Posts Tagged ‘Terry Porter’

Still No Maravich, But Rubio’s Shooting Improves

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Through the first 89 games of Ricky Rubio‘s NBA career, he launched 158 3-point attempts and made only 47. That’s a dreary 29.7 percent. And by the numbers this season (15 of 64, 23.4 percent), the Minnesota Timberwolves’ effervescent point guard seemed to be getting worse.

In Rubio’s 90th game Wednesday night at Milwaukee, though, he shot five times from behind the arc in the first half. Made all five of ‘em. Rubio finally missed one in the fourth quarter but it didn’t matter – the Wolves were in control en route to a road victory over the playoff-bound Bucks.

Rubio’s single-game high in 3-point field goals, prior to Wednesday, was two. He’d done that 13 times previously, but only three times so far in 2012-13. In his first 31 games back from knee surgery this season, the mop-haired playmaker shot 4-of-28 on deep balls.

So where did that come from in Milwaukee?

“He’s in better condition,” Minnesota coach Rick Adelman said. “He feels better about his knee, he’s more confident. He is playing more like he was last year before the injury. … He’s not a great shooter but a lot of guys aren’t in this league. He is a kid that is going to work hard at it and eventually he will be more than good enough shooting the ball. But right now he is doing everything on the fly.”

Even though it took Rubio some time to get his legs and gain confidence in his repaired knee, he was able to work on his shot some in the late stages of his layoff. He knew the second-biggest rap on him coming into the league in 2011 was his shooting. He had dispelled most of the concerns about his defensive skills before he got hurt in March 2012 and he wanted to do the same with some consistent accuracy.

“Since I’m a professional, I haven’t been a good shooter,” he said Wednesday. “I’m trying to work as hard as I can.”

Over his six most recent games, Rubio is hitting 44.1 percent overall (30 of 68) and 64.3 percent on 3-pointers (9 of 14). He’s seeing some results from work prior to games and on off-days with Wolves assistant Terry Porter.

“I just try to point out some of the things that are important when it comes to getting a consistent shot: Arc, legs, getting the ball in the right shooting spot,” said Porter, the former NBA point guard who played 17 seasons and shot 41.6 percent from 3-point range over the final five of them. “Once he got clearance to get back on the floor, we started doing a lot of just ‘form’ shooting, to get comfortable with where the ball sits, to use his legs and stepping in. He’s been great.”

Rubio finally logged enough appearances this season to move into the official league leaders in assists (7.5 per game, eighth) and steals (2.4, second). The Wolves are better off when Rubio has healthy teammates to make shots after he has delivered the ball. Still, he can benefit from keeping defenders honest, opening up more space for cutters and lanes for himself and those marvelous Rubio passes. If he can reliably boost his marksmanship.

“It’s not that hard,” Porter said. “There are a lot of guys who come in this league and don’t shoot good – I didn’t shoot that good coming in. I’m aging myself but we didn’t have 3-point shots in college [NAIA University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, '85]. So I had to learn how to get that.”

Adelman Back, Hopes To Brake Wolves’ Slide

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.

Rubio Staying Positive On Rough Road Back

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DALLAS – For a kid who knows only how to play the game with pure joy, this is pure hell.

The two ugly scars that mar his left knee each measure five inches long, one starting in the middle of his knee cap and jagging down. The other curves around the left side of the knee like a misshapen crescent moon.

As Ricky Rubio pulled up the black, padded knee sleeve that made the permanent markings of reconstructive surgery disappear, he wished the trials that still come with his ongoing recovery, one that wiped out the Olympics and all but 10 games now of this season, could just disappear, too. He softly shook his floppy mane of dark hair and flashed a small, if only brief, smile.

“It’s hard because I still have a little pain and it’s something you have to fight through and get through,” said the 22-year-old Spaniard before the Minnesota Timberwolves lost 113-98 to the Dallas Mavericks, a fourth consecutive defeat for Minnesota and yet another game that Rubio would come off the bench and be limited by a minutes restriction.

“I talk with the guys who had the same injury and they say about a year, a year-and-a-half [after surgery] they started feeling, like, normal,” Rubio continued. “It’s tough when you’re playing with something in your mind; you don’t want to think about it, but it’s in your mind that you’re going slower and you are not who you used to be.

“That’s going to come, but you have to be patient.”

