Pregame: LeBron James Not Surprised By Derrick Williams' Skills

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Heat forward LeBron James turns 27 years old today, a youthful age for a player now in his ninth year in the league.

Tonight at Target Center, he'll share the court with 20-year-old Derrick Williams, the Wolves highly touted rookie forward who in his third NBA game will get a chance to play against one of his childhood idols.

But what Williams might not know is that James has had his eye on him through the years, too. Now, the two get a chance to share the same floor.

"It's very humbling, man. I think he's a great young player," James said of Williams' admiration. "I watched him in college, watched him in high school as well. Best of luck to them—they've got a good one in him."

James got a chance to see Williams play at his youth camp years ago, and he said he remembers Williams' athletic ability back then.

"You always remember those guys that are just head over heels (above the rest) as far as ability and jumping ability," he said.

It will be a memorable night for Williams, who said he has family and friends on hand at Target Center for Minnesota's 7 p.m. showdown with the Heat. He said his group is on hand to see him play, but they're also excited to see the talent on the other team—James and fellow All-Star Dwyane Wade.

"Tonight will be a little bit more special," Williams said.

The University of Arizona product, taken second overall in June's draft, has a similar build to James. His 6-foot-8, 241-pound frame mirrors James (6-8, 250), and at the forward position Williams has already shown the ability to grab entire an entire arena's attention. He electrified the Target Center crowd during Monday's game against the Thunder with his high-flying, fast-break dunks. In two games this year he's averaging 8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game.

James and Wade, who long ago established themselves as elite players in the league, are averaging 32.7 and 20.0 points per game, respectively, for the 3-0 Heat this season.

Williams admits it's different watching his idols these days. Instead of watching James and Wade for fun, this week it was part of a scouting report.

"That's the crazy part," Williams said. "You're watching them, and then all of a sudden you're in the film room, seeing their moves, what they do best, if they go right or left. Just the little things like that. That's the crazy part about it."

It will be Williams and the rest of the Wolves' job to find a way to contain both James and Wade come game time, but until then both sides are showing their admiration for one another's game.

"He's a good young player," Wade said. "He's very bright, and I appreciate that."

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