Timberwolves preview: New coach Rick Adelman keeps a close eye on limiting his players’ mistakes

Rick Adelman often will sit by himself in a corner of the Timberwolves’ practice facility to observe his new team without distractions.

Adelman appears to have a comfortable view of what’s going on and relaxes in his seat until he sees something he can’t ignore – a turnover, a poor pass or a defensive mistake. If he believes the mistakes are major, he will get out of his chair and stop the drills or scrimmage to address the matter.

“Anytime he feels the need to make a specific point, he’s going to stop things and make it,” Wolves assistant coach T.R. Dunn said. “When you’re with a new group, you want to bring things out right away.”

Dunn, entering his seventh season as an assistant on Adelman’s staff, has seen the veteran coach make his views known on numerous occasions. Adelman’s attention to detail is a major reason why he is eighth among NBA coaches in career wins (945-616, .605 winning percentage) and has made 16 playoff appearances in his 20-season coaching career.

Adelman would not have his track record if not for his insistence on good ballhandling and team defense, two areas he is trying to upgrade in his first season with the Wolves.

“I’ve been doing this a long time,” he said. “One thing we’ll be doing here is a lot of development. things have to change. If they really want to get better, they’ll have to get out of their comfort zone of doing things they used to.”

Adelman might harp on a daily basis about taking care of the ball and getting back on defense, but he is getting little resistance from Wolves players. they welcome the determined approach after winning only 32 games the past two seasons.

“Coach means business,” shooting guard Wesley Johnson said. “He believes in getting his point across. I’m looking forward to having a season with him.”

Adelman almost passed on taking the Wolves job. he told Wolves president of basketball operations David Kahn that he wanted to spend more time with his family in the Portland, Ore., area and was considering taking a season off. but Adelman never said he was retiring.

Dunn, who was with Adelman for four seasons in Houston, knew the 65-year-old wanted to get away from the game for a while, but he never believed Adelman was ready to give up coaching. Dunn knew Adelman still had the passion to coach before accepting Kahn’s offer to coach the Wolves, who finished a league-worst 17-65 last season.

“On the outside, he looks calm as he always does, but the fire is there,” Dunn said. “The success we had in Houston, when Tracy (McGrady) and Yao (Ming) were hurt, fired him up and told him he can still do this. That was actually the turning point for him.”

Adelman’s contract was not renewed after Houston finished 43-39 last season and failed to make the Western Conference playoffs for a second consecutive season. Adelman had led the Rockets to the playoffs in his first two seasons, winning 55 and 53 games, respectively.

The Wolves, who have had seven consecutive losing seasons, represent another rebuilding job for Adelman, but his approach and principles haven’t changed. he is just as particular and demanding as he has been throughout his coaching career, and the Wolves are counting on those traits to help create a winning product. The changes already are evident.

“The atmosphere around here and in practice is so much different,” Wolves all-star forward Kevin love said. “You have to pay Adelman his respects. You just feel a different energy. You couldn’t say that in years past. it feels good.”

Adelman has shown the Wolves that he’s not afraid to take risks. he plans to use a “small-ball” offense revolving around point guards Luke Ridnour, J.J. Barea and rookie Ricky Rubio. Adelman has had similar systems in Houston and in Sacramento, where he guided the Kings to the playoffs in eight consecutive seasons. The three-guard system represents his preference to keep the ball in the hands of his best players.

Wolves players remember how difficult it was to defend Houston when Adelman was there. The Rockets were effective even with 6-foot-6 Chuck Hayes at center. There’s a relief among Wolves players that Adelman has brought his system to Minnesota.

“Every time we played Houston, I was always confused as a defender,” Wolves power forward Anthony Tolliver said. “Their offense was always moving. Their guys were never in the same place. You always wondered how and where the ball was going. I’m so glad that will be us this year. We get to confuse somebody else now.”

Follow Ray Richardson at Twitter.com/Twolvesnow.

Online: Adelman likely to start season with simplified offense. Go to TwinCities.com.

Page 12C: NBA season tips off today with five games.

Timberwolves preview: New coach Rick Adelman keeps a close eye on limiting his players’ mistakes


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