Wolves' brain trust operating in the now

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 30, 2012 - 9:32 AM

With a shrinking window for Glen Taylor and Rick Adelman, proven pros have supplanted young projects on an overhauled roster.

hide

The Wolves put their trust in veteran guard Brandon Roy, hoping the former Trail Blazer he has enough game in his legs to help them return to the playoffs.

Photo: Kyndell Harkness, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Every season for the past eight, the Timberwolves and those who still cared about them looked forward to the proverbial promise of next year.

This season truly, really, finally is -- for bad or for good -- next year.

Long gone is a once-patient plan to build almost exclusively with young players through the draft.

Long gone, too, are failed former first-round picks -- their own (Wes Johnson, Jonny Flynn, Randy Foye, Corey Brewer, Wayne Ellington and Lazar Hayward) and others' (Michael Beasley, Anthony Randolph) -- as well as coaches Kurt Rambis and Randy Wittman.

The plan in place is a win-now proposal still constructed around youthful Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic but now supplemented by former NBA All-Stars Brandon Roy and Andrei Kirilenko and orchestrated not by President of Basketball Operations David Kahn so much as head coach Rick Adelman.

Not all that long ago, Kahn promised there would be no substantial makeover to a team that already had started over more than once since trading away superstar Kevin Garnett in 2007.

But when training camp opens Tuesday morning in Mankato, the Wolves will introduce eight new players to their 15-man roster.

It's a philosophical shift created by a 71-year-old owner who intends to sell the team, by a 66-year-old coach who is working the final job in his accomplished career and by a basketball-ops president whose team very likely needs to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2004 if he intends to keep his job.

Eight consecutive losing seasons and Love's very public comments last summer probably didn't hurt, either.

Love challenged Kahn and owner Glen Taylor to make significant personnel moves that will produce a winner long before 2015, when he can walk away -- and probably send Rubio away as well -- as an unrestricted free agent because of an opt-out clause granted him in a four-year contract the team insisted upon.

(Taylor is talking to a handful of interested groups from outside Minnesota, one of whom is expected to buy a minority interest now and take majority ownership from him in the coming years.)

So the Wolves signed Roy, Kirilenko, Russian guard Alexey Shved, backup center Greg Stiemsma and veteran forward Lou Amundson and traded for Chase Budinger and Dante Cunningham.

Love said he is pleased with the changes the team has made on the court and, perhaps more important, in the locker room.

"I have faith in this team, I have faith in what we've done in this offseason," Love said. "It was definitely a tremendous summer for our team. We have a number of guys who are going to help us ... I do think we have a great shot to make the playoffs."

To make room, they paid center Darko Milicic -- the guy Love referred to when he said the Wolves have rid their locker room of "bad blood" -- $7 million to void the final two seasons of his contract and go away to Boston as a free agent.

They also replaced young, talented but immature and inconsistent Beasley and Randolph with Roy and his degenerative knees and Kirilenko, to whom they have guaranteed $20 million for the next two seasons to return to the NBA after a season away.

The Adelman factor

In doing so, they have made their 15-man roster something of a Festival of Nations, with players now from Russia, Montenegro, Spain and Puerto Rico as well as the United States.

"We speak English, though," Rubio said, smiling. "I mean, everybody can bring their experience from where they've been. We can bring that Europe experience and learn from American experience and have a great team together. We're going to play a Rick Adelman style. I love how he runs the team, how he understands the game, and I love playing pick-and-rolls. I love Rick."

And Adelman presumably will love this team more than the one that last season played better than .500 with Love and Rubio leading the way but went 5-20 at the end after Rubio, and then Love, became injured.

"This summer Rick Adelman got a lot of the pieces he wanted, so I think this team is really going to play well together," Budinger said. "I already feel just playing with these guys that everybody is very unselfish out there. That's what you need to be part of Rick Adelman's offense: You have to play unselfishly."

Budinger is one of those pieces, a guy who played for Adelman for two seasons in Houston before the Wolves acquired him from Houston in June by trading the draft's 18th overall pick for him.

Adelman wanted Budinger for his outside shooting and for his willingness and his ability to play within Adelman's passing-offense system. He wanted Roy for his leadership, his ballhandling and the possibility that Roy's knees still just might allow him to be a reasonable facsimile of the player he once was.

Adelman wanted Kirilenko because Kirilenko, at age 31, is a proven, productive NBA small forward despite his history of injuries in recent years. And remember: Adelman started Johnson at small forward all last season, with very few good offensive results.

European style

And Kirilenko wanted to come to Minnesota because of the $10 million salary and because Adelman's offensive philosophies are similar to the European style of play, something Kirilenko noticed when his Utah teams played those Adelman-coached Sacramento teams a decade ago that featured Vlade Divac's passing and Peja Stojakovic's shooting.

"Those Sacramento teams were some of my favorite teams," Kirilenko said. "I like that style. It's more like how we play in Europe. ... In Moscow, we played with two Lithuanians, two Serbians, two Americans and six Russians. So it's not a big deal. Right now, basketball is so international. We know each other from the different international teams and teams from playing before. It won't be a huge problem to adjust to each other.

