United (under a smart coach) We (know when to) Run.

Almost the very first thing David Kahn said upon his hiring, during the resulting press conference, was that he thought the Wolves needed to run.

For anyone who'd watched Al Jefferson as the centerpiece of the Minnesota offense, the assertion was jarring. He'd looked at the Timberwolf roster and concluded that "We need to run"? Three of our more productive players were Jefferson, Kevin Love, and Craig Smith. There were times the previous year when I'd look down from my nosebleed season tickets and picture three rhinoceroses, walking away with the word "Wolves" written across their butts. "I think we need to run"? It was like saying he thought we needed to trade everyone. (Insert a parenthetical remark of your own here.)

Since that opening press conference we've been talking about what, exactly, Kahn meant. What did it mean to trot out a "United We Run" marketing slogan? This year, we have a new phrasing of Kahn's doctrine – running is, we are told, 'in our coach's DNA' – and we have another new answer about what that actually means on the court.

Rick Adelman: he has winning in his DNA.

The hiring of Kurt Rambis seemed to tell us that the "Showtime" Lakers were our model. Only.... Did Rambis himself understand that? A year into Rambis's tenure with the team, I contrasted "Showtime" with the "Seven Seconds or Less" Phoenix Suns, asking whether Rambis was aiming for the former or the latter.

We've been debating stuff like whether Al Jefferson's game, or Kevin Love's, can fit with a running team ever since David Kahn's first couple of comments about the Wolves team he was taking over. "Can Kevin Love be the PF in a Running Offense?" "How does Al Jefferson fit the running style?" We're asking these questions as if every significant player on the roster needs to be another Shawn Marion. Isn't there still some room to ask: Just how much of a running offensive style would this be, exactly?

The team's "Pace" numbers, under Rambis, were high. They were much higher than they'd been the two previous years. Last season we paced the league:


2007-2008: 91.9 (13th of 30)

2008-2009: 91.6 (15th of 30)

2009-2010: 96.1 (3rd of 30)

2010-2011: 96.5 (1st of 30)

On Canis, we referred to Rambis trying to race his "tricycle" offense down the driveway and into the street with one tire falling off. There was also the counterargument that it was really turnovers giving other teams fast-break opportunities that caused the high pace numbers.

It's 2012 now. Rick Adelman, noted architect of the Sacramento Kings' sudden emergence as the gun-shootin'-est team in the West, is at the helm. (Adelman kicked off training camp with a right old fusillade of coach scorn about the Wolves' ability to turn the ball over, too. )

So, what's in Rick's DNA? Glance at those Pace numbers over time again:

2007-2008: 91.9 (13th of 30)

2008-2009: 91.6 (15th of 30)

2009-2010: 96.1 (3rd of 30)

2010-2011: 96.5 (1st of 30)

2011-2012: 92.6 (11th of 30)

The Wolves' turnover numbers are still problematic. The team's fast break points, too, have dipped somewhat from last season, at least in sources I can find. We're running the flamboyant rookie PG with the big turnover rate out there, and playing some exciting ball. But that's not meant a screaming-fast, fast breaks first offense. Has it?

In general I think the use of "Pace" is problematic. That number probably should get called "Possessions" instead. But given that we've ticked off the usual suspects – turnovers, fast break points, defensive rating – and found everything moving in the same basic direction, it's probably fair to say that Rick Adelman has moderated the Wolves' running ways in order to win some games.

The post-lockout season's stirred this pot, too:

A passel of teams have moved noticeably on the Pace rankings relative to last year. Minnesota is one. But when Phoenix and Cleveland squared off on January 12th, and the Cavs won 101-90? That slow pace was as much the Suns' pace as Cleveland's. In fact, Phoenix is currently sporting the league's 15th-fastest pace. Cleveland is ranked 7th. You could have watched that game and fairly concluded that Phoenix had successfully slowed Cleveland down.

Sorry, maybe I should have told you to sit down first.

Things have changed:

Putting the Pace pedal down:

Portland has gone from the lowest pace in the league to the 5th-highest.

Miami's gone from 20th to 3rd overall.

Milwaukee's gone from 25th overall to 11th. Scottie Skiles, who are you?

Charlotte was 26th last year, and is 13th this time around.

That change in Portland sticks out like a sore thumb. Miami is pretty interesting to consider too.

Lowering "pace":

Toronto's reined things in, from 11th to 23rd. (Dwane Casey knows what he's trying to do, anyway.)

Indiana's gone from 6th to 21st.

The Clippers, 12th to 19th. (Yes, they've "slowed down" with Chris Paul on board.)

Orlando's slipped from 17th to 25th in Pace. And in several other senses.

Phoenix has gone from 7th to 15th. They haven't really been "SSOL" for a while now, unless the "OL" means something to do with luck.

Houston, 8th to 14th. "Smash Mouth" ball?

The top Pace number in the league right now is Denver's, at 96.1. That's a bit below our league-highest number last year. However, below that the general numbers for the league are off by a measure, all the way down the rankings.

What can we expect as the season wears on? It's easy to imagine that things will gradually drift back to the league's previous norms, but some of these teams aren't in character right now. Will Portland and Denver be able to win in the playoffs at their high current paces? That's quite new for the Blazers.

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