Jon Krawczynski / AP Basketball Writer, Published January 31 2013
Williams accepts challenge; started to show up early, stay after practiceMINNEAPOLIS – Darko Milicic. Hasheem Thabeet. Stromile Swift. Sam Bowie.
Derrick Williams wants no part of that club, one that has grown increasingly crowded since the turn of the century. They’re all players who have been chosen second overall in the NBA draft, a rarefied spot that brings the expectation of franchise-altering impact.
They’ve also all been disappointments.
Others – Marvin Williams, Keith Van Horn – have been underwhelming. Some – Len Bias, Jay Williams – have been tragedies and at least one more – Michael Beasley – has been downright maddening. Since 2000, only two – Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge – have become legitimate stars.
The Minnesota Timberwolves chose Derrick Williams No. 2 before last season. In December, the coaching staff told him he had a choice to make.
He could throw himself into extra work with assistant Shawn Respert and the rest of the staff to try and establish himself in the NBA. Or he could keep doing what he was doing and join that long list of “Terrible Twos” who never panned out in this league.
“I don’t want to say any names, but there have been a lot who haven’t worked out,” Williams said. “A couple have sky-rocketed and a couple have been pretty decent.”
The Wolves assigned Respert to work with Williams every day after practice, both in the film room and on the court. But the most important challenge for Respert was reaching Williams on an emotional level to spur the kind of growth in his mental toughness that the team saw as the primary problem getting in the way of his development.
“Even watching him in timeouts, he was so frustrated, like a young man who was insecure about ‘Is this where he is supposed to be?’ ” Respert said.
Deemed by many scouts as the most NBA-ready player in the draft, Williams averaged 8.8 points and 4.7 rebounds in just over 21 minutes per game as a rookie. Rick Adelman quickly grew disenchanted with his tendency to “float” and not give consistent effort, and the coach rarely gave the 20-year-old the consistent minutes he felt he needed to get into the flow of a game and be effective.
“My whole life I’ve been that guy who has been counted on the whole time, whatever team I’ve been on, I’ve been the guy,” Williams said. “It’s been a little tough.”
He reported to training camp this season slimmed down and ready to play more small forward. But Adelman quickly warmed to hard-nosed veterans Andrei Kirilenko and Dante Cunningham. Even with Kevin Love out with a hand injury, Williams played 30 minutes in a game only twice in the first month. Love returned, and Williams didn’t see the floor in four games of a nine-game stretch, which prompted the prodding to work with Respert.
So Williams took the challenge, staying late after practice and always being among the first players on the court for pregame routines. He’s shown flashes along the way, including 23 points, seven rebounds and four blocks against Golden State, and 18 points and 11 boards against Washington.
The coaches want that to be more of the norm and not just a surprising surge once every few weeks.