"I think this month is going to be very important. Last year, coach Rick Adelman didn't have a chance to practice the team because of the lockout and short preseason. I think this year they have a very good chance to work with the guys. In asking some players, I heard a lot of talk and they all said Rick is a great coach who likes to work with the players, not a guy who likes to terrorize players but really work and build a good chemistry between the coaching staff and the players. I think we all will play very well together."

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Detroit 69 FINAL
Philadelphia 89
Portland 94 FINAL
Cleveland 99
Sacramento 102 FINAL
Toronto 119
Boston 98 FINAL
Minnesota 110
Dallas 94 FINAL
Houston 99
Denver 93 FINAL
New Orleans 85
Brooklyn 102 FINAL
Atlanta 113
Oklahoma City 92 FINAL
New York 100
Charlotte 86 FINAL
San Antonio 95
LA Clippers 94 FINAL
Utah 89
Washington 98 FINAL
Phoenix 106
Toronto 1 FINAL(SO)
New Jersey 2
Pittsburgh 0 FINAL
Washington 4
Chicago 3 FINAL
Los Angeles 4
Temple 86 FINAL
UCF 62
Winthrop 75 FINAL
Coastal Carolina 68
Lafayette 59 FINAL
Colgate 54
Northeastern 60 FINAL
Drexel 65
Wake Forest 76 FINAL
Florida State 82
Rhode Island 64 FINAL
Fordham 63
Delaware 82 FINAL
James Madison 88
South Carolina 58 FINAL
LSU 64
New Hampshire 63 FINAL
Maine 58
Seton Hall 80 FINAL
Marquette 70
Binghamton 68 FINAL
UMBC 56
American Univ 54 FINAL
Navy 64
Elon 65 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 82
Wright State 76 FINAL
Oakland 84
Minnesota 58 FINAL
Penn State 63
Duquesne 55 FINAL
Richmond 86
SMU 63 FINAL
South Florida 52
Hartford 66 FINAL
Stony Brook 72
Albany 47 FINAL
Vermont 44
Hofstra 79 FINAL
William & Mary 100
UNC-Asheville 74 FINAL
Longwood 64
Radford 84 FINAL
Char Southern 77
Holy Cross 0 Postponed
Loyola-Maryland 0
Duke 73 FINAL
Notre Dame 77
Texas Tech 36 FINAL
Oklahoma 81
Oregon State 55 FINAL
Arizona State 73
Morehead State 82 FINAL
Austin Peay 69
Drake 69 FINAL
Bradley 57
Lehigh 62 FINAL
Bucknell 68
Rice 48 FINAL
Houston 59
Missouri State 57 FINAL
Illinois State 67
Loyola-Chicago 47 FINAL
Wichita State 58
Nebraska Omaha 64 FINAL
South Dakota St 86
Northern Iowa 59 FINAL
Southern Ill 52
Louisville 81 FINAL
Boston College 72
St Johns 74 FINAL
Creighton 77
East Carolina 58 FINAL
Memphis 70
Georgia Tech 70 FINAL
Miami-Florida 50
Miss State 73 FINAL
Ole Miss 79
Clemson 68 FINAL
NC State 57
Indiana 67 FINAL
Purdue 83
Kansas 64 FINAL
TCU 61
Oregon 56 FINAL
Arizona 90
Air Force 66 FINAL
San Jose St 52
Stanford 84 FINAL
Washington 74
Rider 56 FINAL
Siena 49
Dayton 76 FINAL
Richmond 62
Eastern Kentucky 53 FINAL
Jacksonville St 73
Saint Josephs 0 Postponed
Saint Louis 0
UMBC 71 FINAL
Binghamton 55
Akron 60 FINAL
Ohio U 72
Ball State 72 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 55
Memphis 56 FINAL
Cincinnati 44
East Carolina 32 FINAL
(2) Connecticut 87
Murray State 59 FINAL
Eastern Illinois 75
Kent State 63 FINAL
Central Michigan 65
UT Martin 64 FINAL
Tennessee St 58
Eastern Michigan 56 FINAL
Western Mich 83
Bucknell 61 FINAL
Lehigh 76
Indiana 57 FINAL
Michigan State 72
Colgate 56 FINAL
Lafayette 58
Fordham 66 FINAL
Davidson 45
Duquesne 76 FINAL
St Bonaventure 64
George Mason 66 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 70
Detroit 59 FINAL
Youngstown St 58
Army 0 Postponed
Boston U 0
Loyola-Maryland 0 Postponed
Holy Cross 0
SMU 58 FINAL
Tulsa 74
Oklahoma St 54 FINAL
Kansas State 52
West Virginia 57 FINAL
Texas Tech 73
Denver 56 FINAL
South Dakota 82
Northwestern St 46 FINAL
Central Arkansas 63
Austin Peay 67 FINAL
SIU-Edwardsville 87
Kansas 61 FINAL
Iowa State 56
Bowling Green 50 FINAL
Northern Ill 67
Penn State 64 FINAL
Minnesota 75
San Jose St 80 FINAL
Air Force 83
Boise State 82 FINAL
Colorado State 83
Utah State 51 FINAL
Wyoming 86
San Diego State 50 FINAL
Fresno State 57
Nevada 52 FINAL
UNLV 75
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Which local team is currently the biggest disappointment?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close