Kevin Love‘s return was premature; his injured right hand due for more trauma and more repair before long. Ricky Rubio‘s return proved anticlimactic; that burst-of-adrenaline game in mid-December followed by a series of fits and starts, cockeyed shooting and meager assists totals.
The Minnesota Timberwolves thus are hoping that the return of coach Rick Adelman can be one of those third-time-is-a-charm things.
Adelman returned to the practice court Monday after three weeks away, his absence triggered by his wife Mary Kay’s hospitalization and treatment for an undisclosed illness. She is home now in the Twin Cities, her condition believed stable enough to allow Adelman to work the six-game homestand that begins Wednesday against the Los Angeles Clippers at Target Center.
“I think everybody has their own situation in all walks of life – the difference between mine is it’s more public,” Adelman told reporters after Monday’s workout. “But I think the important thing is we’re going to move forward in a positive manner and, hopefully, I can come back and get our team going in the right direction. This group has played very hard. I felt bad for them, felt bad for the coaches, everybody. It’s a tough situation.”
With assistant Terry Porter taking over while Adelman was out, the Wolves went 2-9. That’s worse than their record without Love this season (8-15), worse than their mark without Rubio (13-12).
There has been a cumulative effect, for sure, accompanying the Wolves’ sag to 12th in the West and to the bottom of the Northwest Division. Love’s re-injury and hand surgery, Rubio’s halting progress and injuries to Chase Budinger, Brandon Roy, Josh Howard, Malcolm Lee and, most recently, Nikola Pekovic and Alexey Shved have taken their tolls mentally as well as physically.
Still, the Wolves have missed Adelman’s stable hand, his swift decisions, his ability to diagnose and fix problems on the fly and his court-of-last-resort status in terms of disagreements. It’s inconceivable, for instance, that Rubio would have griped at Adelman the way he did at Porter last week when he was yanked from a loss to Brooklyn.
Porter and Adelman go way back to their Portland days, so the former NBA point guard had his boss’ full support. Adelman attributed the flare-up to the frustration of losing and Rubio’s tortuous comeback. He kept in daily communication with Porter and son, David Adelman, another Wolves assistant, but didn’t try to steer the team via remote control.
“I’ve learned, if you’re not there, you have to let the guys just do it,” he said. “The coaching staff is a good coaching staff, and it had to be their decision. That’s why, if I was coming back, it had to be, I was coming back. I wasn’t coming back for one day or two days and leaving again. That wouldn’t be fair to anybody.”
Eventually, more Wolves will return to the pack. Pekovic and Shved reportedly practiced Monday. Love is eyeing a March return. Budinger hopes to be back sometime that month, too, and so on.
The organization, in the meantime, has to determine what it realistically can accomplish in 2012-13: Chase a playoff spot, a goal that seemed a no-brainer when Rubio returned against Dallas Dec. 15 and helped the Wolves reach 12-9? Or regroup for yet another lottery finish – it would be Minnesota’s ninth straight – and approach the league’s Feb. 21 trade deadline accordingly?
Said Adelman: “We’ve got half the season left and … even though it’s been a lot of things thrown our way, life moves on and you’ve got to find way to get yourself energized and focus on what you can do right now.”
The six teams coming into Target Center were a combined 152-115 heading into Monday’s action. Mary Kay Adelman already has an important home stand underway but her husband Rick is facing a pretty vital one too.