Derrick Williams Prepares for Dunk Contest
The NBA is about to head to Orlando for All-Star weekend and Minnesota Timberwolves rookie Derrick Williams will join in the festivities as a participant in the slam dunk competition. You realize quickly how young he is with his bright-eyed anticipation of the weekend.
“I was a big fan growing up,” Williams told HOOPSWORLD. “One of the first ones I watched was the Vince Carter one, so I’ve been a fan of it ever since then. It’s a pretty cool experience and a lot of people like to see that. This was one of my goals that I always wanted to do ever since I was younger being in some kind of competition in All-Star weekend. I’m glad I’m a part of it, especially in my rookie season.”
As the weekend comes up quickly, Williams’ Timberwolves teammates have noticed him making preparations for the contest, getting a few practice dunks in whenever he can. However, as you would expect, they are unwilling to let any of his tricks out to the media.
“I’ve seen a couple things that he’s done and, obviously, don’t want to give anything away or any of his secrets,” said Kevin Love. “I think that with how powerful he dunks and at his size, to me, he is the favorite. I think so.”
“I’ve seen him practicing one time after practice,” adds Martell Webster. “Teammates tend to be secretive about what they’re going to do in the dunk contest, but I’ve seen some possible attempts. Kid has been working on his quads, doing some power lifting and I have a lot of confidence in him.”
While his teammates call it practicing, Williams thinks of it more as fine-tuning. He has always relied on his athleticism in games to get the big throw downs that bring the crowd to their feet, but it’s a whole new ballgame when you’re in the dunk contest.
“I never really practice dunks,” said Williams. “I just kind of just go out there and do them. I might have to spend a little extra time practicing, but I never practice dunks. Every dunk you see me do, I just go off reactions. I’m just really looking forward to it.”
There’s been a lot of complaining from fans the Dunk Contest has lost its luster with big names deciding to skip the event. There seems to be more of a buzz when the “name” players compete in the contest, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be great athleticism on display. It also doesn’t mean fans shouldn’t tune in to watch.
“I don’t think it’s that, it’s just that people aren’t impressed with people doing windmills or between-the-leg dunks anymore,” said Webster. “I don’t know why because people that can do that our freaks of nature. I’m in awe of that every time I see it. It’s like a new experience and never gets old for me. This day and age, we always want more as people. We want to see more.”
While some believe the contest doesn’t necessarily need the big names, of course others—even on the same team—believe it is better when those players do participate. They also have ideas as to how to entice them to take part in the contest.
“I think that if you want to get the big names, you have to build the incentive,” said Love. “Make it a million dollar prize, but I know that will never happen. I think if you get the right sponsor behind it, that’s how you get the big names out. Plus, people have done everything outside of jumping over a car.”
Like it or not, the “names” aren’t in the contest in 2012. Derrick Williams doesn’t care and in order to achieve his goal of winning the event, he has taken the time to size up his competition. He is well-aware that it would be foolish to overlook any of the contenders.
“I think a lot of people are surprised at certain people, but Chase Budinger can really dunk,” said Williams. “He’s got a 40-something inch vertical. Paul George, people don’t even really know who he is and the crazy thing is he can really, really jump. I’ve seen him do a few things this summer and people are going to be really surprised when he goes out there in the dunk contest and does some crazy things. Iman Shumpert is a rookie and had the highest vertical in the whole rookie class this year, so people may be surprised at the names, but it’s going to be really exciting.”
As the All-Star weekend comes close, Williams Timberwolves teammates have advice for him. They know how badly he wants the title of NBA Slam Dunk champion and are there to support him in any way they can.
“Just come out there, go hard and get people excited,” said Webster. “What people don’t know is that some of the most athletic players aren’t the brand names in the league. Just go out there, be proud, show them what you can do and change people’s opinions about that stuff. I have all the confidence in the world in him.”
More importantly, Love is happy he isn’t the only Timberwolves representative at the All-Star festivities this year. That, in itself, shows Minnesota is acquiring more talent and is one of the main reasons why they are severely more competitive this season.
“It’s great,” said Love. “I wish Ricky would’ve done the Skills Competition, but Derrick’s out there dunking, I’m in the Three-Point shootout and all three of us are participating in the games with the Rising Stars and myself on Sunday. It’s great, I’m glad to be going down there with them and now that they have their new backpacks, I’m supposed to be the guy who makes sure they wear them.”
Love is, of course, referring to the bright pink backpacks Timberwolves rookies received this week. There was some talk of making Williams wear his—which is bright pink and features a handful of Disney Princesses—during the dunk contest, but that decision will be made at a later time by the team’s veterans.
“That’s not right for us to make him take that to All-Star weekend, so no, we won’t make him take it,” said Webster. “We’ll just make him take it on the road because it has all our shampoos and soaps in it, thanks to Brad (Miller).”
Love disagrees or maybe he’s just trying to make the rookie sweat a little bit before the spotlight shines on him this weekend.
“Brad said All-Star too,” said Love. “I think he’d get a lot of fans for that. Disney Princesses on his back.”
Tuning into the dunk contest just to see if the Timberwolves veterans make Williams wear a Disney Princess backpack may be entertaining enough to tune in, even with no “stars” taking part.