Wolves pick up option year on Derrick Williams' contract
The Wolves picked up the 2014-15 option on former first-round pick Derrick Williams' contract.
By PHIL ERVINFS North
MINNEAPOLIS -- All the trade chatter, criticisms and role confusion swirling around
Derrick Williams the past two years have left the Minnesota Timberwolves forward with two options.
Embrace the uncertainty, or wilt beneath it.
"It’s tough," Williams told reporters after practice Tuesday. "Ever since I’ve been here, I’ve heard trade rumors, since I got picked. It seems like every other day it’s something new."
They're not going anywhere. But after two years of trying to grow his game while surrounded by talk about his future, the 6-foot-8, slimmed-down swingman received a noted vote of confidence Tuesday morning.
President of basketball operations Flip Saunders told him via telephone the team will exercise the option on his contract for 2014-15 -- the most clarity Williams has had since signing his rookie deal in 2011.
Even for a guy who uses doubt for incentive, a weight was lifted.
"Your security is here," Williams said. "You’re guaranteed at least one more year in the NBA. As long as you have that, I think everything is good."
Williams' critics scoffed at his high selection after he spent most of his rookie season backing up Kevin Love. Then they wondered how he'd ever fit into a Timberwolves system where he's played both the three and the four.
The final stretch of last season gave him a chance to silence them a bit. Playing primarily power forward in place of Love -- out with a broken hand -- he averaged 15.2 points on 44.7 percent shooting during Minnesota's final 33 games.
That bolstered faith in his skill set but subsequently thrust his name into trade discussions. With Love coming back, conventional wisdom mused, it'd make sense to deal Williams for a better fit at another position while Williams' value is still high.
Through an offseason that included jaw surgery and him working to lose 20 pounds in order to better defend perimeter players, Williams heard the chirping.
Yet here he is.
"The only thing you can do about that is to keep playing," said Williams, who will make $5.3 million this season and $6.7 million next year. "My security is here. I’m not really looking at what other people say. I’m just here to play basketball. If all those rumors were true, I would have been gone by now."
Rather than pigeonhole Williams behind Love, coach Rick Adelman and Flip Saunders are hoping to use him at both the three and the four this year. His ability to play the wing is especially highlighted now with Chase Budinger out.
Next-in-line small forward Corey Brewer grew more accustomed to coming off the bench during two years in Denver before inking with the Timberwolves as an unrestricted free agent. He started Minnesota's first three preseason games before Williams got the nod Sunday in Montreal against Boston.
"I haven't really talked to him about it, but you do see the difference when he came off the bench the other night," Adelman said of Brewer. "He just brings so much energy. So I don't know. I know he did that for Denver last year, and I think you just have to find out what's best for your team that we have right here."
Barring a trade, that would've included Williams whether Minnesota allowed him to walk after this year or not. The decision provides no guarantee that he'll end up being the Minnesota star previous management banked on when it drafted him; only that the Timberwolves can get something in return should they decide he doesn't fit into the mix here.
And it potentially buys Williams more time to prove he can.
"I think he's played very hard," Adelman said. "He rebounded the ball very well the other night, and it's a process for him. It's kind of a disadvantage when he has to play two spots. You're jumping back and forth.
"But right now, that's what we have to do."
So one key training-camp choice is set in stone. Saunders plans to meet with Williams on Friday to finalize the particulars.
In the meantime, Adelman has a small forward starter to name and a roster to pare down to 15 by Oct. 28. He said he'll try different names at the three during the Timberwolves' final two exhibition contests.
Those matchups Wednesday at Philadelphia and Thursday at Detroit are also the final auditions for training-camp invitees Othyus Jeffers, A.J. Price, Robbie Hummel and Lorenzo Brown to make a case for guaranteed-contract consideration.
"We'll try to give a chance for some of those people to play," Adelman said. "We've talked about the situation. It'll come down after the two games where we'll sit down and say 'What's best? What's the best 15 for our group?'"
Right now, that includes Williams. For how long still hangs in the balance.