For two years, from nearly the moment the Timberwolves selected him with the second overall pick in the 2011 draft, the rumors have followed Derrick Williams.
He will be traded for this player, for that draft pick.
“Seems like every other day there is something new,” Williams said. “All I can do about that is keep playing.”
Flip Saunders, Wolves president of basketball operations, told Williams by phone Tuesday that the team would pick up his option for the 2014-15 season. It is a decision the team had to make by the end of the month, one Saunders had hinted almost certainly would happen. The agreement will be formalized Friday, when both Saunders and the Wolves are back in town, guaranteeing Williams nearly $6.7 million. The team will also, of course, pick up Ricky Rubio’s $5 million option for next season.
That’s not to say Williams will be with the Wolves through next season, but it does give him a guaranteed contract.
“It helps, the security,” Williams said after the team practiced Tuesday. “You’re guaranteed at least one more year in the NBA.”
But the question is what Williams will do with the security.
He has struggled to find a permanent position since he was drafted, bouncing between the big and small forward positions. Last season Williams averaged 12.0 points and 5.5 rebounds, getting extensive time at the power forward position with Kevin Love injured.
This fall Williams reported to camp 20 pounds lighter, hoping he would add the quickness needed to defend at the small forward position. Still, since camp began, he has split time between both positions.
Inserted into the starting lineup in Sunday’s preseason victory over Boston in Montreal, Williams played relatively well, scoring modestly (five points), but defending well and grabbing seven rebounds with one block. Now, with the issue of the option resolved, Williams sounded like a player ready to assert himself.
“I was 20 years old when I got into the NBA,” he said. “Now I’m 22. I’ve always heard that, as you get older, you’re going to figure things out. And that’s what I’ve been doing. Being in the starting lineup [Sunday] surprised me, because for the whole training camp I was with the second team. … Being in the starting lineup? I think I deserve to be [there]. That’s why they drafted me here. They didn’t draft me to come off the bench, things like that. Ultimately, it’s up to the coach. I’m just here to play basketball.”
Adelman has not yet decided on who will start at small forward; Corey Brewer and Williams are the leading candidates, until Chase Budinger returns from knee surgery. Adelman said he’d like to have a starting five set by opening day, but is willing to let it evolve over the first few weeks of the season. Adelman will experiment with his starting lineup in games at Philadelphia Wednesday and at Detroit on Thursday trying to settle on a rotation.
But Williams is in the mix. “He rebounded the ball well [Sunday],” Adelman said. “The thing when he’s playing that spot, it’s defensively. You’re playing a totally different player than you are at the four spot. A guy is usually pretty active, and they’re going to be very aggressive.”
Williams said he wants the challenge.
“It’s always good to be in the starting lineup,” he said. “With the team we have, I think with me in the starting lineup it’s going to be tough to stop. We have a lot of size, we do a lot of things.”
But all he can do is play and wait for Adelman to make a decision. Really, when it comes to his future, both short- and long-term, that’s all he can do.
“If all the rumors I’ve heard were true, I’d be gone by now,” he said. “And here I am, going on my third year. So I don’t make too much of it. I’m not looking at what other people say. I’m just here to play basketball.”