Timberwolves pick up next season’s option on Williams’ contract
By Jon Krawczynski, AP Basketball Writer
MINNEAPOLIS — For a guy who was drafted second overall just three years ago, Derrick Williams has enjoyed precious little security in his short time with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
His name has been the subject of trade rumors almost from the moment he was drafted, and he has spent his first two seasons in the league trying to get on the same page with Wolves coach Rick Adelman while grasping the complexities of learning two positions. So when he finally gets a little something to hold on to, it’s no surprise that Williams is appreciative.
Timberwolves president Flip Saunders informed Williams on Tuesday morning that the team will pick up his contract option for next season, guaranteeing the $6.3 million on the deal.
“I think everybody knows that if they didn’t pick up my option I would have been unrestricted (free agent) and, basically, could have done whatever,” Williams said after practice. “So it helps, the security. You’re guaranteed at least one more year in the NBA, you know? And, as long as you have that, I think everything is good.”
The decision by the Timberwolves doesn’t mean Williams won’t continue to see his name in the trade rumor mill.
He’s still adjusting to playing two positions — small forward in addition to his more natural power forward — and he admits he still has a lot to learn on both ends of the court.
“It’s tough. Especially when, ever since I’ve been here, I’ve heard trade rumors,” Williams said. “Really since I was picked. So it seems like every other day there is something new.”
But he’s also just 22 years old, and Saunders sees him as a young asset that deserves the chance to continue to develop. Williams is the second-leading scorer for the Wolves in the preseason and has a chance to be the team’s starting small forward while Chase Budinger recovers from a knee injury.
Adelman said he has been pleased with how hard Williams has been working, which appears to be progress for a coach who hasn’t always been happy with the youngster’s effort.
“I think he’s played very hard,” Adelman said. “He rebounded the ball very well the other night (against Boston) and it’s a process for him. It’s kind of a disadvantage when he has to play two spots because you’re jumping back and forth. Right now that’s what we have to do.”
Williams averaged 15.2 points, 6.6 rebounds and shot 34 percent from 3-point range over the final 33 games of the season while filling in at power forward for the injured Kevin Love. But with Love back this season, Williams will have to be able to play small forward to get significant minutes.
He feels more confident this year than he ever has, so much so that he thinks he should be starting on opening night against Orlando on Oct. 30.
“I think I deserve to be,” Williams said. “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 Coach. I’m just here to play basketball.”