Timberwolves Rookies Bringing Excitement
Minnesota’s two rookies are enjoying their rookie season in the NBA so far, as are the fans that support the Timberwolves enjoying watching them play the game of basketball. Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams may have incredibly different backgrounds and paths that led them to Minnesota, but they have a common bond as first-year players on the same team.
“It’s nice,” Rubio told HOOPSWORLD. “We are a young team and we are taking care of everybody and we’re a team. We want to win and we want to do the same thing–that’s winning and put it all together to try to win more games.”
“It’s cool,” Derrick Williams added to HOOPSWORLD. “Everybody’s around the same age, everybody has fun. That’s the good thing about it. Some other teams have a lot of older guys and they can’t really relate to the guys on the team, but this team’s a little different. Everyone wants to hang out and stuff. It really translates to the court.”
There is a much-higher excitement level in Minnesota this season, drawing larger crowds to the Target Center on a regular basis. Much of the excitement level comes due to the distinctly different talents the two rookies bring to the court for the Timberwolves and the affection felt for them from supporters this early into their NBA careers. What excites even more is their commitment to wanting to continue to improve as players and as a team.
“We are pretty good in that part because we are running well on the court, but we have to improve in the last minutes when we are playing. Like foul five or more like that. We have to improve in this area,” said Rubio.
After two years of waiting, Rubio finally made his debut in Minnesota. For two years, there was constant discussion on the potential he possessed, who he compared to and if too much pressure was being placed on the shoulders of someone who hadn’t even played in the league yet. While Rubio is showing he was worth the wait, he doesn’t display any stress over the discussions and his new teammates find it quite easy to play with him already.
“I think a lot of point guards don’t hit you in the right spots all the time,” said Williams. “They’re either late with the pass or throw off your rhythm, but he always hits you in stride, hits you in the right spot where you can catch and shoot and his passes are always on point. You need a point guard like that.”
The NBA is a new animal compared to what Rubio is used to overseas, but obviously the adjustment is going well. After all, he may be a rookie in the NBA, but Rubio has been a professional for years.
“Man, sometimes international games when you lose a game or something like that you are like mad for a week and here you don’t have time to be mad because next day or in a couple days you have two more games and you have to be ready and physically,” said Rubio. “You feel the legs, but if you take care of your body, if you stay healthy, you can handle them.”
“It’s basketball, so at the end of the day it’s the same thing, but here there’s a more physical game,” adds Rubio. “There are guys like Derrick Rose, who are so quick that it’s hard to defense and maybe the hardest thing is defense the best players in the world.”
While Rubio’s adjustment seems to be going rather smoothly, Williams has had more of a typical rookie season so far, full of highs and lows individually. Yet, Williams handles the peaks with an open mind, always seeking out opportunities to learn and perfect his craft. Recently, he’s had even more of an opportunity since the injury to starter Michael Beasley.
“I’m finding my way easier,” said Williams. “At the same time you never want anyone to get hurt, but that’s why we have more people on the team that can really step up and help contribute. It’s not about one man. It’s about the team, so that really does help me in my learning experience especially in my rookie season just trying to get out there and play. You just have to have an opportunity. For myself, I just want an opportunity to play and that’s what I’m doing so far.”
One of the biggest helps to their transitions to the NBA is their new head coach, Rick Adelman. While their coach was well-aware of their abilities, he started them off slow in their rookie season. Many thought Williams would play both the small forward and power forward position at times, but to start the year, the instruction has been to focus on the power forward spot early. While Rubio probably could and should have started from the first game of the season, Adelman kept the rookie out of the starting lineup until this past Friday night to help the second unit for the Timberwolves.
“It’s nice having a coach like this,” said Rubio. “He likes the way that I love to play and it’s more fun playing basketball when we are out running and pressing the ball and try to have fun on the court, but it’s not happening through three, ten games because we have tough games. We could have finished them.”
With Adelman’s track record in the NBA, he instantly had the respect of his team and his rookies. His ability to remain on the course he has set for the Timberwolves without wavering due to pressures to start or give significantly more minutes to his rookies has been a calming force as Rubio and Williams continue to progress each game. Yet, as is the case with any player on the team, Minnesota’s rookies are well-aware they will be on the court in the fourth quarter if they earned that right throughout the first three.
“You always want a coach that has a lot of trust in you, that if you’re making shots he wants to get you the ball,” adds Williams. “He wants you to run the show and last couple of games we’ve had a couple of guys that have put up numbers and he makes sure that you get him the ball. He makes sure everything runs through him and no matter who it is, just like last game I went on a big run, like a twenty something run and he put those starters at the end of the half, put them in as the starting lineup so he’s a good coach to play for and I’m glad to play for him.”
The NBA dream is a big one that few people get to experience. Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams are sharing the initial stages of experiencing that dream together and are happy and proud they finally made it to the big show. However, that doesn’t mean they are content with just being here, as they are continuously looking for ways to improve their individual games, their team’s performance and their team’s win/loss record.
“You never know how it’s going to go,” said Rubio. “You always have to think in the good way because you have to think in your mind that you can do it, you can be a part of it and when it happens you so, so happy.”
“I feel so comfortable here in the NBA,” adds Rubio. “I feel like I can be a part of the NBA and that’s a dream come true.”
The early portions of the 2011-12 NBA season have also been a dream for Minnesota Timberwolves fans, as they now have an entertaining team to watch, full of excitement and hope for the future.