Category: News/Rumors

Derrick Williams will start with Kevin Love injured. At small forward

It’s not a surprise that Derrick Williams will be starting. We totally saw that coming, as soon as Kevin Love’s knuckles proved to be less sturdy than he thought. What IS surprising is that he won’t be starting in place of Kevin Love. Rather, he will be starting in place of Andrei Kirilenko, who will take Love’s place at power forward.

So while the lineup questions have been answered, other questions can still be reasonably asked. Questions such as “What does Rick Adelman know about Derrick Williams that we don’t?” for example.

From SBNation Minnesota:

Coach Rick Adelman will start Williams in Minnesota’s next exhibition game on Wednesday, when the Timberwolves take on the Detroit Pistons in Winnipeg.

Williams will play small forward while Love is out, with Andrei Kirilenko shifting to power forward. Adelman hopes that this will help Williams’ transition into the starting lineup.

Listen, we’ve run the numbers, we saw Williams’ performance last year, and most reasonable people have concluded that Derrick Williams should be playing power forward, as opposed to small forward. His lack of a consistent jumpshot and his turnover-prone play led most people to believe that playing on the wing isn’t where Williams is strongest, and, as Derek pointed out, the Wolves have at long last left the purgatory of “player development” and entered win-now mode, with Kevin Love’s player option hanging over their heads.  So developing Williams into a 3 probably won’t work either. That means that either he won’t play small forward for Minnesota or he’s ready to do it right now. From what we’ve seen, it’s the former.

But here’s the problem: Even after running the Synergy numbers and examining the tape, even after perusing 82Games.com, Basketball-Reference.com, and NBA StatsCube and even after talking with fellow Wolves fans and analyzing Williams’ potential until we are hoarse, Rick Adelman is smarter than us. And he knows Williams better than we do. So presumably, he has a reason for playing Williams at small forward and sliding Kirilenko to the four, even though Kirilenko has, most recently, played small forward and Williams has, most successfully, played power forward.

It should also be noted that Kirilenko isn’t a concern at the four. In fact, it might suit him well, given his age and his somewhat declining athleticism. He has the size and the basketball abilities to play power forward successfully, so Williams is our main concern.

The other interesting tidbit from that article is that Adelman sees Williams eventually becoming a starter when Love returns. This would, of course, mean Kirilenko’s banishment to the second unit. When Kirilenko and Chase Budinger came aboard this offseason, most of us thought it spelled the end of the Derrick Williams era in Minnesota, but apparently, this was far from the truth.

If Adelman didn’t think Williams could play, he would be glued to the bench. Adelman showed us that he had no problem benching players who were somewhat of a fixture in Minnesota last year when he stopped playing Darko and Michael Beasley. So any concerns about Kahn putting pressure on Adelman to play his draft pick would be unwarranted.

I was one of Michael Beasley’s defenders in Minnesota, mainly because I just genuinely liked the guy. He amused me. But after he left, I found myself growing accustomed to the idea of playing efficient offensive players at small forward instead of Beas. It sounded like a nice change. Adelman MUST know something about Williams. He must be pretty sure that Williams can be efficient at the small forward. Right? Somebody tell me I’m right. Please.

Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.

Audio: Derek Talks Timberwolves on KNSI

 

Whether you were in bed, getting ready to watch the Gophers game, or completely forgot and missed my radio appearance on AM 1450 KNSI (St. Cloud) on Saturday morning, you can now go back and listen to it. I’d say that I joined Notch (We go back to our 612 Sports days.) and Wood on the Benchwarmers Show at 10:45 sharp, but there were some technical difficulties, so the segment is a little shorter.

Anyway, we talked knuckle pushups, Derrick Williams, the schedule without Love and Rubio, and playoff odds. And I didn’t say “er”, “um”, or stammer at all!

You can stream the segment down below by clicking on the link.

knsi-derekjames102012

Anyway, be sure to follow Notch on Twitter (@Notch17) and check out the Benchwarmers show page.

Kevin Love Out 6-8 Weeks With Broken Hand: Make Loud Noises!

Source: http://musingsofapessimist.wordpress.com/2011/08/09/riot-proof/
If a picture says a thousand words, this is pretty much how I felt when I first heard the Kevin Love news. But I’m good now. I swear.

