Entering the season the Minnesota Timberwolves were a team with promise. Ricky Rubio, a darling of the league, and Kevin Love, a refined scoring-forward, stood beside Nikola Pekovic, a top offensive center when healthy, Corey Brewer, coming off a career-year, and Kevin Martin — who arguably became the best shooting-guard in Wolves history when he was obtained by Minnesota last summer. Together, using a roster assembled to appease Rick Adelman‘s desire for long, lengthy wing-players the plan was to breathe life into the vision from within the mind of the stoic, former NBA head coach.
Beneath the optimistic expectations bestowed upon the starting lineup stood serviceable assets for what became a hopeful run at the postseason. Yet, injuries to Ronny Turiaf and Chase Budinger ripped a tear in the second unit’s rotation. Neither Alexey Shved or Robbie Hummel did enough to seize the opportunity to play in relief of Brewer, Martin, or Rubio, while Dante Cunningham, Love, and Pekovic spent extra time filling Turiaf’s absence at center because Gorgui Dieng was an unplayable foul-machine. Shabazz Muhammad, though said to be doing all the right things and working hard in practice, was rarely deployed until it became absolutely necessary.
The accumulation and timing of the injuries in Minnesota was unfavorable, because health posed an issue before the season began. Budinger suffered another knee injury during training camp and didn’t return until January. Turiaf violently fell to the floor of the Target Center in the Wolves second game of the season and also didn’t return until 2014, an important portion of a lengthy season. Still, Adelman acted as an old dog hesitant to try and deploy new tricks in what turned out to be his final year on the sidelines as an NBA head coach.
Adelman is husband, father, and a 68 year old with more wisdom than I am able to try and fathom. It isn’t hard to find nice things that have been said about Adelman and what he brought to the game of basketball during his years on the sideline. He’s the mastermind of motion, off-ball screening and cutting, that created an offence so tangible that even Gregg Popovich admits he borrowed ideas from Adelman’s playbook, among many others.
After Adelman announced his retirement on Monday morning, a gloomy uncertainty surfaced as Flip Saunders sighted no timeline or the name of any candidates. Saunders did not, however, rule out the idea of returning to the sideline as the Wolves coach, although he mentioned that isn’t what team owner Glen Taylor would prefer to see. Now, without not only an unmistakable, prestigious, experienced coach; Minnesota stands amid an unsettling and uncertain period of reformation under the new, Saunders, regime.
It’s unfortunate that this season was illuminated in a disheartening, disappointing light that shined brightest on the ‘what if’ situations surrounding the Timberwolves — there were a lot of them. The common narrative was the team’s inability to win close games, but the call to play rookies Muhammad and Dieng, Rubio’s shooting and scoring production, and Love’s future with the organization was littered within dialogue describing Minnesota’s season. While many seeked to illuminate the notation that Adelman simply lost desire, compassion necessary to inspire his relatively inexperienced roster; remorseful is Adelman’s departure from the Wolves, and furthermore the entire NBA.
Albeit they didn’t make the playoffs, the Wolves won more games than they did during the season before for the fourth consecutive year. Rubio stayed healthy for an entire year, Love added multiple, new facets to his game previously absent during years past, Dieng and Muhammad are young, exciting and explosive players capable of developing into fine and capable players for years to come. Still, it’s the emotions and actions of fans that overshadow the successes before their very eyes, including the simple opportunity to see Adelman translate his knowledge to future generations while he stood on the sideline as the Timberwolves head coach.
Searching for answers, this season and dating as far back as last year, as to why such an offensively talented, versatile, core of players led by a ‘legendary’ head coach never could get over the proverbial hump into the postseason. Fans, who desperately sought a material reward that would represent success.Those that expressed a playoff-appearance hoping to leave behind a decade of memories from an era in the doldrums, in addition, this would divert attention away from nationwide discussion as it pertains to Love’s future in Minnesota.
Over the next few months as the NBA Draft approaches, Saunders and the front-office will search for a coach. Fred Hoiberg, Billy Donovan, Tom Izzo, George Karl, and Lionel Hollins are some candidates but that remains speculation. There’s plenty of uncertainty surrounding the Timberwolves, and the significance that the imminent changes cannot be overstated. Although Adelman will remain with the organization as a consultant, he’s unmistakable, calm, league-renowned presence and wisdom as a coach will be absent from the sideline — somewhere Adelman has stood for as long as I’ve been alive. Despite the urgency to find a new coach to replace Adelman, it’s important fans appreciate the time he spent in Minnesota, as Adelman is one of the NBA’s most honorable ambassadors — something that may have gone overlooked by many throughout the year.