Healthy Wolves' front line means more sitting for Williams

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 9, 2012 - 10:54 PM

Wolves foward Derrick Williams (7)

Photo: Marlin Levison, Star Tribune file

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Getting healthy carries its own issues.

The Timberwolves are discovering that, and will continue to do so.

Kevin Love's sudden, surprise return 2 1/2 weeks ago left former No. 2 overall pick Derrick Williams on the outside looking in while Love and Dante Cunningham consumed all the minutes at power forward.

Andrei Kirilenko started at small forward and played 31 minutes in Friday's 91-73 victory over Cleveland, his first game back after missing four because of back spasms.

And once again there are no minutes at either forward for a guy who two springs ago hired Kobe Bryant's agent because he wanted to follow in a similar career path.

Williams didn't play Friday for the fourth time in the past nine games. He played anywhere from 10 to 16 minutes in the four games Kirilenko missed, but there appears to be no place for Williams in coach Rick Adelman's lineup now that Kirilenko and Love both are back in the lineup, particularly if Love continues to deliver performances like Friday's 36-point, 13-rebound game.

Something similar likely will happen in the backcourt when Ricky Rubio returns from last March's knee surgery, perhaps as early as Wednesday's game against Denver.

"Everything changes for players when people come back and you get your normal rotation," Adelman said. "I always tell people, `You play the people who give you the chance to win' and if you're a coach in this league and you don't do that, you're really stupid and you're going to kill yourself. You want to win games and you play the people you see are having an impact on the game in a positive way.

"Derrick just has to keep working at it. It's a long season. He has to keep at it."

Rubio's return will affect the playing time of fellow point guards Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea, although Adelman prefers to play Ridnour fewer minutes than he has been forced to so far this season. It also probably will mean less opportunity for second-year guard Malcolm Lee.

"Having Andrei back is one more body back in the lineup," Adelman said. "That was an issue I felt all along. When we start getting all these guys back, I'm going to have to face that issue. It's not just Derrick. So it's just something you let it take its course. You don't overreact to it. You just try to get them in the game when you can, if it calls for it.

"I don't approach any game where I say, 'I'm not going to play them.' I just approach it the way the game is going. I have a pretty good idea what I want to do, but the game dictates a lot of that."

Williams left the Wolves' locker room quickly after Friday's game. Two weeks ago, he said he was willing to remain patient and would wait for his chance. He also said he had turned to veteran Josh Howard in conversations during games for advice and encouragement.

Unproductive Pek

Starting center Nikola Pekovic's four points and one rebound -- in 24 1/2 minutes Friday -- were season lows.

He said after the game that he is experiencing pain in his ankle again after injuring it Tuesday at Philadelphia. He almost didn't play Wednesday at Boston, but played 32 minutes anyway against the Celtics after playing 27 against the 76ers.

He said the pain is not related to the problem he had last season, when he was in and out of the lineup because of bone spurs that required postseason surgery.

He took only three shots from the field Friday, missing all three.

"He just seems to be a little bit out of rhythm," Adelman said. "He doesn't say anything, but I think his ankle is bothering him a little bit. He's going to have three days off now. He's rushing things [offensively] a little too much, but he'll be OK."

His back is back

Kirilenko produced typical across-the-board statistics -- eight points, seven rebounds, six assists, four steals and three blocks -- Friday. He played nearly 31 minutes.

"You feel like first couple minutes you need some oxygen," he said afterward, "but you get used to it."

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