Rick Adelman and David Kahn's Season-Ending Press Conference
President of Basketball Operations David Kahn and coach Rick Adelman addressed the media on Friday at Target Center during their season-ending press conference.
David Kahn's opening statement:
I'll tell you all what I told the players the other day: I thought we made tremendous strides this season. We introduced, under a new coaching staff, successfully, a new style of play. We became a much better team defensively. It probably doesn't feel that way this morning, but we did. Especially until the injuries hit us and then there was a brief period of time where, based on people telling me and some of you writing it, we became must-see TV nationally. We became the team everyone wanted to watch around the league and we did it while filling up this building; for the first time in a long time. I think we had 11 sellouts and I think by everybody's account, it was a different atmosphere here than it had been in many, many years. I told the players on the first day, before I introduced coach Adelman, that it was time for us to start winning. We did start winning and I do believe that you never know what would have happened, there are so many variables, but at the minimum, we would have hung into the playoff race until the very end. I think that the teams that were fighting for the 8th spot; we were certainly among them and there was a chance that we could have made it. But, we didn't, we got hurt. Some cases devastatingly hurt and I think we only had 2 players on the entire roster who didn't get hurt all season long. Almost everybody got hurt, some people for long periods of time. So, the first thing that I told the players the other day was: 'If there was ever a season to where you owe it to yourselves to get yourselves in the best shape of your lives, is this summer. You owe it to yourselves; you owe it to your teammates.' We simply can't go through another season like this, it's too hard. Everybody is going to have to do their best this summer to get in to great shape. Not that an injury can be prevented, some are freak. But, some can. The other thing is that, I know it has been a very tough 6 weeks. It's undeniable. It's also been a -- If there's one silver lining to it, I think it's been illuminating. Coach and I have talked about that a lot over the last several weeks. You put people in positions, to perhaps, they weren't accustomed to -- in larger roles and we were allowed to evaluate people, good, bad and ugly in terms of what they could, or could not do. When Ricky and to a lesser extent, Pek and Kevin, weren't out there to facilitate them. So now the challenge is making certain as to when we make evaluations this summer that we take the whole season into account. Not just the last 1/3, not just the first 2/3. It's got to both and we've got to make prudent, wise decisions going forward to make this a playoff team next year. As I said earlier, I thought we were on the brink of it this year and we want to be in the playoffs next year and I think that we will be in the playoffs next year if we do the right things for the team and we stay healthy. Healthy is really the key word there. Lastly, I'll share a little bit -- we had a nice coached meeting the other day. Talked about the team in general and it's always hard to do after a season, especially when it has been a tough ending. Cause, we're like everyone else: it's hard not to be affected by what's right in front of you. Even though, you have to balance it with the longer use sometimes. But, rest assured, we're going to do everything in our power this summer to make this a better team. No proverbial stone will be left unturned, No trade possibility will be turned down for any reason. You should assume that Ricky and Kevin will be here; they're cornerstones to what we're doing here and my fervent hope is that each of them retires here. But after those 2, not that everyone else needs to be on watch. There are a lot of players that, coaches, management, fans, front office that everybody likes, we just have to be very aggressive this year to make this team all that it can be and satisfy ourselves that we've done all that we can do, to do that."
On the teams' effort in the last 6 weeks...
Rick Adelman: "I think that there's a combination of things; obviously the injuries certainly have an effect on it. The type of season we had is just... and I look around even like last night, there were some teams that just got blown out last night. There's teams that would win by 30 one night and lose by 30 the next night. I think the season just kind of brought that on with a lot of teams. The injuries certainly affected us; the schedule affected us because this is a young team. We really broke down in areas when we lost people. Especially, defensively we broke down because we could not practice. You need to keep repetitive drills going all the time and we tried to do it, we tried to do it with film, but it wasn't successful. I think as the team started struggling and I think this happens with players or coaches or anybody. When you start struggling, you tend to go back to your old habits. This team, I think we gave in defensively a number of times when things didn't go well offensively because we didn't have our players. I think what David said is true; you try to evaluate overall and look at the reasons. If anything, I think the coaching staff -- we've talked a lot about what we're going to do next year. What we started to do at the start of the year was effective, it just went haywire and you couldn't stop the momentum. Last night it was unbelievable. Guys were getting beat who during the season -- making mistakes that we have rules that you follow defensively and they were making mistake that weren't as much physical as they were mental. I got to look at it and look at what we did that was right. But the players, like I said last night: they've got to look at themselves and be accountable, you've got to know better than that, you've got to be better than that. I'm kind of looking at it from the whole season aspect and realize that we have a really nice core group. We were pretty good defensively until we had the injuries and we had the schedule at the same time. That's not an excuse, but that is reality. You've got to look at that too.
