Posts Tagged ‘Derrick Williams’

Rubio’s Back And So’s His Magic

– At first, it looked like a double-wicket shot. It truly appeared – in real time – as if Minnesota Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio had delivered a perfectly executed, improbably conceived bounce pass through his own legs AND through Dallas defender Elton Brand‘s legs too.

Only in replay, slowed down, was it clear that Rubio’s pass had gone just past Brand’s left leg rather than behind it, not that the Mavericks forward noticed. The basketball reached its destination right about the time the Target Center crowd realized what it was seeing, and Greg Stiemsma finished off with a simple layup for a very unsimple highlight.

“Playing with Rajon [Rondo] last year, I’ll say it was kind of similar, where you almost have to expect the ball every time you roll, every time you dive,” Stiemsma said of playing his first game with Rubio, the Wolves’ clever and, finally, available point guard.

“We’ve been running through some drills with him the last couple weeks, some pick-and-roll stuff. Even there, Ricky’s going between his legs, behind his back, all that in the drills.”

That one was Rubio’s piece de resistance (that’s Spanish, right?) in his first game in nine months. But there were others: Rubio shoveling a pass to J.J. Barea as they crisscrossed for a reverse layup. Rubio sticking a long arm into O.J. Mayo‘s passing lane, switching defense into offense in an instant as his dark eyes immediately searched for an open man. Rubio working the baseline like Gretzky behind the net, finding Luke Ridnour 18 feet out for a jumper.

With Rubio running the point, there’s always the risk for his four teammates of snuffing another of the kid’s wonderous assists and snuffing a video treasure. Worse, there’s the risk of getting hit in the head or the face by the ball if one is caught unaware. And so it was a risky night in downtown Minneapolis Saturday, where Rubio continued his comeback from knee surgery.

It is continuing, for al the excitement and the instant results. Rubio was on a minutes leash of (cough) 16-18 minutes Saturday and will build up his participation time gradually, coach Rick Adelman said. He probably won’t play in both ends of the Wolves’ back-to-back trip to Orlando Monday and Miami Tuesday. And after all the inactivity and rehab from surgery to repair the ACL and MCL ligaments torn in his left knee in March, Rubio’s performance curve figures to have a few ripples, maybe even reversals, in it.

Still, he electrified the crowd of 18,173 (the Wolves sold an extra 1,750 tickets in the hours before tipoff) and seemed to make them forget that All-Star Kevin Love was a late scratch due to the flu (Love hoped to play through his bruised right thumb, before the Wolves sent him home as a sickie). Rubio certainly animated Adelman, who lavished praise on his team afterward and even saved a little for himself.

“When he has the ball in his hands,” Adelman said, “I’m a lot better coach.”

If Houdini had come back from surgery, he would have started with a few card tricks. But Rubio came back sawing the lady in half, only from behind his back.

His first shift began with 1:47 left in the first quarter and ended at 6:16 of the second. In that 7:31 stint, he had four points, four assists and a steal. The Target Center had its second lineup thrill of the season – Love surprised them all with his sudden comeback from a broken hand the night before Thanksgiving. Folks boomed “Rubio! Rubio!” for him just for trotting to the scorer’s table.

“I can’t say with words how it felt,” the 22-year-old said.

Derrick Williams could. The disappointing No. 2 pick in 2011 scored 12 points with five rebounds in the first half, Rubio’s return applying paddles to his game. “That’s the best I’ve felt since I’ve been here, honestly,” Williams said.

Rubio’s second shift started at 4:37 of the third quarter and ended 7:15 minutes later. That pushed him to 14:46 for the game, Adelman holding back a few of Rubio’s rationed minutes just in case. And sure enough, when the Wolves’ 15-point lead dwindled to one with 3:16 left, Rubio came back in.

Key moment this time? A pile-up near the sideline with Dallas’ husky Derek Fisher. Fisher already was coming on like a Grinch trying to swipe Christmas, scoring nine points in the fourth. Now he was tangled up on the floor with the Spanish unicorn. But two men went down and two got up, both fine, Fisher tapping Rubio on the chest.

“Once guys come out there, everything’s free to go,” Fisher said. “But you’re obviously never trying to hurt a guy. I just asked him if he was OK real quick.”

Rubio’s third shift ended with regulation, his shot from out top bouncing off, same as a couple of Minnesota tips. Adelman showed great restraint in sitting him through the overtime. There was the minutes limit and, besides, Rubio was tired.

“That kills me inside,” Rubio said, smiling as always, “but we did a great job.”

Officially, Rubio was a mere +1 in plus/minus. But his impact had been more contagious to the other Wolves than Love’s flu. Andrei Kirilenko dominated the 12-4 overtime with five points, three boards and an assist.

