Wolves' Williams trying not to be next Terrible 2

Wolves' Williams trying not to be next Terrible 2

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Darko Milicic. Hasheem Thabeet. Stromile Swift. Sam Bowie.

Derrick Williams wants no part of that club, one that has grown increasingly crowded since the turn of the century. They're all players who have been chosen second overall in the NBA draft, a rarefied spot that brings the expectation of franchise-altering impact.

They've also all been disappointments.

Others - Marvin Williams, Keith Van Horn - have been underwhelming. Some - Len Bias, Jay Williams - have been tragedies and at least one more - Michael Beasley - has been downright maddening. Since 2000, only two - Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge - have become legitimate stars.

The Minnesota Timberwolves chose Derrick Williams No. 2 before last season. In December, the coaching staff told him he had a choice to make.

He could throw himself into extra work with assistant Shawn Respert and the rest of the staff to try and establish himself in the NBA. Or he could keep doing what he was doing and join that long list of ``Terrible Twos'' who never panned out in this league.

``I don't want to say any names, but there have been a lot who haven't worked out,'' Williams said. ``A couple have sky-rocketed and a couple have been pretty decent. My whole life I never wanted to be a decent player.''

The Wolves assigned Respert to work with Williams every day after practice, both in the film room and on the court. But the most important challenge for Respert was reaching Williams on an emotional level to spur the kind of growth in his mental toughness that the team saw as the primary problem getting in the way of his development.

``Even watching him in timeouts, he was so frustrated, like a young man who was insecure about `Is this where he is supposed to be?''' Respert said. ``I saw him get so frustrated where he started to tear up and his eyes started to water because he has no answer to fix this problem that he has.''

Deemed by many scouts as the most NBA-ready player in the draft, Williams averaged 8.8 points and 4.7 rebounds in just over 21 minutes per game as a rookie. Rick Adelman quickly grew disenchanted with his tendency to ``float'' and not give consistent effort, and the coach rarely gave the 20-year-old the consistent minutes he felt he needed to get into the flow of a game and be effective.

``My whole life I've been that guy who has been counted on the whole time, whatever team I've been on, I've been the guy,'' Williams said. ``It's been a little tough.''

He reported to training camp this season slimmed down and ready to play more small forward. But Adelman quickly warmed to hard-nosed veterans Andrei Kirilenko and Dante Cunningham. Even with Kevin Love out with a hand injury, Williams played 30 minutes in a game only twice in the first month. Love returned, and Williams didn't see the floor in four games of a nine-game stretch, which prompted the prodding to work with Respert.

So Williams took the challenge, staying late after practice and always being among the first players on the court for pregame routines. He's shown flashes along the way, including 23 points, seven rebounds and four blocks against Golden State, and 18 points and 11 boards against Washington.

The coaches want that to be more of the norm and not just a surprising surge once every few weeks.

``The young man, you can tell there's so much upside,'' Respert said. ``This is why the scouts looked at him as a No. 2 pick.

``Also, he can easily be historically a lot of the No. 2s that have come in the league if he's not careful. If he doesn't stay sharp and work like he's been working, he can easily fall back into the mix of a guy that struggles in this league. He doesn't have a true identity right now. We're working on what it is that he can contribute every single night to help a team win.''

He also picked up five fouls in 13 minutes of a loss to the Clippers on Wednesday night, struggling against the bigger, more physical team.

``Derrick's such a nice kid,'' assistant Bill Bayno said. ``We've been telling him you've got to leave that nice kid in the locker room. When you step on the court, you've got to be nasty and mean and tougher.''

What Adelman has to be reminded of occasionally is that Williams is just 21 years old. It will take patience, and a willingness to let him play through some mistakes.

``I think now for him we can take the training wheels off a little bit and see how he can balance himself,'' Respert said. ``He's going to fall off his bike still. He's going to have some scars. I told him that scars are OK. They heal. You don't want wounds to go untreated.

``There's something wrong with your game. We see it. And we're going to try and fix it. If we left it alone, there would be a problem. Don't be upset because people nitpick. Run harder, jump, box out. That's all of our games. We all had to go through that process.''

If anyone knows what Williams is going through, it's Respert. After a standout career at Michigan State, Respert was selected eighth overall in 1995, but health issues contributed to a career that never took off. Being able to relate to Williams seems to have helped Respert reach him on a different level.

