Adelman unsentimental about time with Kings

Adelman unsentimental about time with Kings

Published Jan. 16, 2012 9:27 p.m. ET

There was nothing different in his voice, no twitch of a facial muscle that might suggest a smile.

When Rick Adelman took the podium after the Timberwolves' 99-86 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Monday, he treated it like any other game, any other win. There was no indication that this victory, his team's fifth of the season, might be just a bit sweeter.

Because for Adelman, who coached the Kings from 1999-2006, it really wasn't. The coach has seen six years pass and two teams, two playoff appearances and 198 wins since he sat on the Kings bench. Only one player who played there under him remains, Francisco Garcia, and for the veteran coach, the Kings are just any other team.

"Nostalgia is way down the list of things right now," Adelman said before Monday night's game.

As it should be. Adelman has been vocal all season about the myriad changes he wants to implement in Minnesota, and he's still in the process of doing so. And despite having taken over the Kings job in a similar situation, during the 1998-99 NBA lockout, Adelman says he's never faced a challenge like this one.

Adelman joined the Kings the September before the lockout-shortened season of 1999. It was a similar time frame to the one he faced this season with the Timberwolves -- no contact with players, a shortened preseason -- but for the coach, there's no comparison.

"You look back, you look at the schedules that you had," Adelman said. "I don't remember the schedule being as brutal as this has been for us, but I also have to remember when I was in Sacramento I had some veterans who were on that team."

In the 50-game 1999 season, Adelman's team played on average every 1.78 days. In 2012, the Timberwolves will play every 1.85 days. The schedule is actually less demanding in that way, which underscores how much a good base of veteran players can alleviate the stresses of a lockout season. The average age of Adelman's 1999 team, which included experienced players like Vlade Divac and Chris Webber, was 26. The average age of this season's Timberwolves, without counting 35-year-old Brad Miller, who hasn't played a game, is 24.1. That's a sizeable difference, and it shows.

In fact, a greater similarity exists between the Timberwolves and Kings of 2012. Both teams have new coaches and young players, factors whose downsides have only been exacerbated by the lockout. Both Adelman and Sacramento's Keith Smart, who stepped in after the Kings fired Paul Westphal on Jan. 5, have had their struggles, and despite their differing levels of experience, each seems to know what he's in for in 2012.

"I'm dubbing it a traveling training camp because I have to try to implement what I know I'm comfortable with . . . but I've got to get them up to speed to me," Smart said about this season. "Some of them are walking on eggshells a little bit, but I'm trying to keep it very simple."

Adelman has embraced a similar mentality with his young team, trying never to overwhelm his players with too much, too fast. Both teams have faltered, and both have had their successes, to varying extents. So much of that success, the frequency and the amount, has depended on players buying into their new coach's systems, and on Monday night, both teams saw flashes of rhythm and chaos.

Fast forward to the second quarter, when Sacramento came back from an eight-point deficit. The Kings took complete control of the game and held the lead through much of the third quarter. But then it was Minnesota's turn, making the run it needed to respond as Kevin Love and Luke Ridnour seemed almost unable to miss. The Timberwolves outscored the Kings 32-24 in the fourth quarter, and in the game's final minutes there was little doubt of which team would finish the game on top.

If only for a night, Adelman's system seemed to be in place. His players are on board with the things he wants to implement, and it's beginning to show.

"Everybody's been on the same page with him since day one," Love said of his coach. "He's an easy guy to get along with . . . We know exactly what he wants, day in and day out. We don't want to let him down."

And on Monday night, they didn't. Even if the win wasn't special for Adelman, it seemed different for much of his team, which appeared at its most confident. The locker room was louder postgame than it had been all season, laughs and high fives replacing the almost somber silence of last week's loss to Chicago. Instead of hurrying home, players relaxed with their sore feet in ice baths, laughing about tough referee calls that would have caused headaches and complaints on any other night.

It won't always be like that. Adelman said he's still looking for answers to his questions about this young team, and there will be nights when it doesn't function as cohesively as it did on Monday. Players will linger in the training room after games; others will hurry home. But that experience and trust the Timberwolves must have to be successful is building with each win.

Right now, it's difficult for Adelman to find similarities between these Timberwolves and his first Kings team in 1999 that finished with a 27-23 record and advanced to the first round of the playoffs. And though the challenges may be greater and different, there's always the chance, the hope, that the end result might not look too dissimilar.

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