Adelman, Wolves guards in tandem at the point

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 17, 2011 - 10:43 AM

Lacking a true shooting guard, the Wolves will risk weaker defense to exploit their point guards' skills.

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Luke Ridnour, left, sees pluses in the Timberwolves’ decision to carry three point guards.

Photo: Kyndell Harkness, Star Tribune

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MANKATO -- Timberwolves veteran point guard Luke Ridnour declined interview requests in the days after his team agreed to contract terms with free agent J.J. Barea.

It was a silence he says had nothing to do with his state of mind after the Wolves acquired a third guy who plays one position.

"No, nothing to do with anything," he said Friday. "Just saving it for today."

He did have a question for Wolves boss David Kahn when he heard Barea was on his way from an NBA title in Dallas to join Ridnour and rookie Ricky Rubio in Minnesota, though.

Ridnour asked Kahn in a conversation earlier this week if the team intended to split the point guard minutes three ways.

He was told new coach Rick Adelman plans to play two of those three point guards together to ensure there is enough playing time for everybody.

"We were just wondering what they planned on doing," Ridnour said, referring to himself and his agent. "Kurt would never play two point guards at the same time. Other coaches I've had do. It looks like Coach has done it before."

Kurt is former Wolves coach Kurt Rambis, who only very briefly experimented with playing Ridnour and Jonny Flynn or Flynn and Ramon Sessions together during his two seasons in Minnesota because of the defensive liabilities created by playing two such small players at once.

Adelman well knows the dilemma but has a history of playing point guards together selectively during his 21 seasons as an NBA head coach.

He played Terry Porter and Danny Ainge in Portland, Mike Bibby and Bobby Jackson in Sacramento, Kyle Lowry and Aaron Brooks in Houston. And now he says he will play combinations of all three Wolves guards out of necessity for a team that lacks a ball-handling, playmaking shooting guard.

Barea and Rubio played together in a scrimmage Thursday. Barea and Ridnour played together Friday.

"I've got three point guards who are really good," Adelman said Friday. "I've got to find ways to use them."

Ridnour played extensively off the ball at shooting guard with point guard Brandon Jennings in Milwaukee. The Bucks, coincidentally, are Saturday night's opponent at Target Center when the Wolves play the first of two preseason games in this lockout-shortened season.

"I had fun doing it in Milwaukee," Ridnour said. "It was pretty effective for us there. We won a lot of games that way. We finished a lot of games that way. It's just such a mismatch for the other guy to guard a little guy running around. It's just something they're not used to. It's a fun deal."

Unless the Wolves still can sign a true shooting guard or acquire one through a trade, Adelman will risk that defensive liability with a team that played what he calls "horrendous" defense last season.

"Our challenge is we're trying to get better defensively," he said. "But we have to figure out a way. Those three guards are pretty good players. Our decision-making goes up dramatically when they have the ball. We just have to figure out how we're going to do it."

Ridnour knows from experience that using two point guards together allows either to handle the ball and stresses defenses with mismatch potential.

He understands the other side as well.

"You know what, at the other end you just got to compete and fight," he said. "They might try to post you up one, two times. But if you stop them that time, they usually don't go back to it. I guarded a lot of two guards, so it was a situation where you just battle and at the other end, you make them guard you."

Adelman said he considers three good point guards more of a gift than a problematic puzzle that must be solved.

"I think it's a luxury, I really do," he said. "As long as I can use them and play them together, it's OK. We may find out teams are really taking advantage of us there, so then we have to make a decision. But I know all three of those guys are good players."

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