Rubio made his season debut on Dec. 15 against Dallas and played 18 minutes. He dazzled the home crowd with eight points and nine assists, including the highlight of the night, a no-look, behind-the-back bounce pass into the lane to Greg Stiemsma for a layup. It’s about as good as it’s gotten.

Back spasms, likely caused by overcompensation for his knee, took him out of the lineup after just five games. He returned on Jan. 8 and in the four games prior to Monday, Rubio, averaging 3.8 points and 4.6 assists, had made one of 12 shots. His assists dwindled from eight to seven to three to two, all while playing no more than 22 minutes.

“You see flashes, but you can see he is nowhere near like he was last season. He was moving,” teammate J.J. Barea said. “The way he plays he needs to move like he used to move, where he’s faster and he’ll be able to get to pick his spots, get wherever he wants so he can make those passes.”

Flashes came and went Monday night against the Mavs. By the time acting coach Terry Porter subbed Rubio in with 3:20 to go in the first quarter, listless Minnesota trailed 22-11. Rubio and benchmate Barea got the Wolves clicking. Rubio directed an alley-oop pass to Dante Cunningham, drained a jumper and kept a possession alive with a swooping rebound in the lane as the Wolves closed to 39-36 and then 45-41.

But Rubio also couldn’t finish a drive after getting around O.J. Mayo, with little lift leaving his attempt short of the rim. In the final moments of Rubio’s nearly 13 minutes in the first half, Dallas went up 48-41, and then, with Rubio on the bench, 55-45 at the half.

He never got a fair shot to make a dent in the second half. Porter — serving for Rick Adelman while he tends to his wife in the hospital — kept Rubio tethered to the bench for the first 10 1/2 minutes of the third quarter as the Wolves’ first unit mirrored its awful first quarter and allowed the game to slip away. Rubio checked in with Minnesota, reeling from injuries and a rotation in tatters, trailing 87-68.

He finished with six points, six assists and five rebounds, and was a plus-7 — the highest rating among the eight Wolves that played at least 21 minutes.

Rubio’s 2-for-3 shooting night tied his season high for made buckets and figured as his best shooting percentage among the 10 games he’s played, an indication of how brutal it’s been after he averaged 10.6 points and 8.2 assists in a tantalizing rookie campaign before a torn ACL ended it after 41 games.

“It’s hard because you work hard for eight or nine months to get back and it doesn’t stop here,” Rubio said. “You have to work even harder now to get back in shape, to get back to the point you want to be feeling the game again, and that doesn’t come easy.”

Yet, add logging a season-high 27 minutes Monday and a desperate Wolves team slipping down the standings at 16-18, can at least glean some positives as they head back to frigid Minneapolis.

“I tell him to be patient, to keep working on his legs, keep working on his body. It’s going to turn around sooner or later, but he’s got to be patient and stay positive,” Barea said. “And I tell him he’s young. He’s 22, he has nothing to worry about.”

Maybe so. But right now, it’s hell.

Adelman In Minnesota?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Admit it: the Minnesota Timberwolves’ coaching search has gone on for so long you forgot they still haven’t replaced Kurt Rambis.

Any and every available coaching candidate worth his whistle has been in and out of the Twin Cities to speak with general manager David Kahn and the organization’s brass about the open spot. And you can finally add ex-Rockets coach Rick Adelman to that list, per Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune:

The Wolves brass worked for weeks to get Adelman to come in for more than a phone interview.  If he wants the job, and they can agree on a salary, the job is probably his.

The salary would probably have to be around $5 million per year.

Adelman joins Don Nelson and Sam Mitchell, likely, as the team’s top candidates.  The 65-year-old Adelman has taken time off during his career, and the thought is he might want to take another year off to spend time with his family.

Adelman’s career record is 945-616 in 20 seasons with Portland, Golden State, Sacramento and Houston. He favors an up-tempo style, which is said to be what the Wolves seek.

The list of candidates linked to the job is extensive.

In addition to Adelman, Nelson and Mitchell, names like Larry Brown, Terry Porter, Mike Woodson and Bernie Bickerstaff were all mentioned as possible replacements for Rambis. Of this group, only Woodson has landed elsewhere. He has already signed a contract to join Mike D’Antoni‘s staff in New York.

If Adelman is the choice, the Timberwolves have every right to be excited. He would improve the situation in Minnesota the minute he walks through the door.

Larry Brown To The Timberwolves?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – This one sounds too good to be true.

