HANGTIME SOUTHWEST — If Minnesota Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman can somehow steer his dejected club through these latest injury setbacks to his two injury-marred stars, please reward him with long overdue recognition as coach of the year.
Before Saturday night’s game against Portland, and after learning that star forward Kevin Love would again be sidelined by a re-break to that darned right hand he originally fractured before the season by doing knuckle push-ups, Adelman marveled how, through one injury after another, his team had managed to pull off a 15-14 record.
With Love joining point guard Ricky Rubio, saddled with his second injury after a brief return from a torn ACL, on the bench once again, the Wolves dropped to 15-15 after a furious late comeback failed against the surging Trail Blazers.
A once-promising season, so filled with hope and excitement and adventure, is becoming one to forget, robbed by uncontrollable injury that now threatens to nosedive off the cliff as the Wolves sit in ninth place.
Rubio, the flashy, dynamic point guard destined for stardom, managed to play in just five games starting Dec. 15, but was unable to join the starting lineup before back spasms, perhaps caused by overcompensation for his knee, took him out after a Dec. 26 loss to Houston.
Rubio and Love, who had never really rounded into All-Star form, saddled with wilting shooting percentages, have played in just three games together.
“I’ve never been through anything like this,” Adelman told reporters before Saturday’s 102-97 loss, Minnesota’s sixth in the last nine games. “You start out with Ricky from the very beginning, hoping to get him back and then it’s just been one thing after the other.”
Dante Cunningham, Luke Ridnour and Alexey Shved are the only Wolves to have played in all 30 games. The injury list is mesmerizing. Obviously Rubio didn’t play for the first month-and-a-half and Love missed the first three weeks. Brandon Roy lasted just five games before more knee problems have forced him to consider re-retirement. Chase Budinger made it into a sixth game before sustaining a season-ending knee injury. Malcolm Lee played in 16 games before a knee injury took him out.
Josh Howard, brought in as an emergency replacement, was waived after he suffered an ACL injury.
J.J. Barea has missed five games, Andrei Kirilenko has missed four and Nikola Pekovic must feel fortunate to have only missed two when he sprained an ankle in November.
If the Wolves have any luck at all they’ll soon get Rubio back. They’ll need him. The remaining January schedule is a bear and could ultimately determine whether the Wolves will be a playoff contender and how active they might be come the trade deadeline.
Among 12 games left this month, Minnesota faces Atlanta twice, the Los Angeles Clippers twice, Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Houston and Brooklyn. The Wolves play seven of the 12 on the road, where they’re just 6-10. Games at Washington and Charlotte at the end of the month will serve as must-wins.
In the hotly contested West, if the Wolves somehow head into February with a top-eight spot or anywhere close, be ready finally to give Adelman that long overdue coach of the year award. No questions asked.