MINNEAPOLIS — Kevin Martin didn’t get a hug from Rick Adelman this time around.
Instead of embracing his long-lost shooting guard as he had when Martin signed a free-agent, sign-and-trade deal with Minnesota this summer, the Timberwolves coach was all business during the team’s media day Monday at the Target Center.
“Seeing him for the first time today,” smiled Martin, who played for Adelman in Sacramento and Houston, “that’s when you really know the season’s here.”
The preamble to professional hoops in the Twin Cities is back.
And so is Adelman.
There was no particular juncture in which the veteran head man decided he’d return to coach the club he took over two years ago. But with his wife Mary Kay’s health remaining steady and owner Glen Taylor forking out cash to fill in several talent chasms, Adelman had a pretty good idea where he’d be when training camp opened in Mankato this week.
“It really took quite a long time,” Adelman said in his first interaction with reporters since the end of last season. “It’s one of those situations where I remember last year I said I wanted to make up my mind fairly quick. Well, it’s not a situation you do that. It’s not just something happens, you operate, it’s over with. It’s just kind of a constant process all summer.”
That process included several consultations with a Portland, Ore., doctor discussing treatment for his wife’s seizures. She suffered a series of them in January that caused Adelman to spend three weeks away from the team.
Her seizures are under control, but the trick has been finding medications with the least amount of adverse side effects, Adelman said.
“You don’t know how that’s gonna go, but everything has been going pretty, pretty good, pretty consistent all summer long,” said the coach, whose two Timberwolves teams went a combined 57-91. “The whole time, I was pretty intent on going about it where (I was) anticipating coming back and doing the things that are necessary to get ready for that.”
That included heavy input as new president of basketball operations Flip Saunders made a series of roster changes, chief among them landing Martin and re-signing center Nikola Pekovic and small forward Chase Budinger.
Martin and the team agreed to terms July 2 — well before Adelman’s return was set in stone.
But Martin figured his longtime tutor would be back.
“I know how much he loves the game, and I knew that his wife was progressing well, so I had a good feeling that he was gonna come back,” Martin said. “I think we’re all happy to see him back — that’s the main thing — in good spirits and excited about this team.”
Pekovic, who spent most of the offseason in his home country of Montenegro, voiced a little more doubt.
“I think everybody was really concerned about that,” Minnesota’s leading scorer last season said. “Is he gonna be back or not?”
It became clear within the past month Adelman, 67, would. Saunders reiterated several times he fully expected him back, and Taylor confirmed his president’s notions.
Now it’s up to Adelman, who eclipsed 1,000 career victories last year, to lead a 17th team to the playoffs in 23 years as a head coach. Minnesota’s nine-year postseason drought is the NBA’s longest active one, and part of the impetus to return was making good on his promise to end it.
He moves forward with full support from his wife, Taylor and Saunders, Adelman said.
“I felt there were some pieces here and we could turn the thing around and we could put the franchise going in the right direction,” Adelman said. “So yeah, if possible, I wanted to finish it.”
Chase reaction: Not often prone to exhibiting much emotion, Adelman let out a heartfelt sigh when asked about Budinger’s knee injury that could cost him time at the season’s outset.
“Ugh,” Adelman said, pausing to collect his thoughts. “I felt so bad for him.”
According to team reports, Budinger damaged cartilage in his left knee — the same one that sported a torn meniscus last year, requiring surgery that cost him 59 games of his first season in Minnesota.
Budinger was scheduled to undergo arthroscopic surgery Monday in Birmingham, Ala. No timetable for his return has been released.
“I don’t want it to be a trend,” Adelman said. “Last year, it seemed to be. It all snowballed as soon as we had an injury. We don’t want to see that. We want to see him get back as quickly as possible.”
It’s certainly not a good omen for a team that lost almost all of its core players to injury last season and went 31-51 as a result. But the Timberwolves aren’t focusing on that heading into camp, which begins Tuesday at Minnesota State in Mankato.
“What can you say? Honestly, it’s a tragedy,” forward Dante Cunningham. “We’re here for him, but as his team we have to put our head down and keep moving forward.”
No starter surprises: When asked to project his starting lineup for Minnesota’s Oct. 30 opener at home against Orlando, Adelman didn’t try to keep any secrets.
He didn’t drop any bombshells, either.
Ricky Rubio at point guard, Martin at the two, Kevin Love at power forward and Nikola Pekovic at center — all locks long before Monday’s press gathering. Budinger and free-agent addition Corey Brewer were expected to battle for the starting three position, but that storyline becomes moot for the moment with Budinger’s injury.
So the job is Brewer’s to lose.
It wouldn’t be his first starting experience here. The Timberwolves drafted Brewer seventh overall in 2007, and he spent the first three years of his career in Minneapolis. He scored a career-high 13 points per game in 2008-09 and started all 82 contests in 2009-10.
Martin had received similar tutelage while working his own way into the league with Sacramento.
“I had a lot of good players in front of me — the Bobby Jacksons, the Doug Christies — that not only did good business on the court, but they helped me become the player I am,” said Martin, who now enters the 10th season of his NBA tenure. “Year 10, you start to look yourself in the mirror, and you’ve got a couple great years and a couple good ones (left). I feel like I’m in the point in my career where I feel comfortable doing things like that, because I know I can help the player out. He’s gonna look back on his career, and hopefully he says, ‘Kevin Martin sent me a text and changed my career.'”
Martin not only texted Muhammad but had a heart-to-heart conversation with him, too. Martin’s message: focus on basketball.
That’s what Muhammad says he’s been trying to do since entertaining a female guest without permission — a violation of rookie symposium rules — and moving on after a one-year college stint that earned him the label of a selfish player.
He even penned a letter to Saunders and Taylor voicing his remorse, promising it wouldn’t happen again.
“Just be smarter,” Muhammad said. “It’s something I learned from. Now, I’m past that working on the season. It’s been really good listening to the guys and taking advice from them. And like I said, just learning from your mistakes and don’t let it happen again.”