Slimmer Williams shows versatility on wing instead of power forwardby Javier Morales on Jul. 19, 2012, under Sports
Javier Morales took first place in the 2010 Arizona Press Club’s Metro Sports Reporting category. For a different look at University of Arizona sports, check out Javier’s unique Web site: WILDABOUTAZCATS.net
LAS VEGAS — When Derrick Williams was preparing to play his first season at Arizona in 2009, he was asked during Media Day what position he expected to play the most for the Wildcats and new coach Sean Miller.
“I want to play out on the wing,” Williams said. “I feel like I can play the best out there, because I can shoot it from outside, but I will do whatever Coach Miller needs me to do.”
The Wildcats, strapped for frontcourt players, needed Williams to fill the role as a power forward and he gained weight accordingly, listed as high as 245 pounds. Williams, who stands at 6-foot-8, played as a power forward with a small-forward mindset in most of his two years at Arizona.
Now, entering his second season in the NBA, Williams is trying to reverse what his role became at Arizona. Minnesota Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman and his staff want Williams to play more in the open court, handle the ball at the wing and make things happen by playing aggressively with the shot and the pass.
“I do want to dominate, but it’s not really about scoring 30 points,” Williams said after playing an NBA Summer League game at Thomas & Mack Arena with the Timberwolves. “I just want to stay efficient, making shots I know I can make and just really stay consistent.
“I’m trying to get my assists up too. I’m trying to do a little more of everything and be more complete.”
More assists? Williams had 65 of those in 69 games in his two years with Arizona. In 66 games last season with Minnesota — almost equaling his total with the Wildcats — Williams only had 35 assists.
That was the former Derrick Williams, heavier and more concerned about positioning near the basket for rebounds and high-percentage shots. The new Williams now weighs 232 pounds — down 16 pounds from what he was listed last season with Minnesota. His performance at this week’s NBA Summer League has included pushing the ball and attacking the lane from the wing, mostly in transition.
“They like me in fast-break situations, attacking in the open court,” Williams said of Minnesota’s brass.
Williams was the anchor of Arizona’s offense, filling the lane or spotting up for a three-pointer either in transition or in the halfcourt sets. He was not counted on to create shots off the dribble or pass to the open man after penetrating like a wing player is required.
That’s his new role with Minnesota. Through three games in the NBA Summer League, Williams is averaging 18.3 rebounds, 7 rebounds and 1.7 assists. That’s not much, you say — Williams’ 1.7 assists per game. Well, the average is actually tied for second-best for Minnesota in these summer-league games, which often become structured playground games.
“The thing I keep stressing and what they’ve been telling me is to be more efficient in everything that I do,” Williams said. “I have been working hard and doing all the right things to make that happen. I know it’s something I will continue to work hard on.”
A testament to that hard work is his diligent training regimen with the trainer of Timberwolves teammate Kevin Love in Los Angeles. Rob McClanaghan has made a name for himself among other NBA players, also training the likes of Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose, to name a couple.
Williams’ body transformation also includes having a procedure done recently to fix a deviated septum, which affected his breathing on the court, extending to his high school days. Aesthetically, Williams is wearing a retainer on his teeth. A good smile, after all, helps an athlete to be more marketable off the court.
In terms of being marketable, Williams has endured the trade-talk news during the NBA draft last month and recently when the Timberwolves approached Portland about acquiring small forward Nicolas Batum for Williams, the No. 2 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. The trade rumors are likely a result of Minnesota believing Williams is raw at small forward and playing out of position at power forward behind Love.
“I know this is a business,” Williams said. “That kind of (trade) talk and rumors are going to happen with everybody. If I just focus on what I have to do to be a complete player, everything will take care of itself.”
SUMMER LEAGUE NOTES: Former Arizona guard Kyle Fogg played in Houston’s last game of the NBA Summer League on Wednesday against Chicago after sitting on the bench for the first four games. He scored four points on 2-of-3 shooting from the field in 22 minutes. He tallied two rebounds, an assist and four turnovers. … Fogg was able to congratulate former Arizona assistant Mike Dunlap on landing the head coaching job with Charlotte when they met Tuesday night at Thomas & Mack after Dunlap coached the Bobcats against Minnesota. Dunlap was instrumental in Fogg attending Arizona in 2008-09, the season Dunlap and Russ Pennell coached the Wildcats on an interim basis. … Former Arizona players have been very visible at the NBA Summer League. The list includes Steve Kerr (NBA-TV announcer), Sean Rooks (an NBA Developmental League coach/administrator), Joe McLean (investment advisor), Reggie Geary (Japanese Basketball League coach), Matt Brase (Houston scout and assistant), Bret Brielmaier (San Antonio scout and assistant) and Luke Walton and Richard Jefferson (current NBA players observing the games). “It’s a good brand when you come out of the program,” McLean told me. “When you go in to the school, you don’t think about all those things. You assume you will play in the NBA for 15 years, but as you know, that doesn’t get to happen for most of us. So even if you don’t make it in the NBA (Brielmaier and Brase, Lute Olson’s grandson, as examples) there have been some opportunities in sports for the guys to make it.”