Ask a Sacramento Kings fan what they think of the team’s new emphasis on a faster pace, and responses will be ill-tempered.
The Kings front office has at least one supporter, however, in player Derrick Williams.
“I like to get out and run,” Williams told the media on Thursday. “I think with the team that we have, personally I think it’s good for all of us, you know, the personnel that we have. Anytime we can get stops, the coach gives most of our big guys the opportunity to push it in transition, so like myself, Casspi, Rudy, we’re out there, we try to get the rebound and go. So I think that’s one of the best things about our team.”
Quite a stance against popular belief. Williams, the No. 2 pick in the 2011 draft, has struggled to translate his game to the NBA. Described by scouts as too laterally slow to play small forward and too inactive a rebounder to play the four, the tweener has yet to find a true position which he can thrive in.
In an uptempo, back-and-forth style of offense, positions are less defined, which goes to Williams’ favor. And the Kings have cranked up the speed, averaging 3.6 more fast break points per game since head coach Michael Malone was fired on December 15. Malone was let go in part to his unwillingness to run quicker offensive sets
Under head coach Tyrone Corbin, Williams is logging more minutes from 13.6 to 21.2 per game. The increase in usage hasn’t tired him in the least, considering the 23-year-old is one of the Kings’ best athletes.
“We have a few guys on this team that are conditioned really well,” Williams added. “I push myself to be one of the top guys on the team in that category. Especially, (last Tuesday), trying to guard different positions. Guarding Chandler Parsons, at one point for a few minutes I was guarding Tyson Chandler, and I was guarding Dirk, so basically I was guarding two through five. You got to be conditioned, you got to know who you’re guarding out there on the court.”
In a revelation, Williams’ defense has improved in the 15 contests since Malone’s departure. With the defensive-minded coach (19 appearances this season), the forward allowed opponents to shoot a baffling 13 percent better than their current average on two-point buckets. Since, Williams is holding his assignments to 5.6 percent over average.
His progression as a defender has helped him secure a rotation spot, while his offense catches up. Williams is making only 43 percent of his field goals and 26.7 percent of his 3-pointers under Corbin, after shooting 45.7 and 36.4 percent respectively before. But the fourth-year pro has improved at the free throw line, now 65.6 percent, and has reduced his turnovers. Williams has continued to attack the basket, which is his finest skill.
Williams’ rebounding still leaves more to be desired, because the wing is hauling down a career-low 2.6 boards per game. Nevertheless, the 6-foot-8, 240-pounder is making his case for an NBA contract when his rookie deal expires this summer. For now, Williams is starting in place of an injured Rudy Gay, and more importantly, the game has slowed down (or sped up) for him.