MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Derrick Williams is getting a crash course in the business of the NBA in his first full summer as a professional.
In just over a year in the league, Williams went from the No. 2 overall draft pick and one of the preseason favorites for rookie of the year to trade bait after a first season he termed as “up and down.”
The Timberwolves considered moving Williams earlier this summer while they were trying to add Lakers big man Pau Gasol. When that didn’t work out, the Portland Trail Blazers inquired about him in the seemingly endless negotiations to bring Nicolas Batum to Minnesota, but the Wolves took his name off the table.
It’s been a dizzying few weeks, and Williams seems to be taking it all in stride.
“All that stuff going on, it happens,” Williams said on Friday after a workout in preparation for summer league play next week. “Everybody goes through it. Just trying to push through it and hopefully I’ll stay here.”
The Timberwolves drafted Williams in hopes of using him at both power forward and small forward. But the shortened training camp combined with an entirely new coaching staff in Minnesota led Rick Adelman to have Williams focus primarily on power forward, his more natural position, for his first season.
Playing behind All-Star Kevin Love, the minutes were sporadic for Williams, who averaged 8.8 points and 4.7 rebounds. The modest numbers were the result of Adelman’s occasional frustration with the 20-year-old’s inconsistent performances, and Williams knows that’s an area that has to improve.
“I have to make shots when I’m open and get to the basket when I can,” Williams said. “Just a little bit of everything. Staying ready, that’s a big part of it, especially when I was out for periods of time and coming back into the game. Just being a little bit more ready and staying a little more focused.”
With Love entrenched as the starting power forward, Williams has worked hard this summer to reshape his body and prepare for bigger minutes at small forward. Through a combination of diet, exercise and yoga, a slim and trim Williams reported to Minnesota on Friday at 233 pounds, 15 pounds less than he played at last season.
“He lost weight. He’s not the chubby one anymore,” forward Wes Johnson said. “He’s leaned up. That’s good for him. I think that weight suits him better.”
The easy-going Williams laughed when told of Johnson’s remark. He took some ribbing from teammates last season for his physique and is working with Love’s trainer to reduce his body fat and add more lean muscle.
“I’ve always been the chubby one since I got here,” he said. “I’ve lost a little weight. I think I owed it to my teammates more than anybody, more than to myself. A lot of people looked up to me. They still do. They want me to come back this season and be ready.”
After being examined by the Timberwolves medical staff, Williams also had a procedure in the offseason to fix a deviated septum, which they hope will help him as well.
“I can actually breathe out of my nose now,” Williams said. “Overall it’s a lot better. I’m glad that it happened.”
Williams expects to see a lot of time at small forward during summer league play in Las Vegas next week. Of course, if the Timberwolves are able to land Batum with a four-year, $46.5 million offer, things will again be complicated for him.
“He’s a great player. I’ve seen him play even before I got to the NBA,” Williams said. “It’s really not about him or anything like that. It’s just about me getting better. If I had played a little bit better last season maybe we wouldn’t be having this talk right now. I just try to stay ready for this season, stay motivated and get my body in shape and I think that has a lot to do with it.”