Reusse: Like Tubby, frustration appears to have defeated Wolves' Adelman

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 20, 2014 - 11:39 AM
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Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman

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Tubby Smith and Rick Adelman brought a much-needed attribute to a pair of basketball operations when they arrived as coaches in Minneapolis: credibility.

The local hoops crowd is going to be seeing the same result at the end of their tenures: disappointment.

Tubby inherited a putrid Gophers program in April 2007, created a spark, then ran into frustrations and was defeated by them. The same track appears to have occurred with Adelman and the Timberwolves, and in half the time.

Smith lasted six seasons and had his final team rated as high as No. 8 in the country, before his Gophers faded into the Big Ten’s second division. Tubby was fired last March after his lone NCAA victory with the Gophers was followed by a loss to Florida.

Adelman came into a miserable circumstance in September 2011, with the NBA lockout still in force. The Timberwolves had not exceeded 33 victories since 2005 and were 32-132 in the previous two seasons with Kurt Rambis on the bench.

Rookie Ricky Rubio brought some life to the situation when the season started in December 2011. Adelman’s club was 21-19 and playing the L.A. Lakers in front of an announced home crowd of 20,164 on March 9. Rubio blew out his left knee in the closing moments of a 105-102 loss.

Neither Rubio, nor the team, nor the head coach, has been the same since that night.

The Wolves gave up and finished 5-21 (counting the Lakers loss) down the stretch. In 2012-13, they had star Kevin Love for only 18 games and finished 31-51. Adelman missed a hunk of that return to futility because of the health problems of his wife, Mary Kay.

The Wolves came out of the All-Star break with a 104-91 home victory over Indiana on Wednesday night. This put them at 26-28 and still with zero chance to pass two teams in the West over the final third of the schedule and reach the playoffs.

Adelman has a year remaining on the four-year contract that lured him to Minnesota. The guess here is that Adelman is going to walk, allowing the Wolves to avoid using the out the team could exercise in his contract after this season.

There were major obstacles for Adelman in his first two years here: the lockout that eliminated training camp and the Rubio injury in 2011-12; the injury to Love and others that destroyed last season, and the disjointed maneuvering from David Kahn, the previous president of basketball operations.

The excuses have been fewer for Adelman this season. His team has suffered more than a handful of horrific losses to inferior teams. On the sideline, you don’t sense the coaching genius that was visible early in his time here; rather, you see a sad-eyed gentleman regularly stretching his arms to complain about a no-call from the officials.

Adelman has looked more beaten to me than Tubby ever did last winter, even during the Gophers’ annual mid-Big Ten slide.

What hurts more than another non-playoff season is some of the damage done to the Wolves in their attempt to mollify Adelman by unloading players that he didn’t want.

Wesley Johnson was the fourth overall pick and did not have the appearance of a lost cause in 2010-11. He did make 103 threes and shoot 35.6 percent from there.

Johnson started the entire schedule for Adelman in 2011-12 and was written off as a failure. OK … but to get rid of Johnson, the Wolves basically gave Phoenix a first-round draft choice for accepting him.

Derrick Williams was the No. 2 overall selection in the 2011 draft. Adelman decided he didn’t fit the system, barely tolerated him for two seasons and then convinced new basketball boss Flip Saunders to trade Williams to Sacramento for a nonentity, Luc Mbah a Moute, a month into this season.

You might be able to accept the Wolves’ giving away the Nos. 2 and 4 overall choices because Adelman had no use for them. It’s harder to accept that they still owe Phoenix as part of these twin fiascos.

Adelman remains a Ph.D. when it comes to basketball knowledge. What’s not as clear is the verve required to get the best from a collection that doesn’t fit his vision of an NBA team.

Frustration has won, it appears, as it did on the other side of Minneapolis with Tubby Smith.

 

Patrick Reusse can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on AM-1500. preusse@startribune.com

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