Slim, aggressive Williams opens Wolves' eyes and minds

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 3, 2012 - 1:31 PM

Wolves coaches were pleased to see the forward's new body and assertiveness.

MANKATO - Timberwolves forward Derrick Williams lost more than 10 pounds and reduced his body fat to a mere 7.3 percent last summer so he can better play the small-forward position across from Kevin Love's power-forward spot this season.

So what did the Wolves do while Williams forsook fast food and ran ocean sand dunes back home in Los Angeles all summer?

They went out and signed small forward Andrei Kirilenko to a two-year contract that guarantees him $20 million and struck a trade for that same position with Houston that brought in Chase Budinger, a favorite of Wolves coach Rick Adelman from when both were with the Rockets.

Mention the juxtaposition to Williams and he just smiles and laughs, perhaps more bemused than amused.

"I try not to look at it like that," he said.

He also says he does not look at his rookie season as disappointing for a No. 2 overall draft pick, a notably inconsistent year in which he almost singlehandedly beat the Clippers in Los Angeles with a 27-point game one night and then was mostly invisible at Phoenix two nights later.

"I don't look at it as a disappointment because I was the only one on the team that played all 66 games," he said about the lockout-shortened season. "I stayed healthy throughout the whole season. I may not have played the best, but I think I did all right. I'm obviously not happy that I could have contributed more than I did.

"I wouldn't say I let myself down. I think I learned from it."

Williams learned he needed to be in much better shape than he started last season, and clearly succeeded in that goal when he reported for Tuesday's start of training camp.

Now he just needs to heed coach Rick Adelman's message that he must become a more aggressive, focused, aware player who settles for fewer outside shots and gets to the basket much more. He displayed all those qualities Tuesday in what Wolves assistant coach Bill Bayno called the best practice thus far in Williams' short NBA career.

"Last year, he just floated, you'd see it once in a while," Adelman said. "Today, he just played with more authority. He just played harder. That's the difference. You've got to play hard in this league. You can't cruise or it's not going to work. I was pleased the way he played today. We'll see if it continues on."

Williams weighed nearly 230 pounds when he played for the Wolves' Las Vegas Summer League team in July after playing last season at nearly 250 pounds. He said he has since gained back about five pounds because he felt too weak in Las Vegas, but he hopes to continue using the aggressiveness that got him to the free-throw line repeatedly against lesser summer competition.

He lost the weight so he could play more small forward, a position he played little last season because he couldn't defend opponents out on the floor.

Now Adelman and Williams contend that he really isn't a small forward, because that's not his natural position, nor a power forward because the Wolves already have two-time All-Star Love there.

Rather, he's just a forward, one whom Adelman can pair with new teammates Kirilenko and Dante Cunningham. Like Williams, those players can play both forward spots.

"He's a guy who can attack the basket," Adelman said. "And he needs to do that."

He did that Tuesday and left Bayno, Adelman and new teammate Brandon Roy impressed.

"He's extremely talented," Roy said. "He makes explosive plays that nobody can guard. I'm trying to tell him to now do it every time.

"The biggest thing now is to get his motor going. He's a good guy by nature, so he's kind of laid back. He just needs to get that mentality that he wants to dominate. He should want to be a dominate player."

First practice

The Wolves practiced nearly four hours -- almost one hour longer than scheduled -- on Tuesday. Budinger sat beside injured Ricky Rubio and watched scrimmage situations that ended practice because of a sore hamstring that has bothered him.

Backup center Greg Stiemsma was not held out of any portion because of plantar fasciitis in his foot that's being monitored carefully.

Roy, attempting a comeback after he retired last season because of degenerative knees, declared himself healthy afterward and ready for Wednesday's practice. "There's a bunch of different bridges I'm crossing and this is another one," he said. "Getting out there today, I just felt really good."

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