This afternoon, I was down at Target Center for Minnesota Timberwolves Media Day, where coach Rick Adelman and most of the Timberwolves players took questions from the media. It was a nice atmosphere and there is definitely a stronger buzz about the team than there was last season at this time.
I thought Adelman was impressive in some of his answers at today's event and transcribed them below the fold. He touches on topics ranging from Ricky Rubio's passing to Kevin Love at center to the Wolves defense from last season.
On the lockout:
"It was really difficult [not being able to talk to players during the lockout]. What made it so difficult was you never knew when they were going to come to an agreement. I always knew it would happen quickly, whenever it came together. I spent a lot of my time back in Oregon where we live just waiting for something to come back so we could get something set up here. But you were always kind of living in the unknown. I couldn't talk to the players. I really haven't talked to a lot of them or sat down one-on-one with them. We'll have an opportunity to do that in these next couple of weeks before we start playing. Kind of puts you behind the 8-ball.
You really don't know players until you put them on the court and see what their skills are. I think that will be our biggest challenge as a group from the staff to the players is to build a level of trust in a short period of time."
On why he took the job:
"I knew we had a lot of young players. When we played them last year, I was always surprised...I thought they should have won more games. But I mean, you're not here, you're not coaching them and you don't know why things happened. But the last two years in Houston, we went from having two superstars to being one of the favorites to being basically a young group and having guys take over roles that they weren't brought in to do. I found I really enjoyed the experience coaching that group because you saw the growth, you saw them grow into roles, you saw them grow into leadership roles. You always want a real talented team. You always want a chance to win everything. But I also know learning from that experience, I want to see if we can turn this thing around. I think we can build something that is positive and is moving forward and that really excites me. We have a really good experienced staff who feels the same way."
"There are two enormous areas of improvement looking at the film from all the games last year. These players have to take some responsibility at the defensive end. It's horrendous the way that they approach it. There's no sustained effort at that end. Maybe you're not as good as some of the best defensive teams, but there's no way you can give up as many easy baskets as they gave up. We came here in the 82nd game of the season and we won. We got whatever we wanted in our first option. We never even had to go anywhere else. I think they have to learn that they cannot give up easy baskets. I mean, they were last in the league in giving up points per game. They were last in almost every area. In transition defense. There is a lot of room for improvement. One thing we're going to do is make them understand that there is a responsibility out there every possession. You have to do a better job of making it harder on the other team to score. You're going to get beat, but you can't give up as many easy baskets as they give up."
"And for as much as they scored, and they were a pretty good offensive team, they led the league in turnovers. That's decision making. That's doing the things that are within your own strengths that they have to learn to do. And as a team, they did not get enough assists per game. They were something like 28th in assists last year. I've never had a team that has done that. There's a trust level and the way to play the game at both ends that we have to ingrain in them. We have to make them understand that this is how we're going to play. If we lose, fine, But we're going to play that way. And I think it's a fun way to play when there is responsibility. Again, it's a young team and I wish we had a couple of veterans coming in here who have had some success who can teach these guys. But with a young team, you're looking for growth in these areas. In the next two weeks, who's going to grow and who's going to buy in? Because they have to buy in as a group for what will give us the best chance to be successful."
On Ricky Rubio:
"I really haven't seen much of him. I've seen some tape. I know one thing. He can really pass the ball. He has great instincts. He's interesting because sometimes he has a pretty easy pass, but he'll go another direction and make the same pass but make it harder. But he pulls it off. He reminds me a lot of, in some ways, Jason Williams in Sacramento when he first came in. He saw everything on the court. That's what this kid does. He sees things. My job is to try to figure out what his best strengths are and get him success early so he has some confidence. That's true with all these guys. we have to put them in positions where they can succeed, and then they'll enhance their own games. Everybody talks about his shooting. We'll find out what he can do. But I know he's a very talented kid. He's unselfish. It's going to be fun watching him.
On Kevin Love:
Love, Beasley, these guys are really talented. They came from programs where they were top 10 picks or whatever. In some ways, things have been easy for them. They have to learn that they have to not only do things for themselves, they have to make their teammates better. They have to find a way to do that. I truly believe Kevin will do that naturally. I saw him his whole senior year at high school. I know he can do things a lot of people can't and things he hasn't done to this point. He has the court vision and the basketball IQ of a guy like Vlade Divac, who I had. He sees things on the court and he makes the right play. Even in high school, when he was a dominant guy, he'd still make the right play, whether he had the opportunity or his teammate was open. We're going to put him in situations where he's going to be a facilitator. I told him there's no way he should average 2-3 assists per game. I'm sorry, but that should be up. This whole team is that way. They have to learn how to share the ball and make the extra pass. If you get them to play the right way, Kevin is going to have opportunities he maybe didn't have in the past to find a cutter and create offense. I don't worry about Kevin, I just think his growth is going be there. If we become better as a team, they'll all figure out that this is fun and you'll get more credit on a winning team than on a team that's not winning."
