Wolves' Derrick Williams hopes slimming down brings game up

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 15, 2012 - 1:18 AM

Last year's No. 2 overall pick lost 15 pounds in preparation for trying to establish himself at small forward.

Timberwolves forward Derrick Williams reported to Target Center on Friday for the start of his second NBA season and his first summer-league minicamp 15 pounds slimmer than when he left in April.

He played his rookie season at 248 pounds and now is 233 after two months spent running the beach, lifting weights, changing his diet and working out two to three times a day back home in Los Angeles.

"He's not the chubby one anymore," teammate Wes Johnson said with a smile.

Williams changed his body in an effort to play small forward this season at the same time his team is throwing $46.5 million at Portland restricted free agent Nicolas Batum, who plays that same position.

Williams just laughed when asked about that juxtaposition.

"He's a great player, man," he said. "I've seen him play before, this season, even before I got to the NBA. It's really not about a hammer [over his head] or anything like that. It's just about me getting better. If I played a little better last season, maybe we wouldn't be having this talk right now."

Williams played almost exclusively at power forward -- backing up two-time All-Star Kevin Love there when everyone was healthy -- during an uneven rookie season, particularly for one selected No. 2 overall last summer.

"I know I can play a lot better than I did," Williams said. "In some parts of last season, I thought I had some good games. I just need to be more consistent. I had a couple games against the Clippers where I had 27 [points] and eight [rebounds] and the next game I'd have six and three."

Williams had a discussion about that kind of inconsistency with Wolves coach Rick Adelman after last season, and they came to a mutual agreement.

"Make shots when I'm open, get to the basket when I can, do a little bit of everything," he said. "Just staying ready and staying a little more focused, too. That's a big part of it, especially when I was out for periods of time and coming back into the game."

Last year's labor lockout canceled summer-league practices and games and reduced preseason from a month's work down to mere days.

Williams is hopeful a complete summer and fall with Wolves coaches will make a noticeable difference.

"Last season, my last game was in March and I didn't play a game until December," Williams said. "This is going to be good."

He also underwent May surgery to repair his septum and correct a breathing problem that he knew he had but never realized how much it might have affected him.

"I can actually breathe out of my nose now," he said.

And then there's that 15-pound weight loss, which is intended to allow him to play a small-forward spot that he always has claimed is his natural NBA position but at which last season he struggled to defend.

"He's leaned up," Johnson said. "I think that weight suits him better now."

Williams, 21, now theoretically is quicker to defend small forwards, but he said he expects to notice the difference when he is asked to play power forward, although he hopes his speed will compensate against bigger, stronger players such as Paul Millsap and Pau Gasol.

Two questions remain, however: Where does he fit with a Wolves team that already has Love at power forward and is pursuing Batum, whom basketball boss David Kahn suggests might be a "missing piece?" Or does he fit?

Just one season into his NBA career, Williams already has heard his name mentioned repeatedly in trade rumors. Some have him headed to Portland in a sign-and-trade for Batum. Previous ones had him headed back home to Los Angeles for the Lakers' Gasol.

"I really don't pay attention to it," he said. "It's not my job to worry about that. My job is only to get out here and play basketball. It happens. Everybody goes through it. I just try to push through it. Hopefully, I stay here."

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