Whelp. This put a damper on an otherwise pretty good day. Apparently Love broke his hand during his morning workout Wednesday. My initial reaction was a four-letter word, but after a deep breath I think I’m a little better. But this is still really crappy news!

Ugh. Why can’t we ever have nice things.

Anyway, I’m resisting the urge to feel too bad for myself. I mean, I’m sure the developers didn’t know that they were building the Target Center on an Indian burial ground. Ok, I’ll knock it off. Really, this means we won’t see Love and Rubio until just before Christmas, and there will be a lot of basketball to be played after that.

In the mean time, the Wolves have multiple players to platoon at the power forward including Derrick Williams (Tom will have more on this later), Dante Cunningham, and Andrei Kirilenko. This also means that wing players like Brandon Roy and Chase Budinger will have to pick up the scoring slack and stretch the floor like Love did. And of course, Nikola Pekovic will could really earn his extension if he can shoulder some of the load.

Anyway, we’ll learn a lot about the meddle of this team and how deep they really are these next 6-8 weeks. I’m curious to see how they will handle being down their top two players. At least there’s a chance they could be ok with their apparent depth.

Thank you, Canis Hoopus!

Remember when I was saying that Derrick Williams was best-suited to play the power forward and that he likely didn’t fit on this team? To many I was a common hater. They said, “But he’s young! You can’t give up on him,” and I wasn’t. When I said that he didn’t have the range now  to play the small forward position they said, “But he’s dropped weight and been shooting jumpers,” in the same way that someone might try to become a tree by sticking their feet in the ground in hopes they become roots and growing their hair out to act as leaves while holding out their arms like branches.

Does that make you anymore of a tree? Heck no.

Then, Friday, Oceanary over at Canis Hoopus gave us this:

I know a lot of us would love to see Williams work out successfully at the 3, but I just don’t see how that realistically will happen. We couldn’t get Beasley to work as a 3, and he actually had a good amount of the skills and at least the basic mindset for it. Williams isn’t going to overtake Kirilenko, and it’s kind of hard to make a reasonable argument for why he should be the #1 reserve instead of Budinger. At this point, I have a hard time even convincing myself he’s the best backup for Love, after seeing up close what Cunningham can do. Dante is a physical, blue-collar guy who’s going to affect the game with sheer activity (and without his numbering being called) by rebounding, playing hard-nosed defense, and just generally being disruptive. And that, in a very real way, makes him better suited to and more valuable for this team.

At some point, I think this team is just going to have to face the facts: Williams is a guy who could potentially be a pretty good power forward, on a team that has absolutely no minutes available at power forward.

It’s not like the Wolves are oblivious to this sort of thing. The reason we got Cunningham in the first place is because the team saw it had a need for a hustler/defender in the post and no minutes available for Wayne Ellington on the wings.

I like Williams, and I think he’ll have a good career as a valuable player, but I don’t see how it will happen here. He’s a stretch 4, on a team that already has one of the best, if not the best, stretch 4s in the league. With Kirilenko and Cunningham filling in the gaps around Love, how is Williams going to find space?

Read the full article yourself, but I’ve been saying!  In fact, Oceanary probably said it better, and some things that I hadn’t thought of yet. And it’s not just me. Williams was 5-15 shooting at one point in Friday’s game with just 12 points before making his last four shots and getting to the line a few times to save his stat line. Honestly, it’s probably time to face the facts that he’s not efficient enough right now to play on the perimeter. Especially since the Timberwolves added perimeter shooters, hustle players, and defensive-minded players to address the team’s needs that are also areas of weakness in Derrick’s game.

This isn’t to say that Derrick will never be able to shoot or learn to play defense, but he’s not that type of player now. And there really is nothing with being able to be a good power forward. Unfortunately for Williams, the Wolves have three better players at that position than him now, and a trade may be mutually beneficial for both parties.

 

Brandon Roy KFAN Interview Recap

AP Photo/Star Tribune, Kyndell Harkness

New Wolves guard Brandon Roy joined  Paul Allen on KFAN for a few minutes Tuesday morning to discuss a number of things. Instead of live-tweeting, I decided it would be easier to do things this way: in a blog post. Roy divulged some good info on his health, role, and even how much we can expect to see of him this season. If you missed the interview, scroll down.

