MINNEAPOLIS — Rick Adelman only briefly welcomed Luc Mbah a Moute into the Timberwolves fold Wednesday.
“From what I’ve heard,” the freshly delivered forward said of his new coach, “he doesn’t talk a lot.”
It will be a mutual acclamation period for Mbah a Moute and the Timberwolves after he was traded Tuesday in exchange for Derrick Williams. Only two days ago, he was preparing to tangle with Chris Paul and the Clippers this Friday.
Wednesday, he was getting to know Adelman for a few minutes and undergoing an hours-long physical in order to be cleared to put on a black, sleeved alternate Timberwolves jersey.
“Obviously, surprised,” the 6-foot-8, 230-pound defensive specialist said of his migration. “But excited at the same time. This is a good team, the direction they’re moving forward to is exciting. And to be a part of it is special. So, hopefully I’ll come here and do what I do best, and have a good time doing it.”
“It” is defending shooting guards, small forwards and power forwards with equal ardor — the niche he carved out for himself in five years with the Milwaukee Bucks before they traded him to Sacramento this offseason. His tenure there lasted nine games, as Minnesota dealt Williams once Adelman and president of basketball operations Flip Saunders realized the power forward just wasn’t going to fit into the mix here.
The hope is that Mbah a Moute helps fill a bench void that Williams never could — either by subbing in and matching up with an opposing scoring machine or starting and allowing Corey Brewer to come off the bench.
The similarly defensive-minded small forward did that in Denver the past two seasons admirably, and Adelman had mentioned using him in a similar role before possible starter Chase Budinger went down with a preseason knee injury.
Adelman had no clue immediately before Wednesday’s game against the Nuggets where exactly Mbah a Moute will help.
But the coach does know how necessary the UCLA product’s assistance has become.
“My biggest concern is not really how are we gonna fit him in,” Adelman said. “It’s what are we gonna do to get a second group that’s gonna be consistent? That’s really it.”
Minnesota’s starting five of Brewer, Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic has racked up more minutes than any other No. 1 unit in the NBA. Its bench, meanwhile, is the league’s second-lowest scoring one and hasn’t been able to build or protect very many leads.
Until Budinger returns, at least, Adelman and Saunders are banking on either Mbah a Moute or perhaps Brewer to shore up the second unit.
“If our second group can’t score,” Adelman said, “maybe they can make enough stops.”
In Mbah a Moute, Adelman gets a low-scoring, sixth-year veteran who’s equally adept at stopping wing players as he is at muscling up on bigs. The Cameroon native — he’s actually a prince in his hometown of Bafia — comes from a lowly, rebuilding team to one seeking to terminate a nine-year playoff drought.
It’s an unexpected but welcome change, Mbah a Moute said.
“It’s always good to be in a situation like this,” Mbah a Moute said. “All these pieces in place to make a run for the playoffs, and we never know what happens after that.”
Williams, meanwhile, goes to a Kings team hoping for a fresh start after notching 10.1 points, 3.8 rebounds and 22.6 minutes per game in two-plus seasons in the Twin Cities.
The 2011 No. 2 overall draft pick told the Kings’ website he thought he’d fit into the Sacramento mix well. He’s penciled in to start at small forward Friday.
“This is a new beginning,” Williams said. “It’s a new start for myself, and for the team.”
Both Adelman and Love wished Williams the best out west. The coach tried to dispel notions that Williams had fallen out of favor with him — even in the wake of four active DNPs and 14.7 minutes per game this season.
“A lot of people think, and I read about, he’s in the dog house,” Adelman said. “I haven’t had a dog for a long time.
“It was just something that never seemed to click.”
But the transition away from Williams and to Mbah a Moute won’t take place overnight. He’s had less than 24 hours to start learning Adelman’s offense, and his new teammates have to learn him, too.
Even Love, who went to the 2007-08 Final Four with Mbah a Moute before both declared for the NBA Draft.
“I never thought I’d see that guy again,” an engaging but visibly tired Mbah a Moute joked.
“It’s pretty tough” adjusting to a new teammate midseason, Love said. “I would say it would be a little bit more tough had D-Will been a starter or something, playing 25, 30-plus minutes a night. … I think if personalities were to clash, or something like that, maybe it would be different. But Luc is such an easy guy to get along with, he’s going to compete and go out every night and fight.”