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.