As Ricky Rubio's game has returned to form he has helped Derrick Williams return to relevance.

It was obvious again in the Timberwolves' loss to the New York Knicks on Friday at Target Center, almost from the start. When Williams plays with Rubio, he is a different guy. Williams finished second on the team with 19 points on 8-for-17 shooting. And that includes an 8-for-11 performance on two-point shots. Of those eight baskets, five had assists, and four of them came from Rubio.

All of them involved Williams either running the floor hard or working hard to get into position for the pass.

"I think the idea in his mind is that he'll be rewarded," said assistant coach Shawn Respert, whose job description this season has included working 1-on-1 with Williams. "So he will make an extra effort at times, versus being reluctant, in his own mind, with a guy who might not have the ability get him the ball."

That, of course, has to change. It's a message that Respert, coach Rick Adelman and, more recently, Rubio have been trying to drive home.

"He's one of our top scorers on the team when he's playing hard," Rubio said. "And he has to learn that he has to play hard every game. He's working to be that player."