``The whole mental part, he's right about that,'' Williams said. ``Just being low and last year not knowing what to expect, it was tough. Just working with him after practice and keeping my confidence up, he's been right there with me since then.''

Williams is leaning on veterans such as Brandon Roy and Kirilenko for guidance, as well, and they have served it to him straight.

``He's just in his second year and he has a long career ahead of him,'' said Roy. ``I think he's at the point where he has to start focusing a little bit more out there on the court and paying attention to the details.''

Williams' name has come up in trade rumors, but he is determined to make things work in Minnesota. As frustrated as he's been, he's never requested a trade. He's going to work now, and that's why Respert has such high hopes for him.

``The biggest improvement I've seen is I like the fact that he's had some ownership now in his own development,'' Respert said. ``We don't have to go searching for him like we used to. Now I see him searching for us.''


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Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

As if they needed a reminder, the Wizards saw firsthand on Wednesday night just how much can change in a short period of time in the Eastern Conference playoff race where just two games separate the No. 3 and No. 6 teams.

That No. 6 team is now your Washington Wizards, who began the day in fourth place but lost their first game in four days on the same night both the Cavs and Sixers won theirs. 

The Wizards lost to the Spurs on Wednesday and managed only 90 points, their fewest since Jan. 22. It was a lackluster performance in a game the Wizards needed to treat with urgency. 


The Spurs sure did.

"We've gotta have a better mentality coming into games," guard Bradley Beal said. "The Spurs were fighting for playoff seeding just like we were."

The Wizards have now lost six of their last 10, yet all those games have come against teams currently holding playoff spots. Considering John Wall reamins out with a left knee injury, it's hard to fault them too much when they are staying afloat just fine in the big picture.

The problem is that the closer they get to the end of the season, the more these losses are magnified. They amount to missed opportunities, some bigger than others.

That was not lost on Beal, who considered the alternative. If the Wizards had beaten the Spurs, they would be sitting in fourth, two spots higher, and just a game-and-a-half out of third.

"Every time we have a chance to move up, we take two steps back," Beal lamented.


The Wizards are in a high stakes part of the standings where plenty is in the balance. They are fighting for home court advantage, something they would get in the third or fourth spots. And who they match up with will be paramount.

By falling to sixth, the Wizards are currently in line to play the Cleveland Cavaliers. Though the Pacers and Sixers are also good teams, they don't have LeBron James. Avoiding him and the Cavs would be ideal for the Wizards.

Beal has even bigger worries than that. He noted after the loss in San Antonio that they could fall even further if they aren't careful. They are now just a game-and-a-half up on the seventh-place Heat. 

"We've gotta realize what's at stake, man. The way we're going, we could keep dropping and mess around and be eighth. We've gotta do whatever it takes to win," he said.

The Wizards should be fine, if the previous two months are any indication. But Wednesday night was another example of how precarious things are for them this season in the tightly-packed Eastern Conference.


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Game 74 Capitals at Red Wings Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread


Game 74 Capitals at Red Wings Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Detroit Red Wings

Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, Mich.

When: 7:30 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Red Wings will be broadcast on NBCSN.

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Red Wings game on NBC Sports' live stream page.


The Capitals (42-24-7) take on the Red Wings (27-35-11) Thursday, March 22 at 7:30 p.m. ET in Detroit.


The Capitals-Red Wings game will be broadcast on NBCSN. Coverage kicks off on NBC Sports Washington with Capitals FaceOff at 6:30 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 7:00 p.m. Check back with NBC Sports Washington after the game for Caps Extra and Caps Overtime at 10:30 p.m. for postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:30 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:30 p.m. — Capitals at Red Wings (on NBCSN)
10:00 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime


Here are the projected lines for the Caps-Red Wings game:

Alex Ovechkin -  Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Andre Burakovsky - Lars Eller - T.J. Oshie
Jakub Vrana - Travis Boyd - Brett Connolly
Chandler Stephenson - Jay Beagle - Devante Smith-Pelly

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Christian Djoos

Philipp Grubauer starts with Braden Holtby as backup

Scratches: Evgeny Kuznetsov (upper body injury), Alex Chiasson, Jakub Jerabek


You can watch the Capitals-Red Wings game on NBC Sports' live stream page.


Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.