If Michael Jackson’s hit song “Thriller” is playing at Sleep Train Arena, that means Derrick Williams has done something spectacular.
How often the song plays is unpredictable. In what is a big season for Williams’ career, he hasn’t found consistency on the court or with his playing time.
Two games ago against Indiana, Williams did not play. In the next game, a loss to Golden State, Williams started at power forward. Thursday against the Dallas Mavericks, he was the first small forward off the bench.
Williams is in the last year of his rookie contract after being the second overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft by Minnesota.
In his second season with the Kings, he’s gone from out of the rotation, to playing key minutes, to not playing at times.
“You’ve just got to be ready for anything, especially in this league,” Williams said. “We’ve had a lot of changes, the coaching staff, things like that, but you’ve just got to be ready when your name is called. You don’t want to make any excuses, but it is tough. A couple nights ago I didn’t play and (Tuesday) I’m starting. I’ve just got to be ready.”
The take on Williams is that he’s a talented athlete, but he doesn’t play with the necessary aggression regularly.
Heading into this season, the focus for Williams (6-foot-8, 240 pounds) was to use his athleticism against bigger power forwards and to post up smaller wing players. But that plan hasn’t gone as Williams had hoped as he plays for his next contract.
Williams lost out on playing time to Omri Casspi early in the season but played better in December and worked his way into the rotation. He entered Thursday averaging 6.6 points and 2.6 rebounds in 17.1 minutes.
“Sometimes it gets tough,” Williams said. “Especially when I had a good stretch of games, then the random DNP (did not play, coach’s decision), things like that. You’ve just got to stay with it. It’s a long season and I think we all want to end the season right.”
Williams has started five games this season, usually to match up with teams who use smaller power forwards such as Golden State. He’s appeared in 41 of the Kings’ 48 games.
“It gets a little difficult not knowing if I’m going to play 25, 30 (minutes) or not play at all,” Williams said. “It is a little frustrating.”
Williams averages 10.2 points and 4.8 rebounds as a starter. He said he has to keep his focus every night and not base whether he will play solely on if the opponent uses small lineups.
“It gets a little confusing sometimes, but you’ve just got to stay with it,” Williams said. “They want to match up with teams that go small. We’ve just got to take advantage of mismatches, but I think teams are scouting us pretty well. They’re calling out our plays before we get into them. That’s big props to them; they’re doing a good job of reading our plays.”
Kings coach Tyrone Corbin first began working with Williams during summer league in July.
The goal was for Williams to continue working on how to attack defenses. Coaches raved about Williams being in good shape.
What Corbin wants to see is what Williams’ previous coaches have also wanted to see if the forward is to play more consistently.
“A lot of energy on both ends of the floor,” Corbin said. “Lay it all out there and give it everything (he’s) got. ... Consistent play on both ends of the floor, being aggressive and playing consistently.”
That’s the key to hearing “Thriller” more often.