.
How do you balance keeping your nose to the grindstone and waiting for your chance to play more in games as a rookie?
“A lot of people ask me that, but at the same time with my minutes here so up-and-down you just gotta continue to do the things that got you here. Myself just being one of the last people out of the gym getting more shots out then knowing what I can do. With those minutes you always gotta stay ready, especially when you don’t how much you are going to play. You always gotta keep staying ready and whenever you are in there producing I think the minutes will increase.”
What would you say is the most difficult part translating from college to the NBA?
“I would probably say just being off the ball so much. I think I mentioned that yesterday. My whole career I have been pretty much just give me the ball and let me do it. At the NBA level you have the other players that are in the same position as you are because the same thing. They had ball in their hands and they were able to do what they do. You have to try to do a little bit of extra things like rebounding or running in transition or just doing the little things that other people don’t just trying to get those extra possessions at the end.”
Are you the kind of player that needs your minutes to get comfortable in order for your shooting to get going?
“Yeah I give a lot of credit to JJ Barea because he’s just that guy, he’s the 6th man, but at the same time he’s like the starter. He always comes in ready to go. He’s always the leading scorer. He’s always the one to hype up the crowd and he gets everyone going, so I’m trying to translate that to my game, learning what he does when he’s over on the sidelines getting ready. It’s a little different like you said I’m kind of the one who likes to get into that flow. I don’t like to get out there and just throw up shots and just try to do everything as soon as I get out there. I think I got to change it up a little bit when I get out there try to get up in the flow a little faster just because coach wants to see that – the activity and the hustle right away.”
Do you feel most comfortable at the power forward position?
“I wouldn’t say most comfortable. On the offensive side I would probably say I’m comfortable at the four because I am quicker than most people who play the four. I can get to the basket and be able to shoot. Most of the time people at the four can’t stay with me. At the three spot? It just depends who you play. When you have LeBron [James], Carmelo [Anthony], all of those guys, nobody can really stop those guys. They are going to get their numbers regardless, so I wouldn’t say I am more comfortable at any spot. For those times I am use to those spots. Just try to get out there and play a little bit more and I think with more playing time I’ll be able to do the things that I did.”
Is the NBA schedule in a lockout season pretty brutal for you and a guy like Ricky Rubio?
“I think it is. In college you probably play 2 games a week – maybe in the beginning of the season you play in a tournament – you play 3 games in 4 days, but throughout the season you play 2 games a week and with Ricky I asked him before I said how was it over there? He would say they would probably play 1 or 2 games, maybe 2 games a week. They always happen once a month, maybe twice a month, but it’s just different getting on planes after the game coming back home. Playing the games and leaving again, so it’s a little crazy and hectic when you are playing in different cities each and every night, but with that you have to try to get your rest and get as much sleep as possible and make sure you are ready and healthy.”