By all knowledgeable accounts, Rick Adelman continues to lie low this summer, leaving the Timberwolves’ free-agent footwork to president of basketball operations Flip Saunders, director of basketball administration Rob Babcock and the rest of the Minnesota front office.
Yet, without uttering a word, he’s already had a rotund influence upon a pair of top targets.
Incumbent small forward Chase Budinger and league-surveying shooting guard Kevin Martin, both unrestricted free agents, enjoyed past stints under Adelman and were thrilled to reunite with him on a different roster. Budinger, whom the Timberwolves are intent upon re-signing, was traded to Minnesota last summer after playing for Adelman’s Rockets teams from 2009-2011. Martin spent the first two years of his NBA career under the 22-year coach’s tutelage then rejoined him in Houston for the 2010-11 campaign.
Several NBA coaches have made widely-reported pitches to the league’s highest-profile free agents this week. Adelman may well have contacted Budinger and Martin, for all we know, but the point here is he doesn’t necessarily have to.
Although far from a guarantee of services, Adelman’s relationship with both and a strategy that compliments their skill sets are two built-in bargaining chips.
“I love Rick,” Budinger told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “I love the guys there. I love playing in the system. So I’d definitely love to be there. Rick knows how I play and how I fit in with that system he has.”
That system involves a lot of off-ball movement and perimeter shooting, an area where the Timberwolves just endured a historically bad year. Budinger’s knee injury that required surgery certainly hurt matters; he’s a 35.8 percent 3-point shooter for his career, which includes a 40.2-percent clip his final season in Houston, and missed 59 games during the 2012-13 campaign.
Keeping him likely won’t come cheap.
Budinger made $942,000 last season, the last in his four-year rookie contract. He’s in line for a substantial raise, and media reports indicate he has the Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee and New Orleans courting him, among others.
According to Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, the Timberwolves extended four-year offers Monday to Budinger and Bucks unrestricted free-agent shooting guard J.J. Redick. The former’s annual asking price could be around $4 million — a big raise for a team with so many holes to plug, though Budinger’s Bird rights allow Minnesota to exceed the salary cap in re-signing him.
The Adelman name might come more in handy with Martin.
With the Redick offer reportedly on the table, discussions concerning the nine-year pro have dwindled just a bit. But contracts can’t become official until July 10 when the salary cap is released, meaning there’s plenty of time to deal with Martin, especially if things with Redick and hotly-pursued shooting guard target O.J. Mayo fall through.
Saunders called Martin at 11:01 p.m. Sunday, the moment free agency negotiations became allowable, ESPN’s Marc Stein reported.
A 38.5 percent 3-point shooter for his career, Martin brought in about $12.4 million last season. That’s considerably more than the approximate $7 million Minnesota has available for adding a shooting guard, but Martin appears to be a bit past his prime and likely won’t receive a maximum deal.
If he still feels anything like he did about Adelman in February 2010, Martin might not mind a pay cut to play for him a third time.
“I couldn’t have packed my bags faster when I found out I was going to Houston to play for Rick Adelman again,” Martin said then.
It didn’t take long for Adelman to make such an impression.
The Kings drafted Martin 26th overall in 2004, and he played for Adelman in the coach’s final two years with Sacramento. A 2010 three-team trade sent Martin to Houston, where Adelman had been in place for three seasons after the Kings decided not to renew his contract.
The two-guard got one more full season with him before the Rockets let Adelman go in 2011.
“To be losing a coach of his caliber, and also losing a lot of good coaches, a lot of good people, it’s very hard,” Martin said following the firing. “I think we lost one of the greatest coaches of all time.”
Five other players — Jerome Kersey, Jon Barry, University of Minnesota product Bobby Jackson, Metta World Peace (then known as Ron Artest) and most recently Brad Miller — have followed Adelman from one team to another during his career. Martin would be the first to play for him with three different franchises.
Any player hoping to rendezvous with Adelman should do so with some caution, of course. His future with the team appeared hazy heading into the offseason after his wife, Mary Kay, suffered a series of seizures that caused him to miss several weeks during the season.
But all indications have been that her health’s improving, and Saunders and owner Glen Taylor both fully expect Adelman’s return next year.
If the free-agent cards fall just right, he might bring a couple important pieces with him.