Q+A: Derrick Williams
Minnesota’s top Draft pick speaks on the lockout, Under Armour and making the T-Wolves fierce again.
SLAM: Now, unlike a lot of the guys who were drafted this year, earlier this summer you got a chance to go over to the Philippines and play an exhibition with guys like Derrick Rose, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant and you did pretty well. How did that come about and what was the experience like since you were hanging out and playing ball with the best of the best in the NBA?
DW: I was probably like the oddball in the whole group. A lot of people were like, “You’re going to the Philippines? Who you going with?” and I’m naming off Kobe, Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans, Derek Fisher, the list can go on. So having me up there, I think it was a good experience—a good learning experience—especially for my age and just learning from those guys. Really just being around them and seeing what they do every day so I’ll know what I have to do every day to be able to get to their level. So just working out with them and seeing how they worked out was a really good experience. And I’ve never been out of the country. That was the first time I’d traveled overseas.
SLAM: That’s a pretty good group to go overseas with for your first time.
DW: Yeah. Especially when you get to play with one of the best players to ever play this game in Kobe. So I think that just gave me a good experience, especially at my age. I think I was 4-years-old when Derek Fisher and Kobe got drafted. So to see them both still playing at a high level is crazy.
SLAM: Did it ever hit you when you over there and you were like, “Damn, that’s Kobe” or, “Damn, that’s Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose and I’m over here playing with these guys”?
DW: [laughs] Yeah. I had that moment a couple of times. Derrick Rose is the MVP of the entire NBA and the best player in the world at that point. Not many people have the opportunity to be on the same team as those guys. I also worked out with Kobe this summer and rarely anybody gets to work out with him. So I just really took that as learning experience and you just have to run with it. I think that you can learn a lot from just working out with people that are a lot better than you and to get to their level you have to go through those experiences. I’m glad I went through it so young and I can add a little bit to my game from each player.
SLAM: You played college ball for a Nike program, but you signed with Under Armour which is a really great company. What made you decide to go with a relative upstart in terms of basketball shoe companies instead of a more established one in Nike? Also, UA already has Brandon Jennings as the face of basketball within the brand, plus the roster also includes Greivis Vasquez, your draft mate in Kemba Walker and now yourself. Where do you see this particular group taking the brand going forward?
DW: Going to Arizona, it’s basically one of the biggest Nike schools in the country. I loved everything about Arizona and Nike, but just like when Arizona was at their best, they had 5 years where they weren’t at their best. They weren’t at the top like they usually had been. So, I felt like Under Armour is the underdog and that’s how I feel about myself and my game just growing up and always being under the radar. So that’s what I plan on doing with Under Armour. Same thing with Kemba who made the change. UCONN is also one of the biggest Nike schools in the country, too; one of the most elite programs. It’s the same thing with Brandon as well. I think our job is to help build this brand all the way up, just like I did at Arizona. That’s our job and I think once we start doing that I think younger kids will what we’ve done and want to come over to Under Armour as well. Our job is to start this whole company up just like Nike did all those years ago and I’m really looking forward to it. It’s a great company and I’m just looking to add to it.
DW: You know, I’m really looking forward to playing with my teammates and being in the NBA environment. I’m looking forward to playing on the road, too. Everybody wants to play on the road and beat somebody. I think that’s what I really liked about college. Going into somebody else’s gym and having their fans leave early because we were beating them and they know they couldn’t win. That’s the best feeling when you have their fans all quiet and everybody’s leaving the game early. So I’m really looking forward to that. I’m looking forward to playing with my teammates and basically just travelling all over the country, that’s a really good experience as well. I haven’t been everywhere so just playing in different cities, different states and all that, I think that’s really a good thing as well. But I’m really just looking to win. That’s the main focus. I know they haven’t had the best years in the last 4 or 5 years but hopefully with the addition of myself, Ricky Rubio and our new coach, we can turn this whole team around and I think that’s really what the City of Minneapolis and the State of Minnesota is looking for; those key wins and those key victories to put us over that hump and getting us back to when KG was there, winning a lot of games and just having that exciting player. I think with our team we’re young and athletic and that’s what fans want to see. They want to see exciting plays. They want to see dunks. They want to see lobs and all that stuff, but the main point is getting those wins. I think as long as we do that then you’ll really see these fans turn around. They’re already great fans, but they just want to see more wins and I think we can really do that.
SLAM: Now, you’re going to come into the League and chances are you’re not going to win right away in Minnesota. I think you understand that. You’re going to take some losses and get beat up a little bit. Is that a frustration for you or do you view it more as a challenge?
DW: I think it’s more of a challenge. I don’t think anybody likes to lose. I hate to lose more than I love to win. The main focus is just trying to get more wins on the board. When DRose got drafted by the Bulls, they were still a .500 team all the way up until, basically, now. So I think every year winning more and more games is the goal. You’re not going to see a team go from 15 wins to 60 wins in one year, it’s not gonna happen. So I think every year if we can improve by 10 or more wins, I think that’s a key thing right there. Each and every year just win 10 or 15 more games and I think we can really do that, especially with the team we have now which is young and talented. As long as we keep getting more wins on the board, that’s really it. I really think we can do that this year. If you look at the Western Conference, besides the Lakers and the Thunder, I think we have a pretty good chance of getting up there and hopefully this year we can make the Playoffs. I want to make the Playoffs. So hopefully we can. I know it’s going to take a lot of hard work, but that’s what happens when you have a young team. But I think we’ll get there, though.
SLAM: And if there is no season, do you have a Plan B?
DW: I want there to be a season, and I always have a Plan B. But Plan A is to get this season started. I really haven’t cancelled anything out about going overseas or anything like that. Brandon Jennings did it and came back and he’s done a great job so far. So I really haven’t cancelled anything out, but like I said, Plan A is to get this season started and for me to keep working as if training camp and pre-season were going to start on time.