“We’re going to do big things with this team this year, just showing how we played in overtime, getting that 10-0 run,” Rubio said. “It was amazing … They gave me a great gift, that W in overtime.”

Only fair for a guy who dishes so many gifts himself. As Dallas’ Dahntay Jones said of Rubio’s impact: “You have people flying down the court, because they know he’s looking for them. He’s special.”

Kirilenko ticked off the names of the great playmaking point guards with whom he has played: John Stockton, Mark Jackson, Deron Williams. “Ricky is one of those guys because when he sees opportunity, he goes there. I learned from the best how to get open – and how not to get hit on the back,” Kirilenko said.

“It’s always a privilege to play with those kind of guys. Especially if you can play without the ball – you know if you get open, you’re going to get the ball.”

Rubio changes the whole dynamic of playing without the ball – no one is without the ball for long when he’s on the floor. Rubio’s back, and defenders’ heads are swiveling again.

It’s Time For Wolves’ Williams To Howl

HANG TIME, Texas — As the cold nights and the injuries pile up in Minneapolis, so should the opportunities for those still upright and healthy in the Timberwolves lineup.

So what should we make of Derrick Williams, the No. 2 pick in the 2011? After doing little to distinguish himself as a rookie, Williams has shown few signs of getting better.

Much credit has been given to the always-resourceful coach Rick Adelman for keeping his team moving forward without the infirmed Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love, Brandon Roy and now Chase Budinger.

However, the Wolves 5-3 record is even more impressive when you consider how little he’s getting out of a gem prospect like Williams who has turned into cubic zirconia in barely a year. Last season, he at least had the post-lockout excuses of no real training camp and a condensed schedule to blame.

None of that applies this time around and, if anything, the opportunities to prove himself have only grown in the face of so many injuries.

But according to our man Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Williams shows no inclination of rising to the occasion and pitching in:

The Wolves’ most gifted healthy player isn’t playing long enough or hard enough to justify the second pick in the 2011 draft, isn’t playing long or hard enough to justify his place on a team that desperately needs him right now, and he doesn’t seem to understand that if he can’t help right now he might not be asked to help much later.

The Wolves have four players on the All-Star ballot. Three are injured. Two haven’t played at all this season. Six of their seven top players were out Wednesday.

Their best healthy player, Kirilenko, is surviving with brains and elbows, surviving by reminding his teammates that 95 percent of the game is played below the rim and between the ears. Thursday, the day after Williams faded, the Wolves signed small forward Josh Howard as a (luke)warm body to help spell Kirilenko.

Williams should be embarrassed. Apparently, he is not.
“I think we all struggled,” he said, referring to all of the Wolves who had shots blocked.

Asked about his progress, he said: “I’m feeling a lot better. I’m not worried about misses and makes like that. If you play the game going off misses and makes it’s going to be a long season.”

Williams’ 8.8 point per game scoring average is identical to last season, while his field goal percentage has dropped from a poor 41.2 to an abysmal 32.4. He has the athleticism and the skills to get to the rim, but can’t finish. He has scored in double figures only three times thus far and shot just 9-for-33 in his last three games.

He watches veterans like Andrei Kirilenko throw his body all over the floor at both ends and does not join him. At a time when Williams’ hustle and attitude should be forcing Adelman to give him more playing time, he still spends more than half of every game on the bench.

Rubio, Love, Roy, Budinger. It’s an injured list that almost hurts just to read.

Ndudi Ebi, Rashad McCants, Jonny Flynn, Wesley Johnson. It’s a list of washout first-round draft picks by the Timberwolves that is painful in a different way and that Williams keeps inching closer to joining.

Must See PG Block (Video)

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — One of two things can happen when a pair of guys used to operating above the rim head to the basket at the same time on opposing sides.

Either someone’s getting dunker on and freeze-framed forever as a player who jumped into the wrong space at the wrong time or what could have been a lasting memory suddenly becomes much ado about nothing.

Derrick Williams was on his way to a monster jam, one that would have made everybody’s top five a classic freeze frame for the Minnesota Timberwolves’ forward. And then Paul George, the Indiana Pacers’ swingman, happened:

Las Vegas Summer League: Day 7 Recap

By Drew Packham,

LAS VEGAS – A rookie stole the show Thursday, taking over the scoring lead and proving his doubters wrong.

Point guard Damian Lillard, who many thought was a stretch for Portland with the No. 6 pick, scored 31 points (see more below) in the most captivating performance (and 84-78 win over Atlanta), and Kemba Walker finished off the night by leading the Bobcats to a 99-86 win over the Nuggets.

Walker scored 19 points with 10 assists and had his smile and swagger going in helping his ball-hawking Bobcats improve to 4-0 with the victory. Denver’s second-year swingman Jordan Hamilton continued his impressive play, putting up 21 points and nine rebounds in the setback.