(All quotes are pretty accurate, but I did have to paraphrase in some places.)

The first question PA had for Brandon was how his knees were doing, to which he replied, “Knees have been great. We’ve been going at it for about five days for 3 hours at a time.” From there he said that he feels good coming out of camp and was excited to play a game Wednesday.

With all of the fresh faces on the roster, Adelman has been mixing up lineups, and Brandon in particular mentioned that he’s been seeing time with Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Love. Brandon praised the roster, and talked about building those friendships off of the court to grow the chemistry on court, and added, “We got a lot of really good pieces along with the guys who were here last year. We’re just trying to build chemistry as soon as possible…we got a lot of guys.”

Brandon spoke highly of Derrick Williams and Ricky Rubio when he was asked of them. Although he did say that while Williams is talented, the team needs him to be aggressive, and that he told Derrick just to focus on being effective regardless of what position he plays. As far as Rubio, he talked about how his hustle and unselfishness rubs off on teammates and makes them want to follow suit.

Probably my favorite part of the interview was when he was asked about his role on the season and how he expects to help the team.

We all know that Rick Adelman decried the lack of ballhandlers on last year’s team,  but it sounds like he already trusts Brandon with it, and Brandon mentioned that he can see playing the 1-3 positions. Brandon mentioned that he can create pick ‘n’ rolls and create off of the dribble.

When Allen asked if he could still get to the line Brandon said, “If I wasn’t able to get to the basket and create, [or draw fouls] I wouldn’t have made this comeback. Fouls shots can help separate our team.” He said that aspect is a huge part of his game and doesn’t want to become a jump shooter.

Brandon added — and this was neat to hear him talk about how exactly he sees himself in the offense– that with the way Rubio and JJ Barea draw defenses in he’s not sure how many three pointers he sees himself taking, and that you’ll probably see him (and others) with more catch-and-shoot opportunities than the past. On top of having gifted passers throughout the roster like Love, Kirilenko and Rubio, there should be some good shots available this season.

As far as a minutes restriction, Brandon said they haven’t talked about it yet but, “I’ve been asked this question since I came to town. Me and coach are gonna talk about it. I’m gonna have to bump him on the shoulder [to discuss it]. I wanna keep it in-house to make sure teams don’t know, ‘Brandon’s on a minute limit…’” As he wrapped up, he added that Adelman is the biggest reason he came here and trusts him and that it’s a long season and he’s coming off of a knee injury. I liked that he added that he understood that because it’s seemed that Brandon has let his competitive spirit override concern for his health in the past.

Anyway, Brandon mentioned a lot of good stuff, and I for one am excited to see him in action. It’s taken a while, but I’m finally optimistic about Brandon’s season. Brandon’s attitude and talent are going to be good for this team. He also seems to have a good balance between competitor and being a good teammate, which isn’t easy for every player to manage.

Timberwolves Sign Greg Stiemsma; Twitter Has Jokes

It has been all but official for several weeks now, but yesterday the Timberwolves made their signing of ex-Celtics’ center Greg Stiemsma official, signing the 6’11, 26 year old journeyman to a two year contract, only one year of which is guaranteed. Stiemsma averaged 13.9 minutes per game last season for the Celtics, and averaged 7.6 points and 8.3 rebounds per 36 minutes. Filling in for various injured players, Stiemsma started 3 games for Boston last year.

Stiemsma is, of course, far from a franchise changing player. He is, rather, a decent, big defender off the bench who blocks a LOT of shots (seriously, 4.0 blocks per 36 minutes?) and can replace Darko Milicic with better offensive production (13.6 PER to 9.0 last season) and twice the passion. It should be mentioned, of course, that the reason Stiemsma’s offensive production was better than Darko’s last year was at least partially because he was playing with an All-Star point guard with incredible court vision in Rajon Rondo. It should also be mentioned that he is about to be playing with a potential All-Star point guard with comparable court vision in Ricky Rubio. So while Stiemsma won’t be a scoring threat off the bench, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see his production continue to stay at the same level.

