The Timberwolves on Thursday night thankfully transitioned from their dichotomous season into a summer that coach Rick Adelman terms "crucial" and one in which he said his voice will be heard clearly on personnel decisions.
"I better have some input," said Adelman, part of a management group that includes president of basketball operations David Kahn and owner Glen Taylor. "When I signed on here, it was pretty well understood that between David and Glen and myself, we were going to talk things through and decide what is best, and I think that's going to happen. I didn't come here just to say, 'Here, gimme these guys, I'll coach them.' I think I have a pretty good understanding, and I have a really experienced staff that has evaluated these guys.
"I think our input and our opinion should weigh a lot because we were with these guys all year and I think we know what it takes to win and what type of players you need."
Adelman completed his 21st season as an NBA head coach with a 131-102 loss to Denver on Thursday at Target Center. The Wolves limped horribly to the finish line with a one-victory April after they started the season 21-19 and were aimed toward the playoffs until rookie point guard Ricky Rubio sustained a season-ending knee injury with a mere 16 seconds left against the Los Angeles Lakers on March 9.
Adelman was asked before Thursday's game if he enjoyed himself this season, if he had made the right decision in coming back to coach again after he contemplated long and hard last summer about taking a year off from coaching at age 65.
"I enjoyed the first 45 games," he said. "I think these last three weeks have been very, very difficult."
Forty-five games was his arbitrary measurement that roughly delineates life with Rubio and life without him.
Of course, it didn't help that the Wolves not only lost their starting point guard for the season but they also lost his replacement, Luke Ridnour, for the season's final three weeks. Starting center Nikola Pekovic has played the final month with bone spurs on his ankle causing him pain, and Kevin Love missed the final seven games because of a concussion suffered the last time the Wolves and Nuggets played.
"That's the one thing I underestimated when he got hurt," Adelman said of Rubio. "You knew you were going to be missing something, but he had a huge impact on the way our team was and their personality and the way they played. Just the way he was. I did not realize how much we'd miss him and what a gap there was all of a sudden. Then we started losing people here and there. All of a sudden, you've got three of your top players sitting on the sidelines and there weren't a lot of answers."
And quickly the Wolves went from competitive and from being in the race for the franchise's first playoff berth since 2004 into a flaming spiral in which they went 5-21 without Rubio and lost 13 of their final 14 games for a coach who has won 971 career NBA games.
Adelman last September signed a contract that obligates both him and the team for at least three seasons.
He was asked on Thursday if he'll definitely be back next season.
"I think so, unless you know something I don't know," he said. "I haven't even thought about that. I think my wife and I will go back to Portland where our grandkids are and you just sit back. I think there's a job to do here. Right now, that's my only thought process, to try to prepare for the summer. I don't want to go through that April again. I don't want to do that again. It's too hard. We have a better group than that."
Adelman said he will spend the summer shuttling between his Oregon home and Minneapolis for June draft preparation now that the Wolves own Utah's mid-first-round pick and between Oregon and Los Angeles, where assistant coach Bill Bayno will work five days a week with young Wolves such as Malcolm Lee, Derrick Williams, Wes Johnson and Anthony Randolph. Adelman also will be in Las Vegas for July, when he hopes the aforementioned players will play for the Wolves in the annual summer league.
"It's going to be a really big summer," Adelman said. "I don't think we can be nonaggressive this summer. We have to strike and see who we can add to this group. I really believe if we come back healthy -- that's a big thing -- and you add a couple pieces, then we're in the mix because we were in the mix before all these injuries."