Wessel: Derrick Williams not taking advantage of current opportunity
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Derrick Williams has been given a golden opportunity to step up when his teammates needed him the most early this season, but he has struggled to do much with it.
All attention turned to Williams when it was announced Kevin Love would miss the first 6 to 8 weeks of the season. The Minnesota Wolves needed last year's No. 2 overall pick to step up and erase lingering doubts that he is an NBA bust. The Wolves needed him even more once they lost four more players to injury. But so far the sophomore hasn't answered the call.
Williams finished Wednesday's loss to the Charlotte Bobcats 3-for-12 from the floor for 12 points, including multiple missed shots from point-blank range.
"We need Derrick right now," coach Rick Adelman said after the game. "We need him to score."
Adelman says Williams needs to create more space at the rim to avoid getting his shot swatted. Williams says he needs to concentrate more near the hoop and admitted the obvious that a simple pump fake probably wouldn't be the worst idea in the world.
Williams faced heavy criticism from Adelman last season, which he acknowledged was more than fair. Adelman continued to be unsure of Williams into training camp, refusing to just hand Love's starting job to Williams because he had the pedigree of being a high draft pick. He made him earn the spot over the newly signed journeymen Dante Cunningham. Adelman eventually saw enough out of Williams to start him in all eight games this season, but the dividends have been mixed at best.
"It seems like everybody wants to dwell on him," Adelman said. "I'd love to dwell on him if he is doing things well. He is just one of the guys. If he isn't playing, then Dante is going to play because he has been a son-of-a-gun for us."
Williams has averaged 8.6 points and 5.0 rebounds, but Adelman has praised him on occasion for his effort defensively -- something that was non-existent a year ago -- but Wednesday was not one of those nights.
"I thought tonight defensively he didn't do as well he did in the past," Adelman said. "He let the guy catch the ball in the low post rather than front him or make it tough on him. That is something that in this league you have to do it every night. You can't do it every other night."
Inconsistency continues to be the frustrating name of the game for Williams, a player with all the physical tools a guy could ever need, but he just can't seem to figure out the NBA game. He continues to show flashes. But he just can't seem to put it all together. And inconsistency just doesn't work in this league, not on a team fighting to end an eight-year playoff drought.
And this was the perfect time for Williams to figure it out. You never want to earn an opportunity because a teammate goes down, but injuries happen in sports. Williams slimmed down from last season, got his nose fixed so he could finally breathe, and it all seemed to be there for him.
But through eight games he remains just as much of an enigma as he was last season when the Wolves thought long and hard about just cutting their loses and shipping him to the highest bidder.
A strike-shortened season plus eight games into a sophomore season doesn't define an NBA career. There is obviously still time for Williams. But it is time to start showing that he deserves big minutes even when the reinforcements arrive and the Wolves have a full roster, because so far he hasn't done enough.