Stiemsma’s signing helps the Wolves defensively as well. The Wolves best shot blocker was, unfortunately, Milicic, as Nikola Pekovic, for all of his positive attributes (wide, strong body, good instincts), has average length and vertical leap. Stiemsma doesn’t have extreme athleticism or length either, but he has excellent timing defensively, and his addition will help shore up the Wolves defense close to the rim.He struggled at times with rotations in the complex Celtics’ defensive system, but part of that can be attributed to a lack of familiarity, given that he arrived just last year and Boston barely practiced during the season in an attempt to save old legs from undue stress.

But while all of that is important, none of that is as fun as the fact that Stiemsma is just, well, fun. He works hard, he always gives a crap, and he’s eminently coachable. Sure, his signing contributes to the “EVERY TIMBERWOLF IS WHITE!” meme, but I think I speak for most T-Wolves people on Twitter when I say “Meh.” That meme is played out and white or not, the Wolves have vastly improved themselves in this offseason. So kudos, Mr. Kahn. A tip of the Abercrombie and Fitch baseball cap to you.

Plus, Stiemsma’s signing comes with the added bonus of having the best quote of the summer. From several sources:

“It feels good to be wanted,” Stiemsma said. ”It feels good to have all your hard work pay off.”

I repeat: “It feels good to be wanted.” Greg Stiemsma has all of your D’AWWWWs.

From Russia, With Lots of Love

Crossover Panda and AK47 should bring the Timberwolves closer to fulfilling their playoff dreams.

If you’re like me, you were asleep when Russia played China at 3am this morning, and missed the two newest Timberwolves in action. With some time to kill and an eagerness to see them for myself, I sat down and re-watched the first half before my stream died. Let me just say, we heard that Timberwolves fans should be excited, and we probably should be based on what I saw. This is going to be a fun team next season, and an even more fun one once Ricky Rubio returns.

Before I get into my thoughts on Alexey Shved and Andrei Kirilenko, I should point out that Russia’s offense ran a lot of kick-and-drive with Shved as the point guard, as well as a lot of motion by the wings; made for a fun watch. I also should mention that China got berated by their coach for the lack of hustle late in the first, so they may not be the best barometer of judgment, but it’ll have to do for now.

Crossover Panda!Three things stood out at first with Shved. First, his size as a point guard is obvious. Secondly, he looks very comfortable at either guard spot. And, finally, his jumper isn’t pretty — he tends to lean and/or flare his legs out when he’s in the air – but it works enough of the time for it not to be a huge deal.

When Shved was running the offense, Russia either attempted to get him a shot off of the pick and roll, or have him get into the lane with the kick and drive. Either way, it was effective against China. On the kick and drive, Shved either got to the basket, or was able to draw the defense in and find a teammate for a good look. In fact, he hit a teammate in the lane with a precise behind the back pass. This leads me to believe he may have a few more turnovers at the end of the year, but probably enough highlights to make you overlook that.

At either position, he has good guard instincts, and could play well with Rubio or as the lead guard. Shved made some passes as the point guard that were Rubio-esque in that they made you wonder how he saw that passing lane, and often he wasn’t targeting who you thought he would. And, while his shot may not be pretty, he’s not afraid to shoot it anyway, if he’s asked to be the two-guard. Whether it’s Shved or Rubio, there should be some very good scoring opportunities for Timberwolves shooters.

Defensively, nothing stood out too much either way with Shved. He showed good instincts, and understood where he needed to be. He looked average, I’d say; which is fine as long since he’s not a liability, it appears.

As David J Smith pointed out in my last post, Kirilenko may actually be most effective defensively on the block. He just doesn’t seem to be quick enough to guard opposing 3’s on the perimeter anymore, and was beaten off the dribble a few times. Yet, he seemed to still be a pretty good help defender on the wing, so he’s no lost cause. Even so, Kirilenko follows shots and still shows good instincts, and makes the smart play.

