MONTREAL – The Timberwolves went back to work last week, returning to a second edition of training camp by installing perhaps even more of Rick Adelman’s offensive system than they did in Mankato now that starting shooting guard Kevin Martin is back healthy on the floor.
In doing so, the team’s starters who had raised Adelman’s ire their last time out in a preseason game claimed vengeance against second and third units that had cleaned their clocks in camp.
“We’ve taken a step forward every day,” Wolves forward Kevin Love said. “Instead of the second unit kicking our butt, we’re kicking their butt. So that feels good. It’s kind of like a training camp re-do.”
Adelman challenged his players, particularly his starters, after a lackluster home loss to Toronto a week ago to make this season whatever they want it to be and told them they weren’t talented enough to get by on their talent alone. The Wolves opened their preseason schedule by playing four games in six nights and started sluggishly pretty much in all of them, including the home loss to the Raptors.
“He doesn’t get mad very often, but when he does he has 100 percent reason to do it,” point guard Ricky Rubio said. “We didn’t start in the right away. Maybe we were thinking the time wasn’t yet. Like the coach said, we’re not a good, good team. I hope one day we can have that kind of team but right now we have to work and try to build a chemistry, especially on defense. To win games, you have to be good on defense.”
The Wolves end an unusual eight-day break in their preseason schedule by playing their final three games this week, starting Sunday night against Boston in Montreal.
They practiced five consecutive days last week, reprising a bit of training camp with some long days of work in which they integrated Martin back into the starting lineup. Martin, in turn, taught his teammates Adelman’s system, which he knows better than anybody after playing for Adelman in both Sacramento and Houston.
Adelman was asked if Martin gets a bonus in his paycheck for being an extra assistant coach on the floor.
“He’s got a big enough paycheck,” Adelman said, referring to Martin’s $7 million salary. “He understands what we’re doing. When we’re looking at film, he understands the sequences of the offense. Some of our guys don’t. He has a lot of unique skills. He really does understand when he can attack and when he can’t. All our guys are getting better, a lot better at reading situations than they were last year.”
Adelman hopes to use the final three preseason games to familiarize his starters with each other and hone his rotational patterns while also getting last looks at players — Othyus Jeffers, A.J. Price, Lorenzo Brown and Robbie Hummel — competing for the team’s remaining roster spots.
He also wants to see how much a week’s practice has helped his team both offensively and defensively.
When asked if he believes the Wolves can become a good defensive team with so many offensive-minded players on the roster, he said, “Remains to be seen. We’ve got to be better than we are right now. Even in preseason, it’s hard to judge. In the regular season, you start to see where you are. Teams have to create their own identity.
“I don’t know if we can be a great defensive team, but we certainly have to be better than we are today.”
He said he believes they’ll be more sophisticated offensively Sunday than they were a week ago after he spent five days installing more of his system.
“We put in more,” Adelman said. “I just hope they remember it.”