Rick Adelman on Monday finally, unequivocally answered the question whether he really will coach this season by showing up in the flesh and on the job for Timberwolves media day at Target Center.
Right about the same time he won his 1,000th career NBA game last April, Adelman said he wanted to decide his future quickly, in the approaching weeks after he finished a season in which he missed 11 January games while doctors tried to explain and treat his wife Mary Kay’s sudden seizures.
Then he spent almost all summer out of public eye contemplating whether he’d really return to the job, even though he said Monday he always believed he would.
He was back at work for Tuesday’s start of training camp, convinced that doctors in Minnesota and back home in Portland, Ore., have treatment for his wife’s condition under control and certain that at age 67 he still wants to do this.
“It really took quite a long time,” he said. “It’s one of those situations where I said I wanted to make up my mind fairly quick and it’s not a situation where you do that. It’s not something that happens, you operate and it’s over with. It has been a constant process all summer.
“It’s the unknown and I just wanted to be sure. I was pretty sure all along I was coming back — and doing all the things necessary to get ready for it — unless something drastic came up.”
He returns to a team that has just five players still on the roster — and a new front-office decisionmaker — since he accepted the Wolves’ job in September 2011.
On Monday, he talked publicly for the first time after staying silent all summer about new boss Flip Saunders — who is a coach himself moving into upper management — along with the remade roster. Saunders added Kevin Martin, Corey Brewer, Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng and brought back Nikola Pekovic and Chase Budinger to the Kevin Love-Ricky Rubio foundation that convinced Adelman to take the job in the first place two years ago.
“Like any situation, you go on with your life at this point and this job, like a lot of jobs, you have to put your full energy into it,” he said. “I feel really good where we are as an organization. When I came here two years, I was trying to see if we couldn’t change the culture and get things turned around in a positive direction.”
A coach as his boss
His first season as Timberwolves didn’t start until after Christmas, shortened to a truncated training camp and 66-game season by a labor lockout that lasted two months. His second season was interrupted seemingly at every turn by significant injuries to Love, Budinger as well as newly signed Brandon Roy and his January family absence.
“I really thought last year we were on that direction and then everything just went backwards,” Adelman said. “But we’ve added some people this year, and I’m looking forward to see if we can’t make some strides.”
He and Saunders consulted on those offseason changes by telephone all summer, forging a relationship between two lifelong coaches who combined have won 1,640 NBA games. Most of Saunders’ victories came in nine seasons as Wolves coach nearly a decade or more ago.
Saunders returned to the franchise in May, becoming the team’s new president of basketball operations when owner Glen Taylor decided not to extend David Kahn’s contract after four years on the job.
On Monday, Adelman was asked about having another coach — and part team owner — above him.
“For me, it just adds a guy I know, who was a very, very good coach in this league and had some great teams,” Adelman said. “It always helps when you have someone you can get input from, who has been there and been through it. Sometimes you say, ‘You have a coach sitting over your shoulder.’ Well, if I’m going to worry about that, I’m in big trouble. If I were 35 years old, I might be thinking about the situation a little differently.
“I’m still going to make the final decision on what goes on with the team, but I want his input, his ideas. He knows the league really well. He knows what it takes to win, and he’ll add the people he feels can do that. He has such a great understanding of the league. He knows what type of players I wanted.”
Saunders signed Martin, who played for Adelman in both Sacramento and Houston, to a four-year contract worth nearly $28 million. Adelman was so pleased by the addition of a legitimately sized (6-7) shooting guard who can make a three-pointer that, according to Martin, he actually hugged Martin after he signed with the team.
Saunders and Adelman also discussed signing free-agent shooting guards J.J. Redick and O.J. Mayo before the Wolves signed Martin.
“All of them could help us,” said Adelman, whose team was last in the league in three-point shooting last season. “Anybody who could make a shot was going to help us. But Kevin I knew so well and I knew he’s going to get you 20 points every time he steps on the floor.”
Martin, it should be noted, didn’t get a hug when the two men saw each other again Monday.
“I think he got mad that I told everybody he gave me a hug,” Martin said about a coach who rarely publicly expresses his emotions, “so he walked right by me today.”
Defense the key
Adelman in his remarks with reporters left no doubt that he is encouraged with the offensive possibilities presented by having Rubio and Love healthy for the season’s start, Pekovic re-signed and Martin and Brewer signed, even if Budinger starts the season sidelined by the same left knee that kept him out for four months a year ago. Defensively, the team must replace starting small forward Andrei Kirilenko, who turned down $10 million from the Wolves to play for Brooklyn instead.
Adelman said he intends to ask Love to assume more of a “facilitating” role on a team he believes will be able to run more of his famed “corner” offense than last season’s injury-plagued one that was reduced mostly to running pick-and-roll plays.
“We have the potential to be so much better offensively, a much better-balanced team than we were last year,” Adelman said. “It’s not just adding new people. It’s getting some of your old people back. The biggest thing we’re going to have to address is defensively. It’s the first thing I will tell them. They have to get out of their comfort zone. We have a lot of guys who are known in the league as offensive players, but I think they’re also smart players who realize they have to be better at that end of the court to give us a chance to win.”
Adelman returned to work Monday to start the third season of a four-year contract he signed in 2011 that has options for both sides after this season.
“When I took this job, I felt there were some pieces here and we could turn the thing around,” he said. “Things just happened over the last two years that were out of everybody’s control. Coaching [this season], it’s something I wanted to do. I wanted to finish it.”