Derrick Williams doesn’t need to be reminded how important the upcoming season is for him.
Williams, in the final year of his contract, needs to prove his value in the NBA.
Perhaps that led him to try too hard early in the NBA Summer League. After two forgettable games, he scored 17 points in the Kings’ 89-75 win over NBA D-League Select on Monday at the Thomas & Mack Center. In the first two games, he had 20 points on 5-of-16 shooting before making 6 of 10 shots Monday.
“I wasn’t really happy with the way I played the first two games,” Williams said. “I know I can knock down shots, so I just tried to be more aggressive, get to the free-throw line and see the ball go in the net. And I hit a few shots as well.”
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The Kings’ coaching staff has asked Williams to be more aggressive, because when he is, he gets out in transition, rebounds and attacks the rim.
When Williams doesn’t do those things, it’s hard for the staff to justify giving him playing time.
Before Monday’s game, Kings coach Michael Malone reminded Williams again to be more aggressive.
“I want him to try to get to the foul line, make plays to the rim, use his athleticism and not just settle for jump shots,” Malone said. “He attacked, got into the post, posted up some (Monday), got to the rim, got to the foul line. When Derrick Williams plays with aggression and an attack mindset, he’s a very good player. And that’s what we need him to do every time he steps on the floor.”
Williams could have an important role with the Kings if he can be assertive. The team wants to play at a faster pace, and that requires every player getting out to run and create more fast-break chances.
“He’s a very good rebounder,” Malone said. “I want him to rebound and push.”
Malone wants to see the same aggression in the halfcourt, too.
“If he’s got a bigger guy on him, I want him to step out on the floor, face him up and attack and get to the foul line or to the rim,” Malone said. “If he’s got a smaller guy on him, I want him to post up and punish him in the paint or draw the foul. I think he tried to do all those things (Monday), and he’s only going to get better.”
In the summer league, most players try to showcase their game to win a job, so it’s much different than the regular season.
Rather than trying to live up to his No. 2 selection in the 2011 NBA draft, Williams is trying to remain focused on improving his game.
“It’s a big difference, but you’ve got to work on the things you know how to do,” Williams said. “It’s not about going out here and trying to impress people and things like that. I know what I can do, and I’m pretty good at it. Get up on the elbow, pick-and-roll, pick-and-pop, and things like that and get out in transition.”
All those things could make Williams more valuable in the regular season.
As the front office continues to look at ways to improve at power forward, Malone has talked more about “position-less” basketball and putting five good players on the court together.
That could mean more time for Williams and Rudy Gay together, rather than relying on a traditional power forward.
Williams believes that can work this season.
“I think we got caught up on who’s the three (small forward), who’s the four (power forward) and looking like, ‘What are we supposed to do?’ And I think it doesn’t matter. As long as we know the plays and the spots, it doesn’t matter. I can set him a screen, he can set me a screen – it really doesn’t matter.”