Wolves Wednesday: Williams’ time is now

MINNEAPOLIS – Oh, the irony.

Just minutes before the team announced that Kevin Love had broken the third and fourth fingers on his shooting hand and would miss six to eight weeks, Rick Adelman discussed the situation Derrick Williams would likely face this season.

Obviously, that situation has completely changed, but Adelman did provide some good insight.

The coach admitted that he prefers playing Williams at power forward despite the fact Williams spent the summer learning to transition to small forward. That move was little more than a solution to get him more minutes, and throughout the preseason he’s been bouncing back and forth between the two positions.

“(Power forward is) a natural position for him, being around the basket, especially defensively,” Adelman said. “It’s a different position defensively at the three spot. I think he just has, when he’s at the three, he just has to concentrate on going to the basket, whether it’s posting up or getting it off the boards.”

Adelman said Williams was effective early in the preseason (he scored 25 points against the Pacers last Friday), but he’s fallen off a bit since. That’s perhaps because he’s been switching positions so much, Adelman said, and he admitted that he’d like to let Williams focus on playing one spot this year.

That wasn’t a possibility when he said it, but it is now.

Williams will likely be handed minutes he didn’t necessarily earn, but maybe that’s what he needs. He’s obviously talented, but consistency and focus have been his biggest problems. He’s been told to be more aggressive, and he’s on his way, but Williams is still very much in the middle of a learning process. He’s shown flashes, but there’s no consensus yet that Williams can be an effective player.

Too early for Sioux Falls: The past few days may be the most Malcolm Lee has been talked about since he earned an almost unprecedented guaranteed contract as a second-round pick in the summer of 2011. The point guard, who missed most of last season after December knee surgery, has spent much of the preseason with a strained groin, but he’s practiced twice this week.

Lee didn’t play on Tuesday against Maccabi Bazan Haifa, and Adelman said he’s still trying to get to know the guard and figure out where he fits. It’s too early to say whether he’ll spend time in the D-League this season because right now, Adelman isn’t quite sure where he would fit in his system.

“I’m still trying to figure out where we’re going with everything, and you know, the hard part is J.J.’s played, but Luke’s only played a couple of the games,” Adelman said. “He’s still trying to get back into it. I’d really like to see (Lee) get in some games and see how he does in those games.”
Lee might naturally be a combo guard, but right now, Adelman wants to adopt a similar approach as he’d like to for Williams, a more singular approach. Playing two positions is tough, and for a player as inexperienced as Lee, it might be too much.

The rest of preseason: Adelman said that going forward in preseason, he still wants to focus on the team’s offense, which was been shaky in its first four contests.

“I still don’t think we’re playing as well offensively as we need to,” Adelman said. “Last night it was better. We didn’t have as many turnovers, but we’re turning the ball over way too many times. We’re not getting the assists we need to get. We really need to find people. I think we’re getting into the guts of the defense, and we’re trying to force the issue rather than find the open guy.”

The Timberwolves will play next in Chicago on Friday, and then they have games against the Pistons and Bucks to round out the preseason. Adelman said that he would rather not play teams multiple times in preseason, but in the case of the Bulls, he doesn’t mind as much. They’re a challenging team, and they’ll likely field a radically different lineup in their second game against Minnesota. Luol Deng and Rip Hamilton will be playing, and Kirk Hinrich might not play. If he does, he could get fewer minutes after hurting his thumb earlier in the week.

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