Tim Bouvine: T’Wolves Adelman disproves prevailing NBA coaching theory

Tim Bouvine

We’ve all heard it and perhaps subscribed at times to the view that National Basketball Association coaches more or less get out of the way of their players and let them freelance to the nightly ESPN highlight reel.

Halfway through the abbreviated NBA season it has been apparent that new Minnesota Timberwolves Head Coach Rick Adelman mixes and matches his lineup in masterful fashion on an almost nightly basis.

The NBA has long been known as a matchup league that ascribes to the theory that the key to nightly success is to find the right one on one matchup to exploit. Adelman and his able coaching staff adjust on the fly as well or better than the rest of the league.

Tuesday night’s 109-97 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on the road is a perfect example of the kind of magical in-game adjustments that Adelman orchestrates to near-perfection. Trailing for most of the game Adelman rode the wave of his bench to an NBA season-high 72 points from his reserves and overtook the Clippers with a 36 point fourth quarter that featured Michael Beasley and rookie Derrick Williams instead of Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love.

Both Rubio and Love played significantly fewer minutes than normal, proving that Adelman is not afraid to sit his stars, even in the crunch time of the 4th quarter if others are out-producing the featured duo that particular night.

Both Beasley and Williams shot lights out last night. Beasley and Williams both contributed 27 points with Williams hitting a remarkable 9 out of 10 shots and Beasley connecting on a “mere” 11 out of 15 attempts. Ironically, both players have been mentioned in trade rumors recently with cross-town Clipper rival the Los Angeles Lakers, the Wolves opponent Wednesday night.

In a mere three months, Adelman already stands head and shoulders above the rest of the coaches in the Twin Cities with the possible exception of Twins skipper Ron Gardenhire. Adelman makes the in-game adjustments that puzzle Viking coach Leslie Frazier and his coaching experience (945 wins and 616 losses) dwarfs the Wild’s rookie coach Mike Yeo.

The Timberwolves currently stand at 18-17 and are on the cusp of a playoff position. It is quite a remarkable turnaround for the perennially pathetic Timberwolves of recent lore. The team stumbled to a 17-65 record last season.

The “Association” is much like other professional sports that feature players not coaches, but watch Adelman closely next time as he lets the game dictate what direction he should move in next. Whether it’s an unorthodox three point guard court adjustment or his utilization of a seldom featured player that finds his game for a night, Adelman will usually “feel” his way through a game in majestic fashion.

The man certainly knows how to coach and his vivid involvement in each game has made a believer in fans throughout Minnesota that the NBA is not simply a caretaker league. Adelman’s impact is proof-positive that coaching matters at all levels, even in the somewhat loosely structured and entertainment focused NBA.

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