On the players handling adversity...
Adelman: "Well I think that what David said; you learn about people when things are going good, but you really learn about people when things go tough and a lot of guys were asked to step into roles and they didn't respond. So you find out about that at that point. What I saw last night and what I think with young players is that there is a growing thing -- you see them play hard, put in effort and all of that.. But they don't understand that a lot of that is just mental. You get yourself on the right position on the court; especially defensively there are no secrets in this league. No one is running a whole different offense that we don't know about. This is the 4th time that we played Denver; we knew exactly what they were going to do. TR Dunn had the game and he went through everything and at halftime I went through everything he went through that we didn't do, that we talked about that we did before against them. So, I think mentally this group has to grow up. They have to grow up and be consistent day in and day out. I'll give you an example of Andre Miller: He just wants to pass and drive. We tried to make sure that we stayed under him and we had guys that thought "well I'm going to do something right for this team" and now he's just picking us apart. It's that type of thing that you've got to be -- there's a certain type of energy that you want. I thought that there was a lot of, like you said, guys just kind of gave in and you do that in this league and you're going to get your heads handed to you.
Q: How do you envision you’ll collaborate with Rick on who to target and who not to?
Kahn: Total. As I’ve shared with him when we interviewed with him and as it was with Kurt, I don’t believe a president of basketball of operations and an owner for that matter should be in a vacuum. I can’t speak enough for how I feel about Rick and his feelings and opinions. And his feeling and opinions are going to have as much as Glen’s weight. I think it’s going to be, as it always is, total collaboration. My job is to identify the options and to lay out strategies. Then we have to talk about what’s viable, what’s real. What can we do this if we can do this. It’s not just one thing. And there’s always the salary cap and the luxury tax lurking in the background. Coach is going to be in Oregon and I’m there frequently and I told him I look forward to spending a lot of time with him there. And when I’m here, I’m sure he’ll be via e-mail and phone totally involved. I can’t imagine meeting a prominent free agent, as I did in the past with Kurt, with Coach not by my side.
Q: Do Ricky/Kevin make this a more attractive destination?
Adelman: I think so. There’s not a player that I talked to, people that I talked to that were not really impressed with Ricky in the way he plays and what he does. It’s not his talent, it’s the vibes he puts out. The way he plays. When you walk into a building you couldn’t tell if he had 10 assists that night or zero assists that night. That’s just how he is every day and every time. Players love to get the ball when they’re supposed to, and he does that. Kevin just rose so quickly. He’s only going to get better. And I think the way we play because of those two guys makes us attractive. I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t want to go on the court with those two young guys with all they have to offer.
Q: Is Kevin’s ceiling higher than you thought it was when you took this job?
Adelman: I think it surprised me scoring wise how much he grew. Again, the style we were playing we gave him a lot of freedom to do a lot of things. But night after night he kept doing it. I was putting him out there 40 minutes a game. I was a little surprised how many points he scored, but I knew what kind of player he was. I knew the type of potential he had. You don’t have guys with that skill level and also very smart basketball wise. He really proved when he came back last year, the way he was, the weight he lost. He proved what he wants to do. He wants to be one of the top players. He certainly showed that and he’s moving in the right direction.
Q: How much cap space this summer?
Kahn: Don’t know yet. We have options. There are a couple of contracts that have some flexibility built into them. You can always make a trade where you don’t take salary back with a team that has ample cap room. We have strategies we can employ where we have a lot of cap room, or we could go in a different direction where we could make trades and go salary for salary. There isn’t one way we are going to look at it. Don’t know yet. If we want to have room, we can have room. No question about it.
Q: Do you have flexibility with the draft pick?