Non-rookie of the day: Walker’s double-double was impressive, but for the second straight day Tobias Harris kept up his stellar play, notching another double-double (21 points, 12 rebounds) in Milwaukee’s 88-77 win over the D-League Select team. The Bucks’ sophomore looks polished and the big game follows his 24-point, 12-rebound showing on Wednesday. Other notables: Sacramento’s Jimmer Fredette closed out his five games with 19 points on just seven shots (4-for-7, 9-for-10 on FTs), while Lakers forward Christian Eyenga had 22 points to help L.A. get a win (its first) in its finale, beating the Clippers 75-69. Minnesota’s Derrick Williams also had a big game, scoring 23 points by getting to the line 16 times (making 11) to offset a 6-for-14 shooting night in the Wolves’ 75-68 win over Cleveland.


Report: Ricky Rubio Done For Season

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Ricky Rubio‘s celebrated rookie season is over, according to a report in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The Timberwolves’ point guard has a torn ligament in his left knee that will cost him the remainder of this season and possibly the Olympic games this summer in London.

This is devastating news for the Timberwolves, who are chasing a playoff spot for the first time in years behind the play of All-Star power forward Kevin Love and under the tutelage of first-year head coach Rick Adelman.

Rubio went down in the final seconds of Friday night’s loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, his knee buckling before he collided with Kobe Bryant. The fear Friday night was that it was a potential season-ending injury. Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune confirmed those fears this afternoon:

Just when the franchise finally had reversed four long, losing seasons by surpassing .500 to become a playoff contender for the first time since 2004, Rubio was injured late in Friday’s home loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Rehabilitation time for such an injury usually is six to nine months, which means Rubio also likely will miss playing for Spain in the London Summer Olympics that begin in July.

On Thursday, the NBA introduced a commercial on its TNT doubleheader promoting Rubio’s passion, “unbridled joy” and ability to see things before they happen, which is why the commercial’s tag line is, “So he already knows El Futuro Es Big.”

That, btw, means The Future is Big.

On Friday, Rubio fell to the floor clutching his left knee and shin after he went to help defend Lakers star Kobe Bryant. He planted to his left foot in an attempt to block Bryant’s path with the ball and his knee appeared to buckle just before he collided with Bryant.

He was called for a foul on the play, an infraction that sent Bryant to the free-throw line for the eventual game-winning free throws in a 105-102 victory.

The Wolves not only lost the game on the play, they lost their starting point guard and a player who finally, after all these years, has made them internationally relevant again.

Rubio was helped to the bench, where he held his hand over his eyes while the team’s athletic trainer probed Rubio’s knee with his hands.

He tried to walk during an ensuing timeout, but only made it a few steps before the knee gave out on him and he was helped back to the bench. Teammates helped him to the locker room at the game’s conclusion and he later left the arena walking with the help of a friend.

As of Friday night, Rubio and fellow rookie Derrick Williams were the only Timberwolves who had played in all 41 games this season.

The Timberwolves have point guard depth, with Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea on the roster. But Ridnour has been rumored to be on the trading block, with Thursday’s deadline looming, and Barea hasn’t ever been a full-time starter.

Losing Rubio leaves a gaping hole in the backcourt for the Timberwolves and robs them of their young floor leader and one of the most exciting players in the league.

Hump Day Morning Trade Chatter

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Brook Lopez is definitely back. He put on an offensive show for the Nets last night in their win over the Mavericks.

A trade deadline cynic would argue that he was being showcased as well. He’s long been rumored to be the piece the Nets would have to deliver to the Magic in a potential blockbuster deal for Dwight Howard.

The broken right foot that cost Lopez 32 games this season appears to be in fine shape, he dropped 38 points and the go-ahead free throw to power the Nets over the Mavericks last night. His every move will be analyzed as the perfect bait for the Magic, who have to make a decision to either deal or not deal Howard before the March 15 deadline.

Deron Williams gushed about his current big man after the win over the Mavs, telling reporters:

“He was a monster tonight. He carried us from the start of the game and it makes a difference, I’ve said it all season. … He knows how to play the game and we’re glad to have him back.”

Williams has to be measured in his praise. And the Nets have to be careful with Lopez, who outside of his ability score, isn’t in Howard’s category in any way. If they see him play at a high level for long enough, they might start to rethink this notion of moving him for Howard or anyone else.

Still, you can’t argue that Lopez has great timing. The Nets have won three of their last five games, and that includes wins over the Bulls, Knicks and now, the reigning champs.


Go ahead and add Timberwolves’ forward Michael Beasley to the list of players being showcased as the trade deadline draws near. So what if he’s still coming off the bench.

