Derrick Williams eager to begin with T-Wolves

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The NBA lockout just kept dragging on and dragging on and dragging on, prompting some of Derrick Williams' buddies to playfully chide him about his decision to leave Arizona after his sophomore season.

All the No. 2 overall draft pick could do was keeping working out in California and Arizona, but as his former Wildcats teammates headed back to work while he sat on the sidelines, it grew tougher and tougher for him to take.

"Everybody keeps telling me, `You should've stayed,'" Williams said. "It kind of takes its toll after a while. You kind of get used to it."

He was growing so concerned that his rookie season was going to get canceled that he had agent Rob Pelinka lining up offers from Spain and Italy that he was reviewing the week of Thanksgiving. Just a few days later, the owners and players reached a tentative agreement on a new labor deal, and Williams breathed one big sigh of relief.

"Good thing I didn't (sign)," Williams said. "I'm still here and I'm just glad we're about to play."

Williams worked out at Target Center with some of his new Minnesota Timberwolves teammates on Thursday for the first time since the agreement was reached, and he said he is eager to put the long, frustrating wait behind him and get going with his NBA dream. The versatile forward did some light scrimmaging with Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, Michael Beasley, Anthony Tolliver, Anthony Randolph and a few others, one day before the team is scheduled to open training camp under new coach Rick Adelman.

"It's just good to get out there and play again," Williams said. "I haven't played a game since march so it was good to get out there again."

The Timberwolves have high hopes for the Los Angeles native. He was the Pac-10 player of the year last season at Arizona, averaging 19.5 points and 8.3 rebounds. In Minnesota, he'll fit right in with a group of athletic runners that includes Beasley, Randolph and Wes Johnson.

Williams got his first run with Rubio, his new point guard who is already making big impressions with his passing ability.

"He's a great passer," Williams said. "He caught me off guard a few times with his behind-the-back passes."

Rubio was equally impressed.

"He's great," Rubio said. "He's young. He has talent. He can shoot the ball and he can run and he can play as a 3, as a 4, what the team needs and what the coach wants of him."

Just because Williams is no longer in school doesn't mean he hasn't been doing his homework. League rules prevented Williams from speaking with Adelman and the new coaching staff, but he picked the brain of Arizona alumni Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill, who played for Adelman in Houston.

"He's going to work with what he has and I think we have the perfect team full of athletes who can run," Williams said. "A lot of us can shoot and I expect us to get up and down the court a lot."

Williams spent much of the lockout time in Los Angeles working out with the same trainer Love uses, concentrating on improving his jumper and ball-handling to help him play small forward in the NBA. He also signed an endorsement contract with Under Armour and filmed several commercials to keep him busy.

Now that the lockout has been resolved and games are set to begin, Williams said he is happy to with the decision he made. His NBA debut will come on Dec. 26 against Oklahoma City, the start of a jam-packed 66-game schedule.

"No regrets," Williams said. "I'm glad we're finally about to play though. Sixty-six games are still a lot of games."

NOTES: The Timberwolves signed F Devean George, who attended Augsburg College in Minneapolis before spending 11 years in the NBA with three teams, F Shaun Pruitt, G Will Conroy and G Dominique Johnson as training camp invites.


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