"He's one of their best players, so he was someone who I kept telling our people in Houston, 'you figure out a way to get him with Yao and we've got something.' Those two guys together could've been great. I knew what type of player he was. It gives you a starting point. And I'm like everyone else, I never thought he was going to rebound like he did last year. I knew he'd be a good rebounder, but you never know. That just shows what type of ability he has.
On Michael Beasley:
"I think, with guys like Michael, there's a growth that guys go through in the league. He's a very talented player. He's very quick against 4s. He really should be overpowering 3s. He can play both positions. His growth is going to come if he starts making his teammates better. When he gets the ball, we're hoping he can attack, and if they come at him, he has to find someone else with the ball. He has to be as consistent as possible on defense. The effort has to be there all the time. With some guys, it takes longer. But I mean, let's face facts. I'm not hiding anything. They won 17 games last season. Let's come to realistic idea that things have to change. You can't go along the same way. I don't want to do that. I think these guys, if they really want to win, and really want to get better, have to realize, get out of your comfort zone, do things better in other areas and certainly, a guy like Michael, when he does it, everyone will follow. They're young and they have to take that challenge."
On the log jam at the 3, 4 and 5 positions:
"It's a very short time, two exhibition games, to figure out who plays the best together. There are two ends of the court. It's not like when I was growing up with girl's basketball where you could put in defenders and offensive players. I'd like to do that, but they won't allow it. Although, the rules are changing in this league, so maybe they'll throw that in there, too. I think you have to find, say in the 4th quarter, you have to have all of your best defenders out there, but have to find a way to score at the other end. That's a combination. We're approaching these two weeks as there will not be a regular starting team when we scrimmage. We're going to mix guys in and out all the time. What we decide for the first game may not hold true for the rest of the season. I'm not sure how I'll do that right now. I'm just going to have to learn as I go and trust my staff, who are very experienced in this game. I'm going to lean on them. The league was great, they gave us 5 of our first 6 at home. Unfortunately, they're all division favorites. If we come out, and we're ready to go and knock some of these people off, it is going to be better for us. But if we don't, are we playing the way we want to play? Are we getting better? That's what we're trying to do. Get better consistently every day. Not drop off or go back to old habits. You have to create new habits."
Balance of development vs. wins:
"I think you go with people who are going to help you win. I don't know about development. It's like the potential thing. Potential gets coaches fired. And now it's worse. I've been doing this a long time. I'm going to try to play the people who give us the best chance to win. Now, I may have to experiment. And I may play the wrong people at the wrong time. But that's what I have to figure out. Unfortunately, with the schedule the way it is, we're not going to be able to go out there and just do a regular practice all the time. We certainly can do developmental work. We can make sure a guy like Ricky Rubio will shoot the same amount of shots every day no matter what. Ultimately, it will be a learning process at the beginning."
On young guys playing such a condensed schedule:
"In one stretch this year, I think we play five in six nights. But these guys are all young. That's what they keep telling me. So they should have young legs. I don't know, it's going to be difficult. I guess I can be the old school ex-NBA player who says, "we used to play three games in three nights all the time. Then get up and fly commercial at 6 in the morning." I don' know how its going to be. I can be aware of where the team is at. You're certainly going to pay attention to your main players if they're playing a lot of minutes and pick a spot to give them more rest. It's really, once you get into it, if you have good habits going and you get into the game, you're going to revert back to those good habits [when you're physically tired]."
On playing Love at center:
"I think we have a number of guys who are flexible enough to play two positions and I like that. A lot depends on the defensive matchups. But I think you're going see Kevin playing some center. I haven't talked to these guys yet, but I think Beasley and Williams will play both 3 and 4. We're going to see what combinations work best. They are all three talented players so I don't see why we couldn't play them all together. The key is they're going to figure out how to defend and rebound, because offensively, we should have an advantage. When Kevin is at center, he has an advantage on the other guy at the offensive end. We have to figure out a way to do something at the other end.
There are a lot of people [at the center position on this team]. I have to evaluate it because you have different types of centers here. You have guys who are big and strong, and then you have guys who are very active. In our league, the center spot has really kind of been blown up. You have some big, strong guys, but you also have guys who are really mobile who aren't really centers. I think we have enough guys to balance both of those situations. I think Randolph can play there. He's going to have to learn how to use his quickness. Randolph has a lot of quickness, he's active and if he has to play a bigger, stronger guy, he has to figure out how to take advantage of it.