On the same night the Timberwolves agreed to trade away another lottery pick — the highest selection in their history, as a matter of fact — Indiana’s Paul George on Monday delivered against them the kind of performance that shows why he just might be the NBA’s next superstar and why the Pacers are serious title contenders. Beat writer Jerry Zgoda chatted last week with the guy Indiana drafted 10th out of Fresno State in 2010, six slots after the Wolves took Wes Johnson.
Q You worked out for the Wolves in 2010: How much interest did they show?
A Not much. They were already locked in with Wesley. I know they had a lot of picks, but I didn’t think they were looking for more wings. They were set on Wesley.
Q Do you remember that workout?
A Yeah, I remember it very well. I had a good workout there. I think I did impress there, but again, I didn’t know what they were looking for because I knew who they already had locked up.
Q At the time, you weren’t deemed a No. 4 pick. How times change, huh?
A Yeah, I wasn’t, I wasn’t.
Q Wes was 23 then, you were four years younger and the question was how much you’d develop. What were you like then?
A At 19, I felt I was still wanting to learn. Everything was still so fresh and new to me because I had never been in that type of environment. I know Wes had been around that for a while, playing at Syracuse. But I was the kid who always wanted to take on the challenges. Wherever I was going to be, I felt like I would be successful because I always wanted to push myself and challenge myself. That’s just how I’ve always been. I’ve always been motivated.
Q Turns out your ceiling was pretty high, wasn’t it?
A Yeah, it was pretty high and I still feel like I’m nowhere close to it. Eventually, I felt I was going to get to this level — and this is definitely not the level I want to stop at — but I just didn’t know what year it was going to come around because I had Danny [Pacers veteran Danny Granger] and a lot of wings ahead of me. I just didn’t know how things go in the NBA to start off, but I knew eventually I was going to get to this level.
Q You signed a maximum extension here before the season. You didn’t aspire to play in a bigger, glitzier market than Indianapolis?
A Of course everyone does, but you have to look at the bigger picture and the bigger picture here is we’re all young, we did so well last year, we have a core group of guys who are going to be here for a while. There’s no need to go to a big market when I have a market where I can win here.
Q You’re putting up superstar numbers and you’ll soon be paid like one. Do you feel like one?
A I do feel like one. I feel like I’ve carried myself and have been playing at that level.
Q This is a long way from Palmdale, Calif., way out in the Mojave Desert, isn’t it?
A It is. I’ve gotten used to it now. I know when it’s time to wear the big jackets and when it’s time I can throw my flip-flops on.
Q What can this team accomplish?
A We can accomplish anything we put our minds to. It’s very possible for us to win a championship this year and do it for years to come. Our ability to get the kind of playoff experience we did last year and still be young, that makes us positive about what we can do here the next couple years.
Williams, and the Wolves, move on
When Derrick Williams arrived in Sacramento late Tuesday night to begin his new life, he stepped out of his ride and commented about how it was “not as cold” there than from whence he came.
He had lots of other stuff to say as well after the Timberwolves traded him to the Kings for veteran Luc Mbah a Moute.
“It was good for both sides,” he told the Kings website, referring to the Wolves’ decision to trade him after they took him second overall in the 2011 draft. “Not too many times it’s like that when you part ways. They have a great team over there. Sometimes it just doesn’t work and I think we all felt that way and that’s the reason I’m here.”
The Wolves traded Williams for a defensive specialist after they concluded he couldn’t play small forward in Rick Adelman’s system and wasn’t going to play much behind Kevin Love and Dante Cunningham at power forward.
“It just didn’t work out,” he told reporters after his first practice Wednesday. “Sometimes it just doesn’t work out.”
He said he goes to Sacramento with “no pressure” placed upon him by Kings coach Mike Malone or anyone else.
“He doesn’t want me coming in here trying to score 25 points,” Williams said Wednesday. “When you get drafted so high, that’s what people expect and that just wasn’t going to happen when I was on the team like I was. All the things I’ve been through the last two seasons, I wanted a new start. A lot of people knew that. I just want a fair shot and a fair opportunity, and I think I have that here.”
Wolves week ahead
Sunday: at Oklahoma City, 6 p.m. (FSN)
Wednesday: vs. San Antonio in Mexico City, 8:30 p.m. (FSN, NBA TV)
Saturday: vs. Miami, 7 p.m. (FSN)
Player to watch:
LeBron James, Miami
The world’s best player and the two-time defending NBA champions make their first and only Target Center visit of the season Saturday night.
“I haven’t had a dog in years.”
Wolves coach Rick Adelman, refuting the notion last week that just-traded Derrick Williams had gotten into his “dog house.”