Rookie Derrick Williams and Beasley dropped 27 points a piece as the Timberwolves knocked off the Clippers in Los Angeles. They’ve both been overshadowed this season by All-Star power forward Kevin Love and rookie sensation Ricky Rubio. But with rumors swirling about the Timerbwolves hoping to get involved in a potential deal for Lakers forward Pau Gasol, Beasley would have to be a part of that deal.


Sprite Slam Dunk Contest Needs Yet Another Tweak, Or Two … Or Three!

ORLANDO — The silence, and we’re talking crickets, in the Amway Center after several of the dunks was the first sign that All-Star Saturday night’s signature event was going to be a little off.

That “worst dunk contest ever” chatter seems a little strong, but the 2012 Sprite Slam Dunk contest certainly exposed the fact that a serious tweaking of the format, namely the rules and regulations of the competition, is in order. No offense to the league’s new slam dunk king, baby-faced, human pogo-stick Jeremy Evans of the Utah Jazz, but not even his peers around the league were satisfied with the competition or the results.

The 4 million fans that cast the deciding votes on, Evans snagged 29 percent of them compared to Chase Budinger‘s 28 percent, were drowned out after Evans was handed the trophy by a flood of Tweets from other players around the league who didn’t agree with the results.

A small sampling of the instant, and at times brutal, reaction that reflected the mood in the building:

  • Roy Hibbert: Robbery!!!!
  • Jason Richardson: I think Paul George or Chase Budinger should of won…. Guess all [4] million votes came from Utah lol
  • Hassan Whiteside: u tellin me I could of won a NBA slam dunk contest in HIgh school Jump over 5’5 Kevin hart n a reserve dunk with a cam n dunk 2 balls smdh
  • Stephen Curry: Even though the 2 ball dunk was nice prolly the best of the night, u can’t have the WORST dunk ever and win.
  • Hasheem Thabeet: “@MAL___: This is what happens when you let half a million ppl that probably can’t touch the backboard vote. Jeremy Evans?!? Smh” LoL
  • Shane Battier: Evans had the best single dunk, but this voting process was seriously flawed. #airbudwazrobbed

There are so many elements involved in pulling it off just right, but Battier said it best, the voting process is seriously flawed. We need the on-site, human element involved. Evans admitted that his first dunk was “awful” and that if not for his splendid two-ball dunk where he jumped over the head of a sitting Gordon Hayward, who tossed the balls into the air for Evans, the trophy probably would have gone to either Budinger or George.

(For the record, my ballot would have had George edging Budinger for the top spot with Evans and Williams rounding out the field.)


Kahn’s Point Guard Love Paying Off

ORLANDO — Few men love point guards the way Minnesota Timberwolves general manager David Kahn does. He is, after all, the man who selected three in the first round of the 2009 NBA Draft (Ricky Rubio, Jonny Flynn and Ty Lawson) and has taken the heat from us over the years for his fetish.

Kahn’s acquired (and traded) a few point guards during his tenure as well. And Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman routinely deploys three (Rubio, Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea) at a time late in games.

Kahn’s crazy, point guard-fueled master plan seems to be working, though. The Timberwolves head into All-Star weekend at .500 or better for the first time since the 2004-05 season, courtesy of Ridnour’s buzzer beater last night over Utah.

We’re not ready to proclaim this a playoff team, but with a bevy of options in the backcourt and All-Star Kevin Love, promising rookie Derrick Williams and surprise talent like Nikola Pekovic to flesh out the frontcourt mix, this team is well on its way to becoming a legitimate factor in the playoff race for seasons to come.


Shumpert’s (Not So) Secret Weapon!

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Knicks rookie guard Iman Shumpert was revealed as one of four contestants for the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest earlier today, joining Rockets swingman Chase Budinger, Pacers swingman Paul George and Timberwolves forward Derrick Williams.

But Shumpert will show up to Orlando with a (not so) secret weapon (Jeremy Lin) none of his dunk rivals can match. Our main man Jonah Ballow of went 1-on-1 with Shumpert and snagged the inside story from the man with overflowing amount of the “Shump Swag”:

Fresh Faces In Sprite Slam Dunk Field

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — All you are going to hear about in the days ahead are the players not in the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest field during All-Star Saturday night.

There’s no Blake Griffin, the reigning champ. And as usual, no LeBron James, the player everyone wants to see in the contest (for the first time).

But instead of crying about what was, what could be or what should be, we’re rocking with the guys who will be in Orlando vying for the title as the NBA’s slam dunk champ.

Kudos to Chase Budinger of the Houston Rockets, Paul George of the Indiana Pacers, Iman Shumpert of the New York Knicks (who will reportedly have some assistance from Jeremy Lin) and Derrick Williams of the Minnesota Timberwolves for accepting the challenge.

We’re cool with having a fresh face win this contest for once, no offense to Nate Robinson or anything, but a little new blood on All-Star Saturday night is always a good thing.