Wolves pick up option year on Derrick Williams’ contract

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.

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