MINNEAPOLIS — Rick Adelman and his coaching staff spent three days meeting in Oregon last week. The Timberwolves’ training camp begins in two weeks, and the veteran NBA head coach will be there to prepare his revamped team for a 2013-14 playoff run.
Throughout a busy offseason that saw Flip Saunders replace David Kahn as the organization’s front-office czar and a flurry of free-agency maneuvering, it was assumed Adelman is coaching Minnesota this season. Any questions about his wife’s health were met with a short report that didn’t lend toward anything negative or regressive.
“He’s given every indication — when I talk to him, we really don’t bring it up about him not coming back,” Saunders said recently. “All we talk about is what we are doing moving forward. As I said from the day I took this job and as I sit here today, I am very confident that Rick is gonna be back.”
“Confident.” “Expect.” On their own, such words don’t erase reasonable doubt. But when coupled with the fact Adelman is living and working in the full capacity of an NBA coach at this point in the offseason, they were enough, Saunders said.
Even without ever asking Adelman point-blank if he’d return.
“The uncertainty is as any coach,” Saunders said, citing a conversation he had with Adelman during the coaching staff’s retreat to the Northwest. “Any coach could say ‘Hey, I don’t want to coach anymore.’ They could be done. … You talk to a guy for one hour about the team and about everything else. To me, that gives every indication that he’s coming back. I’ve never asked him.”
But not every coach has a wife who suffers from seizures, a situation that at one point caused Adelman to step away for three weeks during the season. He was able to return and finish out the year, and again, all indications this summer were that his wife Mary Kay is doing swell.
But after the start of 2013-14, Adelman’s future is cloudier. He could miss time on the sidelines again, and with every completed season will come more evaluation of how much longer he wants to balance a demanding profession with his family life.
Of course, much depends on the well-placed priority of being there for his wife, and her health and well-being moving forward.
It’s a potentially tough spot, but Timberwolves staffers seem to understand.
“At the end of the day, it’s his decision,” said recently-hired player development coach Bobby Jackson. “I would love for him to come back, but if his wife is sick and not doing well, then I understand. I would love to have that ability to work with him a couple years down the road.”
A former player of Adelman’s in Sacramento, Jackson clarified later in the conversation that he fully expected to Adelman to coach this upcoming season.
After that, who knows?
“I have no clue,” Jackson said. “Rick is a private guy, so he’s not gonna tell anybody what he’s going to do.”
Helping hand: A self-proclaimed “hothead” during his younger years, Jackson thinks he’s got a thing or two to impart upon rookie draft pick Shabazz Muhammad.
“I was kind of one of those kids where I would say anything and do anything,” said Jackson, a Minnesota Gophers product who played in the NBA for 12 years. “He can learn from me. I’m not saying that I’m perfect, but I’m looking forward to working with him and helping him develop as a player.”
Muhammad’s most recent run-in with trouble came at the NBA’s Rookie Transition Program. He was kicked out on the first day for violating a rule against entertaining unauthorized guests, allowing a female friend into his hotel room.
Muhammad also played under a falsified age at UCLA and earned a reputation as a sometimes selfish teammate.
Jackson knows a thing or two about controversy. He was one of several Minnesota players to admit to cheating during a widespread case of academic fraud, one that stripped him of Big Ten player of the year honors and the Gophers of a 1997 Final Four appearance.
He had to be reined in often as a young pro, too, and hopes to share some of his experience with Muhammad. In working out with him, Minnesota’s other rookies and forward Chase Budinger last week, Jackson saw why the Timberwolves drafted Muhammad 14th overall despite his perceived shortcomings.
“It sucks that he gets a bad rap for the things he did, but he’s honestly a really good kid,” Jackson said. “He’s a great basketball player, and he just want to come in and work and learn.
“I just said, ‘Dude, what you did in the past, you’ve got to put that behind you and move forward and try not to make the same mistakes.'”
Another player Jackson can’t wait to work with is free-agent signee Kevin Martin. The shooting guard was a rookie in Sacramento during Jackson’s final season there, and the former NBA Sixth Man of the Year immediately took Martin under his wing.
He hopes to do the same in the Twin Cities, though Martin requires far less guidance nine years later.
“That’s just my guy,” Jackson said. “We worked out together every day, and he was kind of my rook that I took everywhere with me and made him carry my bag and everything. He’s developed into a great pro, and I’m happy for him.”
Health hires: Nothing can prevent injuries throughout the course of an NBA season. But after a slew of them knocked the Timberwolves’ 2012-13 campaign far, far off the tracks, it became apparent they needed to a better job mitigating them.
So Minnesota went to the desert looking for help.
The team added a pair with Arizona State ties to its athletic training staff. Koichi Sato is now the team’s director of sports performance, and Mark Kryger was named director of athletic therapy. Sato received his Master’s degree from Arizona State and worked as an athletic trainer there from 2001-06, and Kryger comes to Minneapolis after serving as the Sun Devils’ rehabilitation coordinator since 2007.
“We are pleased to welcome Koichi and Mark to our training staff,” Timberwolves head athletic trainer Gregg Farnam said. “They both have many years of experience in working with athletes and will help us achieve the highest standard possible in the physical preparation and maintenance of our players.”
Both new hires will answer directly to Farnam. After spending five years with the Washington Wizards organization, Sato will be in charge of all efforts related to performance enhancement. Kryger’s job is to ensure players’ overall health, before and after any injuries that may occur.
The pair of additions gives the Timberwolves four fulltime athletic training staff members, including Farnam.
No new invites: Saunders said last week that second-round draft picks Robbie Hummel (2012), Lorenzo Brown (2013) and free agent Othyus Jeffers remain the only three training camp invitees without a guaranteed contract for the upcoming season.
There’s still time for the team to add another name or two to the mix. Minnesota has one open spot on the 15-team roster, though Saunders has said he may keep it open heading into the year.
The Timberwolves will hold training camp in Minnesota State in Mankato from Oct. 1-4. Their first preseason game is Oct. 7 at the Target Center against Russian professional team CSKA Moscow.