He seems to have decent moves, and fights as a rebounder. Kirilenko may be best off getting his shots within the flow of the offense and not trying to create on the perimeter. Now, he’s not a bad ball-handler, or shooter, but he looks so much more comfortable working close to the basket or cutting through open lanes. Since he appears to be very active on offense this should be possible. He can still get to the basket as a cutter, so he’s better off not trying to create on the perimeter. When he does, he tends to over-dribble, and/or settle for a bad shot, like a contested jumper.

Forgot about Kirilenko's tattoo until I saw it creeping out of the back of his jersey. Of course the open lanes thing depends on his teammates and their spacing, but if he’s with Shved, Shved will find him off of the kick-and-drive. Ultimately, the less work he has to do creating his own shot, will be better for the offensive efficiency.

The other thing with Kirilenko is that he is a willing passer, especially down low. He knows how to facilitate, and set up teammates as well. This will be especially effective if Kirilenko can draw attention away from Pekovic and get him an easy bucket or and-one opportunity.

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Having both of these players will help each other adapt to Rick Adelman’s vision (Although, Adelman does a great job adapting to his players.). You can see the chemistry Shved and Kirilenko have together. It was no more apparent than when Shved found Kirilenko on the cut for the and-one layup. Shved may like to handle the ball, but he seems to know when he should defer and when it’s OK to take it himself. Both players appear to be very hardworking and active on the court, too.

That’ll do it for now. We already know that the Timberwolves got better before these two came into the fold, but it appears they were able to upgrade two more times. The added passing and hustle are both things that are contagious on a team, so hopefully this trickles down to the lesser players as well. Seeing the effect they have on guys like Pekovic, Dante Cunningham, and Brandon Roy (Who may be able to be a more spot up player now versus having to create his own shot now, even though he’s a ball-handler) will be interesting.

Analyzing the Andrei Kirilenko Signing

I imagine this is the face Kirilenko used to get a few extra million out of the Timberwolves during negotiations.
I imagine this is the face Kirilenko used to get a few extra million out of the Timberwolves during negotiations.

You probably caught the news of the Andrei Kirilenko signing from a contrived all-white team joke on Twitter, or some other traditional medium. Following the 3-way trade between our Timberwolves, the Hornets, and the Suns that shipped out Wes Johnson to clear cap space, the Wolves were quickly tied to Kirilenko. Although he was 31, he was a 3 time all-star in Utah, and once an elite perimeter defender, so it was an intriguing move. Kirilenko, as we know, spent last season with CSKA Moscow playing with new Timberwolf, Alexey Shved.

Then the contract figure came out- $18 million for 2-years. OK, Kirilenko is probably still an effective player, but $9 million per year?! Alas, the final figure came out today: 2 years and $20 million total (2nd year as a player option). Because, why pay him $9 million when you can pay him $10? I want to know how this was negotiated; I imagine it went like this:
“My client wants $9 million per year, and a 2-year deal.”

“How about $15 million over two years instead?”

“No.”

“OK, you drive a hard bargain. Make it $10 million per year for two years!”

“Absolutely no—wait, what? Alright, Mr. Kahn, you’ve got yourself a deal!”

After all this is the same player who missed 10-24 games each season between 2004 and 2011. Now, that same player is 31 years of age. Call me crazy, but this is starting to look like a bad contract. Not saying he’s a bad player, but $10 million for a player you will likely end up paying sit in the trainer’s room is a lot.

I had my questions, so I turned to one of my go-to Jazz guys, David J. Smith of UtahJazz360.com. I’ll try to transcribe the Twitter conversation my best here. Be sure to follow David, too (@davidjsmith1232)

Me: How should I feel about the AK47 rumors?

David: Now, he is most effective as a PF. Uses his quickness to cause matchup issues. Makes great help defense blocks from PF spot.

As a SF, his outside shot is decent (improved greatly), but he is taken out of the interior, making his D more pedestrian.

Me: Ah okay. Is he still at his peak or so?

David: On a slight decline, but he seems rejuvenated from his year back in Europe.

Me: Ah, the home country magical remedy, I see. A 4? That’s interesting. Wolves just got [Dante] Cunningham to back [Kevin] Love, and they still have Derrick [Williams]. Interesting fit.

David: Which is exactly my confusion. Where does he fit in Minny? Wasn’t that a reason Al was traded (playing same spot as Love)?

