MINNEAPOLIS – At this point, you could stock a full team – or at least a starting lineup – with players for whom Derrick Williams has supposedly been traded.
And yet Williams boarded a plane to Oklahoma City with the Timberwolves Thursday afternoon with all of his teammates, none having been dealt at the trade deadline. Barring some other unforeseen circumstances, he will start on Friday at power forward, just like Wednesday, just like usual.
Derrick Williams was the second overall pick in a draft that took place 20 months ago. Derrick Williams is 21 years old. Derrick Williams and his agent, Rob Pelinka, have an exceptionally close relationship, the consequence perhaps of nearly two years of his team supposedly dealing him – for Pau Gasol, for Paul Millsap, for anything with two legs and a pulse.
But on Thursday just before the 2 p.m. CT trade deadline, Derrick Williams said that he had his bags packed and was ready to get on the plane to Friday’s game against the Thunder. He did so after chowing down some chicken wings, and he followed the trade grilling up with a conversation about his new store in Arizona. He looked like a player under an undue amount of stress about his future, right?
For the second straight year, Williams remains a member of the Timberwolves, after all the chatter and rumors and outside deliberation of his future. When asked just before the deadline whether he was abreast of his situation, Williams smiled. He and his agent know what’s up, he said, and then gesturing at the scrum of media he added that he’s pretty sure it’s everyone else who doesn’t have a clue.
He’s probably right. And you know what, as of 2 p.m. Thursday, it wasn’t too bad being Derrick Williams.
He may be gone this summer. Or he may stay. But he has two months to play without thinking about that, two months to continue the level of play he’s established since Kevin Love’s second hand injury of the year, two months to prove he should figure more into this team’s long-term plans.
“That’s why I think they drafted me,” Williams said. “Don’t think they would have drafted me so high if they didn’t want me. But, at the same time, I’m just trying to play my best basketball, for my career, myself, individually. That’s what I’ve been doing the last few weeks, and it’s been paying off.”
There are still so many variables when it comes to the forward. Drafted second, behind just Kyrie Irving, he was expected to be a starter, a player a team could build around. But the Timberwolves already had their star power forward, and slotting him in at small forward didn’t work, so selecting him could seem like a mistake if you look at it that way. But then there’s the converse: Williams is young, maybe not quite mature enough to lead a team, definitely with work remaining to perfect his game. He isn’t a starting forward, not yet, and with the Timberwolves he has a unique situation. For now, he can start and play big minutes, which has proven beneficial in January and February. Later, he’ll be back in a reserve role, but he could be a key weapon off the bench and playing alongside Love at times, learning and growing into whatever role he might be able to fill as a 23- or 24-year old.
Or the Timberwolves could package him up this summer and send him to who knows where. But at least now no one is asking. At least now he is the Timberwolves’ starting power forward until some point in March, and there is some finality, at least for a short while.
That finality is across the board, of course, with the team having done nothing at the deadline, and really, that’s fine. There was no major deal the Timberwolves would have even be able to swing, what with the market and their injured roster, and a minor trade at this point was hardly going to put the team on the winning streak it needs to make the playoffs. If that happens or doesn’t happen, it won’t be because of any trade deadline activity or lack thereof.
When you’re confident that your team, if healthy, is a winner, you don’t blow it up for no reason when it’s lost because of a slew of injuries. When you’re 11 games below .500 at the deadline, you also don’t sacrifice assets to rent a player. So, if you’re the Timberwolves, you do nothing, rather than make a deal for a deal’s sake, which would be worse than inaction.
Adelman out: Coach Rick Adelman was not present at practice Thursday. He was at a medical appointment with his wife, Mary Kay, and Terry Porter led practice. Porter said that he’s unsure whether Adelman will fly to Oklahoma City with the team Thursday or come separately by himself at a later time, but he’s expecting Adelman to coach Friday night.
Quick workout: The team went through an extremely short practice Thursday, and Porter said it worked to install some new components to the offense that Adelman is hoping to use more in the second half of the season. The team is still working to perfect them, and Porter said the goal is to soon be able to call them on the run rather than in timeouts.
Deal days: As of 3 p.m. Thursday, 28 players in 11 deals had been traded in the week before the deadline.