Derrick Williams' strong sophomore season at Arizona allowed him to make a quick climb up the NBA draft, where he was taken second overall, behind Kyrie Irving, by the Minnesota Timberwolves. Williams sat down with ThePostGame.com to discuss his pending NBA career, working out with Kobe Bryant, Minneapolis' Mall of America and, yes, the ongoing lockout.
ThePostGame: When did you know you wouldn't be the first pick in this year's draft?
Derrick Williams: Probably about a few minutes before David Stern announced it. I was relieved, especially when they called his name. I just think that with going to the team that has the No. 1 pick is a lot of pressure. The whole organization is coming down and putting everything on your shoulders. I'm not saying I wasn't ready for that. But there is a lot of shoes to fill (in Cleveland), especially with the team now. It's a better fit for me in Minnesota. I'm sort of glad I got picked No. 2 because you have a young team, you have a base, you are people that are young with experience. We have a great young core and hopefully we can build off of that.
TPG: How are you going to co-exist in Minnesota with all those forwards: Kevin Love, Michael Beasley, Brad Miller, Anthony Randolph and Anthony Tolliver?
Williams: We have people that play the same position, but we don't have people that don't like each other or are trying to go after each other because they play the same spot. You want to fight for the minutes. I'm not saying we're not going to do that. We have two people that play the same spot and play so versatile who are athletic, like to run and like to get in the open court. I think it's really good. (Beasley and I) both notice that. When we are on the court at the same time, it's hard to guard us. Not too many teams have two similar players on their team and that's going to help us. We might give up some size but we make it up with speed, quickness and causing a lot of mismatches.
TPG: What was it like playing with Spanish rookie guard Ricky Rubio before the lockout?
Williams: He's a great player. He's always a step ahead. That's the good thing about him. His IQ is always really high. When he sees something, he's already ahead of you because he knows how the defense is going to play him. That's the good part about him, his (basketball) IQ is really high, he wants to pass you the ball, he wants you to look good. Everybody in the NBA wants a point guard that's going to pass you the ball. It's up to us to make the plays.
TPG: Did you grow up in Los Angeles as a Kobe Bryant fan?
Williams: I was a Kobe fan. I like the Lakers in general just growing up out here and having that winning tradition all the time. I grew up as a LeBron (James) fan. That was my favorite player. It's crazy that we are all on the same level now. I'm always going to be a Kobe fan just because of what he's done with or without Shaq (O’Neal). When you can overcome someone that leaves the organization on that big of a scale, what he has done after that is crazy. That's why he is one of the best players in the game.
TPG: You recently worked out with Kobe Bryant. What was that experience like?
Williams: I just asked (my agent) Rob (Pelinka, who also represents Bryant) if I could work out with Kobe for a few days. He said, "Just text him." And Kobe said, "That's fine. Just come to the spot (in Orange County)." I went and worked out and it was crazy. I wanted to do that just on my own to just see how hard he works and what he does. It was basically like fatherly. Whatever he did, I did. I learned a lot -- work ethic. I already have a pretty high motor, but I saw what I needed to do to get to that level. I just have to work that much harder and I have to do that for myself. I don't need to have someone continue to tell me to push myself or be hands on. I just have to work that much harder and I know what to do now.
TPG: Are you considering playing overseas during the lockout?
Williams: Yeah. I still haven't canceled anything out. Especially if stuff isn't happening by the end of October, I'm going to start looking into it. There is not anywhere in particular. It's about what the best fit is for me and what's best for my family.
TPG: What has been the worst part of a lockout at a time which should be an exciting one for you entering your NBA career?
Williams: We still got drafted, but we aren't signed to our teams. That's the worst part about it. You want that label that you are on a team and got an NBA contract. That's the main part that they're missing right now.
TPG: What is the players union telling you about the lockout?
Williams: Just train like you'll be wherever you got picked in October. Even though the season might start later I'm still going to be training hard so I can get my team more wins. The big part of that has to do with me coming in ready to contribute and be ready at all times. A lot of that has to do with being in shape and being mentally ready on the next level.
