LOS ANGELES - Timberwolves forward Derrick Williams returned home to Los Angeles for Thursday's game against the Lakers not exactly a changed man but feeling differently for sure.
"Just more confident really," he said.
His statistics in his past five games -- 18.8 points and 10.6 rebounds -- tell part of the story.
Coach Rick Adelman's decision to draw up a potential game-winning play for him on Tuesday in Phoenix suggests Williams has earned a little more trust. Williams was one of two options on a play that ended with Alexey Shved missing a driving layup near the overtime buzzer.
Until recently, Williams struggled to find his way -- and earn Adelman's faith -- in a league where No. 2 overall picks are expected to do so much more from their first day.
In the past two weeks, Williams has delivered the double-doubles -- three 20-point, 10-rebound games in his past five entering Thursday's game -- that are nearly nightly achievements by Kevin Love, the Wolves' injured All-Star whom Williams has replaced as the starting power forward.
Williams credits Love's biggest attribute -- rebounding -- for his recent play. "Rebounding really is what got me going," he said. "Trying to get every rebound has got my confidence up, not really knocking down shots. I'm focused on the defensive end and trying to get as many rebounds as possible."
Double D front court
Wolves forward Dante Cunningham started at small forward on Thursday for injured Andrei Kirilenko (strained calf) in a front-court tag team with Williams. In this makeshift combination, Cunningham essentially is the small forward defensively while Williams fills that spot on offense.
Williams started out defending Lakers star Kobe Bryant, a shooting guard, so little Luke Ridnour didn't have to, and Adelman soon switched to Ricky Rubio.
"They really hurt us last time when we went small, really hurt us on the boards," Adelman said. "In one way, it helps us defensively, but we have to run things, too, and we just haven't been used to doing it with those guys on the court. But I think it's the best option for us right now. Otherwise, we're really short all over the place."
Second year the charm?
Williams considered himself a "late bloomer" when he went from unsung prep player to No. 2 pick in just two seasons at Arizona, and he now sees himself on the same trajectory in the NBA.
"Pretty much the same thing: Struggled my freshman year in college and sophomore year, I turned it around," Williams said. "I feel the same thing going on now. It really does stink that Kevin's out, but it really does help me with my confidence and trying to build it. It's tough playing behind an All-Star like that, but at the same time opportunities come around. This is the second time around that really helped my confidence a little more."
Injured Wolves guard Brandon Roy said he expects to sit behind the team's bench on Saturday night when he returns to Portland's Rose Garden, where he starred for his first five NBA seasons.
"I have no idea how I'm going to feel because I'm not playing," he said.