As if the Minnesota Timberwolves haven’t done everything in David Kahn‘s powers to make themselves the most interesting non-playoff team in the league this summer, now comes word that their seemingly never-ending coaching search has taken yet another sharp turn toward yet another Hall of Famer.

Larry Brown is the man in Kahn’s crosshairs these days, per a report from Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune:

After interviewing Rick Adelman and Don Nelson over the weekend, the Timberwolves intend to interview Larry Brown and possibly one or two others in this first phase to replace fired coach Kurt Rambis.

When the Wolves will interview Brown, who has coached teams to both NBA and NCAA titles, is uncertain because of a recent death in his family, according to a league source with knowledge of the team’s search.

If they do, they will have interviewed two coaches among the top six all time in NBA career victories. Nelson is No. 1 with 1,335. Brown is No. 6 with 1,098.

The Wolves so far have interviewed Bernie Bickerstaff, Terry Porter, Mike Woodson, Adelman and Nelson. Add Brown to that list and four of those candidates are age 65 or older, a sign team President David Kahn is looking for experience and track record for such a young team.

Brown, 70, has coached nine NBA teams and was fired by Charlotte 28 games into last season. He would appear to be a long shot for the job, because he’s not the kind of coach with fast-break basketball in his bones and is known for being impatient with young players. He also often wants to trade much of the roster after taking a new job.

But there is a connection here: He and Kahn have known each other since the late 1970s, when Brown coached UCLA and Kahn was a student-newspaper reporter there, and Kahn considers Brown one of his mentors.

We’d be lying if we said we’re anything other than completely intrigued by the idea of Brown and Kahn rekindling their working relationship, albeit with a much different dynamic now with Kahn as the boss.

As infuriating as it can be watching the Timberwolves operate sometimes, we have to admit that Kahn keeps things extremely interesting.

Now if he can just make a decision on his next coach a little faster than he did in firing his Rambis …

Big Men Ready To Rock The Vote!

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – If one pollster in Oregon has it right, the NBA could add another alum to its growing list of political heavyweights currently in office.

Republican Chris Dudley, the former Knicks, Nets and Trail Blazers big man, is in a fight to the finish in Oregon’s gubernatorial race. Dudley was three percentage points ahead (46 to 43) of Democratic candidate and former Gov.  John A. Kitzhaber, per a Fox 12/Portland Tribune/Portland Public Broadcasting poll conducted by local pollster Tom Hibbits.

With a margin of error in the poll of 4.4 percentage points, Dudley might want to hold off on any premature celebrating. But he won’t have to go far in search of advice if he does convince enough people to “Join Oregon’s Comeback.”

Former NBA All-Star Kevin Johnson is the mayor of Sacramento and NBA Hall of Famer Dave Bing is the mayor of Detroit. Dudley isn’t the only 7-footer and retired NBA veteran seeking office. Shawn Bradley, the No. 2 pick in the 1993 NBA draft, is the Republican candidate for the 44th District seat in the Utah House of Representatives.

We usually try to steer clear of anything other than hideout politics around here, but we’re officially on the bandwagon with any former NBA players rocking the vote on Election Day across the country — that would be Tuesday folks, so get out and vote! Dudley is fighting long odds.

A win would be historic for a couple of reasons, as he’d also be the first former NBA player elected governor. No Republican has been elected Oregon’s governor since 1982. A Yale graduate, Dudley’s long been a champion for diabetes research and now he’d be a political pioneer, of sorts (the trail was first blazed by former Knicks great Bill Bradley, a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, served three terms as a Democratic senator from New Jersey).

It always helps to have influential friends in all the right places. Dudley’s donor list (per the New York Times) is rather impressive for any candidate, let alone a political novice:

Among the contributors to Dudley’s campaign are N.B.A. Commissioner David Stern; the founder of Nike, Phil Knight; the coaches P. J. Carlesimo and Rick Carlisle; and his former Blazers teammates Clyde Drexler and Terry Porter.

“The voters of this state don’t get too excited about Republican governors, I can tell you that right now,” said Porter, who is a member of the campaign’s finance committee. “But he’s going to put in the tireless effort that he’s always been known for on the basketball court.”

We haven’t forgotten that TNT’s very own Charles Barkley has talked for years about running for governor of his home state of Alabama. Sounds good to us. Too bad he won’t be the first.

Whenever you are ready Chuck!