OAKLAND, CALIF. - Timberwolves second-year forward Derrick Williams lost 15 pounds last summer so he presumably could find more action at a small-forward spot he seldom played last season.
The Wolves then went out and signed free-agent small forwards Andrei Kirilenko in July and Josh Howard earlier this month. When Kevin Love returned from a season-opening broken hand on Wednesday, Williams suddenly went from a starting small forward who scored 23 points his last game out to a bystander who watched every second of games against Denver on Wednesday and at Portland on Friday before playing some Saturday night at Golden State.
So is the small-forward experiment over?
Wolves coach Rick Adelman shook his head sideways and said, "It's still early in the year."
Love's unexpected return on Wednesday has left Williams on the outside at power forward, a position where Love plays 35 minutes a night even when he hasn't practiced a bit for five weeks. It's also where Adelman has made it clear that Dante Cunningham thus far has beaten Williams out for minutes.
"Dante has really won that spot to this point the way he has played for us," said Adelman, whose team started the season 5-2 and now is 5-7 after losing five consecutive games. "We're trying to find a way to be effective offensively because we're just so out of sync. Once we get these [injured] guys back, we might be able to put Derrick down there. Right now, I'm just trying to stabilize as much as I can to try to get some wins."
So the second player taken in the 2011 draft sits for now while Love, Cunningham and even forward Lou Amundson play ahead of him at the power forward and center spots while Kirilenko and Howard share the small-forward minutes.
"I knew that was going to happen as soon as we got somebody back, that someone would suffer," Adelman said. "It just happened to be him. All the injuries made it easier to play guys who are most accustomed to playing the '3' [small forward], like Andrei and Josh. That doesn't necessarily mean we won't.
"If we would have had Kevin healthy, Derrick might have had a shot there before we picked up Josh. Derrick has to have some patience. I'm going to make an attempt to get him in the game, but right now I just don't know."
Williams saw his first action in three games Saturday at Golden State, playing 11 minutes and scoring 10 points. The last time the two teams played, Williams played 37 minutes and scored 23 points a week ago Friday at Target Center.
That, by the way, was the last time he played in a game until Saturday.
Asked if the experiment to find him playing time at small forward is over, Williams said, "I don't know. I don't make the calls on the team. You've got to leave that to the coaches. You'd probably get a better answer from them than me."
Williams said he is trying to keep some perspective on his DNP-CDs -- Did Not Play, Coach's Decision -- by relying on Howard, a 10-year NBA veteran.
"You don't really think about it too much," he said about going from those 37 minutes and 23 points to not playing at all. "I'm just talking to Josh a little bit during the game. He's just telling me, 'Keep your head on straight.' He went through the same thing when he was in Dallas with Michael Finley. Just talking to him a little bit and keep my head on straight."