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NBA PM: Williams Disappointed With Rookie Year
Posted By Alex Kennedy On July 25, 2012 @ 5:06 pm In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
Minnesota Timberwolves forward Derrick Williams didn’t have a typical rookie season. Because Williams made his NBA debut during the lockout-shortened season, the 21-year-old had a difficult transition and was forced to learn on the fly. Summer league was canceled, training camp was shortened and practice time was limited.
Despite these strange circumstances, the second overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft still managed to emerge as a significant contributor for the Timberwolves, playing in all 66 games and averaging 8.8 points and 4.7 rebounds.
However, Williams was disappointed in his rookie campaign. Now, entering his second season, he’s hoping to be more effective and take on a bigger role with the Timberwolves.
“I’m not happy with myself,” Williams said to HOOPSWORLD. “I’m not happy with the way that I played last season. I’m just trying to get better each year. I worked really hard last season, but it wasn’t hard enough, I guess. Now, I’m trying to use last season as a stepping stone for this season.”
“I’m trying to be more efficient this season,” Williams added. “I’m still missing some shots that I know I can make so now I just need to get back in the gym and work on it.”
Last season, Williams didn’t see the court as often as he would’ve liked, splitting minutes with veteran forward Michael Beasley and only starting 15 games. Now that Beasley has signed a three-year deal with the Phoenix Suns, Williams should receive more minutes and touches. He’s confident that he’ll be able to take on more responsibilities and produce alongside All-Star power forward Kevin Love.
“That was a big question when I got drafted – how was it going to work with myself, Michael Beasley and Kevin Love out there on the court?” Williams said. “Now, with Beasley gone, it’s just myself and K-Love out there and I think it’s going to work this season. It worked a little bit last season, but now we have a few more pieces that can really play.”
Williams is working hard to expand his game this offseason. He played in the Las Vegas Summer League, averaging 15.4 points and 5.2 rebounds in five games, and he’s focused on improving his mid-range jumper so that he can become more of a threat on the offensive end.
“A lot of people know that I can go to the basket, but if I’m coming off of a screen or something like that, I need to be able to knock down that 15-footer consistently,” Williams said. “That’s what I’m trying to work on this summer.”
Williams is also slimming down. He has already lost 18 pounds this offseason and he’s hoping to trim down a little bit more by the time the season starts.
“I want to lose five more pounds,” Williams said. “I’m trying to get down to 225. Hopefully I get there. That’s my goal. Last season, I was at 248 pounds. I’ve just been dieting and working harder.”
The Timberwolves have been very active this offseason, bringing in a number of contributors who can help the team make a playoff push. Minnesota added Brandon Roy, Chase Budinger, Greg Stiemsma, Dante Cunningham and Alexey Shved. The team has also been linked to free agent forward Andrei Kirilenko. The Timberwolves are determined to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2003-04 season, and Williams believes it’s possible if everyone works hard and shows improvement.
“That’s what it’s all about, trying to make the playoffs this season,” Williams said. “I think a lot of that has to do with individuals getting better in the offseason, like myself.”
With a full season under his belt, a normal training camp around the corner and a defined role going forward, Williams is hoping for a breakout sophomore season and a playoff berth for the Timberwolves.
Blazers’ Leonard Ready to Compete for Starting Job: Portland Trail Blazers center Meyers Leonard, the eleventh overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, couldn’t be happier. While most rookies will start their career on the bench, Leonard will have the opportunity to compete for the Portland Trail Blazers’ starting center job. Portland drafted Leonard because of their hole at the five, and now Leonard is looking forward to proving that he can be a contributor from day one.
“This is a great fit for me, there’s no doubt about that,” Leonard told HOOPSWORLD. “At the same time, I know it’s going to take hard work and I’ll be learning every single day. I’m going to have to prove myself. There are no guarantees in this league, even when spots are open. I’m just going to come in every day and work as hard as possible.”
“I just want to become the best player that I can be,” Leonard added. “For this first year, it’s going to be a big learning process and a big step. I want to work hard and get better. I do hope to start a few games, but we’ll see what happens. There are obviously a lot of other guys in this organization and it’s going to come down who wants to work the hardest every single day in practice to get better.”
The 20-year-old recently played in the Las Vegas Summer League, where he averaged 10.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks. He and sixth overall pick Damian Lillard formed an excellent one-two punch for the Blazers in Las Vegas, and they’ve developed a strong relationship since the draft.
“It’s been great,” Leonard said of his relationship with Lillard. “The first night that we went to Portland, we had our press conference and a meal. After that, we started talking and we ended up at gym at the same time. There was nobody else in the gym besides us and we were getting shots up in our first night there. After that, we sat down and talked for at least an hour. We talked about everything and really got to know each other. We talked about our college seasons, where we’re from, what we do off the court and everything like that. I feel like we’re building a strong bond. On the court, we definitely complement each other well.”
Leonard has been a starter at every level throughout his basketball career, which tends to happen when you’re 7’1. Now, he’s looking forward to fighting for the starting job and will use the competition as motivation.
“It’s actually more of a motivator than anything,” Leonard said. “I know I have to be in the gym extra long. I know I have to be in the weight room more. I know I have to do everything right and continue to learn from the older guys and the staff.”
Mavericks Sign Bernard James: One of the most intriguing prospects in the 2012 NBA Draft has officially signed his first contract. Bernard James, who was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers and then immediately traded to the Dallas Mavericks, inked his deal today. James, who is 27 years old, overcame many obstacles to become the 33rd overall pick in this year’s draft.
Prior to finding basketball, James completed a six-year term in the United States Air Force, serving three tours in Iraq, Afghanistan and Qatar. James enlisted in the Air Force when he was 17 years old and eventually rose to the rank of staff sergeant. He became the oldest collegian selected in the past 20 years, surpassing Dikembe Mutumbo, who turned 25 years old one day after being picked in 1991.
James turned heads at a U.S. Armed Forces All-Star tournament back in 2005 and received a scholarship to Florida State University. During his two-year stint with the Seminoles, James was outstanding. He led the Seminoles to their first ACC Championship in school history and to two appearances in the NCAA Tournament. During his senior season, he averaged 10.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.3 blocks with the Seminoles.
Now, he’ll make the transition from college to the NBA and complete the next chapter in his remarkable story.
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