TPG: A year ago at this time you were considered a late first-round pick. Did you foresee yourself jumping so high at this time last year?
Williams: Not too much. Before the season it was like first round. Then after every game it was like I was moving up three spots, four spots on the draft. Than the last 10 games of the season it was like, "Man, you might be a top-five pick." Than all the sudden you're No. 2. I never really thought of it happening this fast. I don't think that anyone else did either. Even my family. That's the crazy part. I went to Arizona expecting a four-year career and took two years off of that. I think it was a good thing for my family and especially Arizona as well because they've seen all that I've done individually. That just makes more recruits go there and win more games, too.
TPG: Do you still pinch yourself about what's happened?
Williams: Oh yeah. Every day my friends have to remind me, "You're the No. 2 pick, right?" We always laugh and joke about it. My friends and family say, "You're in the NBA now." That's the crazy part. I finally made even though it didn't take that long.
TPG: You were originally supposed to go to Southern Cal, but ended up at Arizona. Do you ever think about what would have happened if you went to USC?
Williams: All the time. That was the school I chose and committed to in the beginning, but things happened with all the sanctions and stuff. But I was lucky to get out of that whole commitment without having to sit out or red shirt. I was glad I was able to leave that, go to Arizona and have a healthy career there for the most part. I'm glad I made the move there.
TPG: You quietly played with a broken hand during the Pac-10 season. How did you keep it quiet and not make it worse?
Williams: It was pretty painful. I sat out of all practices. I didn't play in games really until about a week until it was actually healed. It hurt every time I caught the ball. So I started using my left a lot more. I got more comfortable with my left and realized it's not all a right-handed game or one-handed game. Having that injury caused me to adjust that high. I was surprised that a lot of my stats and averages were still that high playing with one hand. It was pretty bad though. I was going to sit out a whole month and let it heal. But I couldn't let my teammates down.
TPG: How are you dealing with your new-found celebrity?
Williams: A lot of (NBA players) are already used to it since they've had that spotlight since high school. In my case it's all new to me. I never want to turn down autographs and pictures. I think every fan is
important. You just want to keep that reputation. I've always been humble and nice to people. That's what I do. I don't want to turn down autographs or pictures. That's just me. ... It's just a humbling experience to be noticed everywhere you go now. Everybody is watching your every move.
TPG: What do you know about Minneapolis?
Williams: I don't know too much, really. That was the first time I had been there (after the draft). I know there are a lot of lakes out there in Minnesota in general. I just know a few things about the whole state. I hope to learn more and read about it more as soon as it's time to go there.
TPG: What do you think about Minneapolis' Mall of America?
Williams: It's crazy. I went there with (fellow rookie Malcolm Lee). I got a couple pairs of jeans. It's crazy how big that mall is. I have never seen a mall like that ever. It's like seven malls put into one.
TPG: Are you a fan of Minneapolis' biggest star, Prince?
Williams: He's a great singer. I don't know too much about him. It's a little bit [before] my era.
TPG: How is a Los Angeles native going to deal with the cold of Minneapolis?
Williams: I'll be all right. You got to adjust. You can't always live the same lifestyle or same way all the time. I think it's good moving from L.A. to Tucson to Minneapolis to see different people and different environments. It's good for me and a learning experience.
TPG: Have you ever been in snow?
Williams: Been in snow a few times, but not permanently like I'm going to be. It's going to take a while for me to get used to waking up and it's snowing all day and all night. It will be a little different.
TPG: What is something interesting about you that people don't know about?
Williams: I wouldn't say there is anything too outrageous, but I'm just a kid. I'm still a kid playing a game that I love. I still am going to do things that kids love to do, like playing Xbox, go out and have fun at the beach. Just anything a normal kid or teenager would do although I'm 20 now. I'm just trying to stay as young as possible. That's the main point all around.
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