Me: Yep, I don’t get it either. Btw, I’m probably gonna use these tweets in a post. Good info! Thanks!

David: Anytime, my friend!

An interesting perspective and I’m still convinced that the money is still probably too high, but the fit can be worked out. Even if he can be at least an average defender still, shoot at least 45%, and average around those 3.3 assists per game he’s averaged for his career, the Wolves got better no matter what.

What does this mean from a positional standpoint? Means that Derrick Williams will have to work for every one of his minutes or learn cheers for his teammates that are on the court. Obviously, Love is the power forward and Kirilenko would play there if Love was on the bench or if Adelman wanted to play small with Love at the 5 and Kirilenko at the 4. This could possibly make Chase Budinger the starting shooting guard as well, if Kirilenko starts.

Actually, thinking about this team with better passers and shooters makes me extremely happy. This will be fun to watch. Picture this: a Rubio-Shved-Budinger-Kirilenko-Love lineup making the defense’s heads spin with their passing, and getting good shots. What was I saying about the money again?

What Happened in Vegas

In case you missed it because you didn’t have NBA TV or didn’t care because it was Summer League, I figured I’d write a quick post for those who just want a summary. Actually, this may not be quick-quick, but far from a dissertation. I figure this is also a good way to head off some common questions I get every day from my followers, since now I actually have some answers to a couple questions I couldn’t answer before. Of course, anything I say good or bad should probably have the, “It’s only Summer League” caveat attached to it.

“What about Paulo Prestes?”

This was one of those things I had no idea about. Since he was taken in the 2nd round in ’09 we’ve heard little about him. Well, here’s the deal. He’s 6-10 and 275 pounds; “plodding” is a good word to describe him. And he spent last season playing in Lithuania.

Last night he put up 5 points, 5 rebounds in 5 minutes, but didn’t see much action until later so the coaches could get looks at other players. Prestes would go on to finish with 9 points and 8 rebounds in 19 minutes of action and 4-7 shooting. However, he started out 1-3 and shot 42% last season in Lithuania, so don’t expect that 4-7 to be the norm.

Prestes did however shine on the glass and as an on-ball defender. He’s big and strong, but he’s by no means a quick player. Some of that he does make up for with his strength and smarts, but quicker opponents may exploit that at the next level, especially if they make him step out. Yet, he was a +8 and could not be moved once he established position.

With 3 fouls in 19 minutes, he would have to enter the NBA as a 3rd string center if those types of numbers held up. Thanks to his shooting he likely could never be higher than a #2 center on a good team. His best case would be if the Wolves brought him along like Nikola Pekovic and give him a year to adjust to the NBA game and then expand his role. He may never be the efficient scorer Pekovic is, but could certainly learn how to move his feet on defense like Pekovic to compensate for his slowness.

All-in-all, I like Prestes. I don’t know if he’ll be here or not, though. And remember, it’s only Summer League.

“Yo, What about Robbie Hummel?”

I think Rick Adelman may wear a Robbie Hummel jersey under his suit this winter. I’m serious; he’s going to love Hummel. Hummel was the shooter that was advertised (3-6; 6 pts), very active on both ends (+13) and the glass (6 rebounds), and showed some passing ability. If Robbie’s knees allow, he could be a potential Wayne Ellington replacement.

“Does Wes Johnson have a pulse?”

Well, I think you have to have a pulse to take 17 shots and only wind up with 16 points. The same player that could only get to the line 32 times last year somehow managed to get four attempts in one game. Shocking, I know. Unfortunately, that’s about where the praise for Wes’ game ends….and this paragraph isn’t even completely positive.

There were times tonight when he realized that he should be able to get to the rim at will against his competition, and did. Then there were other times when he continued to be the same passive player we’ve known. What’s more is his incredibly off-putting body language; give me Irrational Confidence Guy any day.

(If you didn’t watch the game, Wes attempted to post up late in the 4th in the high post but was pushed out by the three point line by his opponent. It was a little funny, but we now know that Wes isn’t very good at the shooting guard, small forward, and power forward positions. If you’ve seen him handle the ball you can imagine how good of a point guard he’d be and if you’ve saw his aborted post-up attempt you can imagine how well he’d do at the 5. Ok, now I’m just piling on. )

“What position is Derrick Williams?”

