New Additions Have Timberwolves Feeling Positive
The Minnesota Timberwolves thrilled the hometown fans in their first preseason game Saturday night against the Milwaukee Bucks. After two years and numerous reports stating he would never wear a Timberwolves uniform, Ricky Rubio made his debut in Minnesota’s colors, wowing the crowd with his passing skills. Rubio was not the only person to make his debut, as Derrick Williams—the highest draft pick in team history—and new head coach Rick Adelman joined him in representing Minnesota for the first time.
“I knew we had a lot of young players,” said Adelman at the team’s media day. “When we played them last year, I was always surprised. I thought they should have won more games, but I mean, you’re not here, you’re not coaching them and you don’t know why things happened. But the last two years in Houston, we went from having two superstars to being one of the favorites to being basically a young group and having guys take over roles that they weren’t brought in to do. I found I really enjoyed the experience coaching that group because you saw the growth, you saw them grow into roles, you saw them grow into leadership roles. You always want a real talented team. You always want a chance to win everything. But I also know learning from that experience, I want to see if we can turn this thing around. I think we can build something that is positive and is moving forward and that really excites me. We have a really good experienced staff who feels the same way.”
As expected, Adelman is already the no-nonsense coach the Timberwolves needed. However, there is one already distinct difference in his style compared to former Minnesota coaches: he teaches. When Adelman pulls a player aside to coach them up, describing in detail what they need to do better, he does so with a positive, yet forceful approach. He expects his players to do the right things on the court, yet understands they are young and make mistakes when presented with situations they haven’t been in before, especially when they focus on the defensive end of the court.
“These players have to take some responsibility at the defensive end,” said Adelman. “It’s horrendous the way that they approach it. There’s no sustained effort at that end. Maybe you’re not as good as some of the best defensive teams, but there’s no way you can give up as many easy baskets as they gave up. We came here in the 82nd game of the season (last year with Houston) and we won. We got whatever we wanted in our first option. We never even had to go anywhere else. I think they have to learn that they cannot give up easy baskets. I mean, they were last in the league in giving up points per game. They were last in almost every area, in transition defense. There is a lot of room for improvement. One thing we’re going to do is make them understand that there is a responsibility out there every possession. You have to do a better job of making it harder on the other team to score. You’re going to get beat, but you can’t give up as many easy baskets as they give up.”
With more of a buzz surrounding this team than there has been in years, Adelman believes the Timberwolves have a great opportunity in this shortened season. As one of the youngest teams in the league, they should be able to recuperate faster than some of the more experienced teams. However, that is only successful if the Timberwolves are able to play the way their coach expects. With a roster full of mostly young and athletic players, determining a set rotation will take a while.
“We’re going to mix guys in and out all the time,” said Adelman. “What we decide for the first game may not hold true for the rest of the season. I’m not sure how I’ll do that right now. I’m just going to have to learn as I go and trust my staff, who are very experienced in this game. I’m going to lean on them. The league was great. They gave us 5 of our first 6 at home. Unfortunately, they’re all division favorites. If we come out and we’re ready to go and knock some of these people off, it is going to be better for us, but if we don’t, are we playing the way we want to play? Are we getting better? That’s what we’re trying to do: Get better consistently every day. Not drop off or go back to old habits. You have to create new habits.”
Rick Adelman has a history of success in the NBA and that wouldn’t be possible without having a good grasp on his teams and what it takes to win. The Timberwolves have a lot of developing to do, but also believe they have a majority of pieces in place to win at a much higher clip than in the past few seasons. It should be intriguing to watch the coach walk the line between developing players by putting them in situations where they haven’t been before, all while trying to win games. However, Adelman made it clear that in a specific game, if the opportunity to win is within reach, he’s going for the win.
“I think you go with people who are going to help you win,” said Adelman. “I don’t know about development. It’s like the potential thing. Potential gets coaches fired and now it’s worse. I’ve been doing this a long time. I’m going to try to play the people who give us the best chance to win. Now, I may have to experiment and I may play the wrong people at the wrong time, but that’s what I have to figure out. Unfortunately, with the schedule the way it is, we’re not going to be able to go out there and just do a regular practice all the time. We certainly can do developmental work. We can make sure a guy like Ricky Rubio will shoot the same amount of shots every day no matter what. Ultimately, it will be a learning process at the beginning.”
When he took the court Saturday night in front of the very large Timberwolves crowd, Adelman received a very welcoming round of applause from Minnesota fans. They know his track record, they know he is an above average coach, they know he has some very young and intriguing players to work with and most believe he is a coach capable of moving the team in the right direction quickly. With the regular season opener coming up in one week, let’s see what the new guy can do.