MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Even with a lockout firmly in place across the NBA, the Minnesota Timberwolves have still managed to land one of the biggest free agents on the market.
The team announced on Tuesday that it has an agreement in principle with Rick Adelman to make one of the game’s great offensive minds its next head coach. An introductory news conference will be held once the contract is signed, but scheduling conflicts mean that is unlikely to happen this week.
Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but there is no doubt that Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor had to dig deep into his billionaire pocketbook to land a coach who is eighth on the career victories list. The 65-year-old Adelman is 945-616 in 20 seasons as coach of the Trail Blazers, Kings, Warriors and Rockets.
Adelman and the Rockets parted ways in April after his four-year, $16.25 million contract expired. It likely took quite a bit more to convince a coach who has led a team to the playoffs in 16 of his 20 seasons on the bench to take over a young group that is 32-132 in the past two years.
In doing so, Taylor delivered an emphatic statement to any fans who may have doubted his commitment to getting things turned around in Minnesota, especially considering he still owes the fired Kurt Rambis $4 million over the final two years of his contract.
Adelman led the Blazers to the NBA Finals in 1990 and 1992 and has gained a reputation over two decades in the league as a coach who gets the most out of the roster he’s given.
He replaces Rambis, who was given just two years as president of basketball operations David Kahn’s first coaching hire.
Kahn clashed with Rambis over the team’s pace of play, pushing for a faster, more free-flowing game while Rambis insisted that the players were too young to handle such responsibility.
Now it will be up to Adelman to try to harness the energy of the youngest team in the league and get the players to focus on being more consistent and professional night-in and night-out.
He has a promising nucleus to work with in All-Star forward Kevin Love, No. 2 overall draft choice Derrick Williams, Spanish import Ricky Rubio and gifted scorer Michael Beasley.
So the question becomes, does Adelman have the patience to teach Rubio the NBA game, put up with Beasley’s hijinks both on and off the court and figure out a way to find enough playing time for Williams, Beasley, Wes Johnson and Martell Webster, all of whom have similar skill sets?
Like most coaches, Adelman has enjoyed his greatest successes on veteran-laden teams. And at 65, conventional wisdom was that he would wait for a job that included a more experienced roster who was considered closer to contending for the championship that has eluded him all these years.
But he has a good relationship with Love, the face of the franchise who played high school ball with Adelman’s son in Oregon. The versatile power forward seems to be an ideal fit for the high post in Adelman’s offense, which has utilized nifty-passing, sharp-shooting big men like Vlade Divac, Chris Webber and Jerome Kersey to great effect.
There is no doubt that Adelman will press to add a veteran or two once the lockout is lifted — hard-nosed Houston forward Chuck Hayes, perhaps? — to show the young pups how to be pros.
The Timberwolves are expected to have a decent amount of cap space to make that happen, depending on what the next collective bargaining agreement looks like.
So that, combined with Taylor’s hard push, convinced Adelman to jump on board.
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