I answer this question every day, and tonight changed nothing as far as my answer. Before tonight I thought Williams was a power forward, and now I really think he’s a power forward. Yeah, he showed some things that a small forward would do, but his best moments were when he was at work down low. Losing weight has made him quicker, but it didn’t hurt him last night.

Williams still loves the three, but finished 1-4 from there. Derrick Williams is not most effective taking long jumpers, but when he’s aggressive and assertive in getting to the hoop for high percentage shots. Watch any Derrick Williams game, and this is apparent, yet I argue this almost every day.  I don’t know how else to convince people other than to point out he went 4-12 overall from the floor, if they didn’t watch the game.

(Hmm…what position is better suited for players who struggle with the outside game…)

Defensively, he worked hard and stuck with his man, for the most part. One post play bothered me was when Williams forced the defender to kick out and stand straight up while leaving his defensive stance. That is not a good look, but can be fixed. But, he sure could stick Adam Morrison!

Adelman actually joined the broadcast and was asked if he thought Williams could play the 3, to which he replied “No, I don’t. He’s never played it before!” As Jonah pointed out during the game, Adelman sounds like he just wants Derrick to work hard no matter what position he’s playing, even if Adelman isn’t sold on him.

Adelman did say that he is bigger and stronger than most NBA 3’s (I’d bet most power forwards are…), but will need to do the little things to get on the court. Most of this we already know. Ultimately, Derrick Williams can lose all of the weight he wants, but the number on the scale isn’t affecting his playing time, or job security.

Darko Amnestied…and Not a Single Care Was Given That Day.

Apt (adjective). Definition: Suited to the purpose or occasion. Ex: This picture of Darko is apt in summarizing his career.
Apt (adjective). Definition: Suited to the purpose or occasion. Ex: "This picture of Darko is 'apt' in summarizing his career."

File this under blips on the radar or offseason footnotes, but the Timberwolves used their amnesty clause on the little-used often-disappointing Darko Milicic. Darko had one year and a team option remaining on his deal, yet the Timberwolves thought that it would be better to pay him to play elsewhere or sit at home than to have him continue to take up a roster spot. Aside from his inconsistent play and poor body language, the move was made to free up cap space so they could make offers to Nic Batum and other players that could actually benefit the team.

There isn’t much to say on Darko, really. We all know his story before he got here. We remember the Manna from Heaven remark by David Kahn. And our final memory of Darko will be him at the end of his bench in warm-up gear while any and everyone moved ahead of him in the center rotation.

This isn’t to say that Darko didn’t have his moments that made us wonder if he was suddenly getting it, but then would remind us in the next instance that he was just the same Darko. For once in his career he was given a legitimately fair chance to succeed and he couldn’t make the most of it. Sure, he made plays here and there on defense, but he was the model for offensive inefficiency due in part due to his one-dimensional post-game (Dribble-Dribble-Lefty Jump Hook!).

For a starting center, Darko wasn’t overpaid (35th overall highest paid center in 2011). The Timberwolves paid him fairly for that role, but he could never play into that role and soon became an expensive 3rd stringer.

Did he want it badly enough? Maybe, but we’ll never really know. Maybe his confidence was irreparably damaged. Maybe his spirit was too broken. Maybe the player that has been so heavily scrutinized since he was a teenager just couldn’t get himself excited for the game anymore. Ultimately, we don’t know why Darko has never been able to get over the proverbial “hump”.

The weird thing is that, even though he was done with the NBA when he got to Minnesota, he wants to continue his NBA career. Well, if it’s for the money that’s not so weird, but it means that we’ll probably see him again. Part of me does wonder what it would be like to be on the other side of one of those 20-10 games from him…

The Darko story I’ll never forget is during the training camp preceding the 2010-’11 season when the team was running drills and Darko couldn’t finish a conditioning drill and Michael Beasley rallied the team to finish it with him while telling him that they had his back. If I had to pick one story that epitomizes Darko for me, that’s the one. Even more so when he knocked the ball through the other team’s basket on a jump ball.

Derek can also be found on Twitter: @DerekJamesNBA