Kahn: It’s another arrow in the quiver. It’s one more thing you can have to either use to take a player or to package in a trade. It’s as simple as that. We still own Memphis’ pick next year as part of the trade from last year. I wish we had our pick this year. It would be nice to finally have that behind us so we know we have our picks moving forwards. I don’t want to send it out today because it’s an inappropriate day to do it. We have players too that will have some value around the league. That’s just the nature of this business. People get traded. I’d assume there will be some trades this offseason as there always has been.
Q: Did your opinion change on no wholesale changes?
Kahn: We have some young players that I think right now, and we’ll have exit interviews with almost all of them today, about how serious they are about how serious they are about this endeavor. I think Kevin showed his seriousness last summer about what he wants to be and how he wants to be considered. I think I’m a little bit more patient than most. It’s been a hard year for players with no summer league, without being with our coaches during the lockout, and then as coach mentioned the lack of practice time and the injuries. It was a killer for young players. But that doesn’t excuse them on some of the other issues. But we need to find out right now how serious these kids are. Some of them can really help us, but there are question marks as there are with all young players. I think our teams needs remain. We need some length and shot blocking, we need some shooting, we need some scoring and ball handling. I guess I would say shooting more so than scoring because it is fairly easy for us to score. But I don’t want to on a day like today, especially after last night which was one of about four troubling losses we had the last six weeks. We also had some very good games in the last six weeks. I thought the effort the team gave in Oklahoma City that night was heroic. And there was a game in Utah where we almost came back and won so they weren’t all like last night. But there were some nights like last night. So we don’t know yet. I think our summer development program I’m really eager to see who really attacks it this summer because it will help inform us later in the summer who is all in.
Q: Ricky’s rehab and how does that affect his development?
Adelman: The first thing with Ricky is just getting healthy first. Just get him healthy. And once he gets healthy and moves on to summer, we certainly can do things with his shooting and where it’s not so stressful on him. We’re not going to do anything that will set him backwards. One thing that I know is we’re not going to worry about him. That’s not even a question mark. If someone is going to come back from an injury like that at his age it’s him. That’s just who he is. It’s killing him right now that he can’t do anything, but we’ll be looking at that. We’ll be watching his rehab. If he’s not ready to start the season, let’s get him ready for the second week or whatever. But he’s going to learn things and he’s a very quick learner.
Q: What did you like about the season?
Adelman: We had a really tough schedule at the start. We lost a lot of close games to the Miami's and those types of people. But we beat San Antonio twice, we beat Dallas twice, we beat Houston three out of four times. These guys were really growing. They really grasped the facts – we talked about getting better defensively and they really did that. That’s what’s hard about finishing the season on a downer like that. Sometimes you forget about some of the things they did grasp and they did come together. Ricky is a much better player than I thought he was. I didn’t know what we were getting, but we knew pretty quickly. Pek coming along. We had a lot of great things happen. It’s just too bad at the end of the year. You always forget about a bad start to the season if you finish strong. So that makes it hard. But I really enjoyed the players, I really enjoyed how they accepted it and came together. But it didn’t last. We were really snake bitten.
Q: Locker room leadership?
Adelman: My experience, if you have one guy who is unquestionably the leader of the team that usually is the best player on the team, too, that is unique in this league. People talk about leadership and everything else. There's been a lot of great players who were not really great leaders when they first started out. There's unique players like Magic Johnson. He was really unique in that area. Michael Jordan was definitely the leader of that team and he was the best player in the league. I think a lot of times, you have the right people, they kind of combine and they do it in their own individual way and we have people like that. Kevin's growing. You can't expect a player, suddenly because he's one of the best players or a leading scorer, suddenly you've got to be a leader right now. Today. He's got to grow into that and he's got to understand there's a lot on his shoulders. Ricky's definitely a leader, even at his age. He knows what everybody should do. He tells them. He talks to them. Luke is great. He's quiet. But he leads by example. I think there's all kinds of people there that you can lean on and eventually people are going to separate themselves and become those type of leaders. I've had those in every team I was in. In Sacramento, it was Chris Webber and Vlade Divac. They'd been in the league for a while and they grew into that. In Portland, Terry Porter and Jerome Kersey and we had Clyde Drexler. And they were all in their own way. But the one guy we brought in who changed it was Buck Williams, who led by the way he played. So I think it's a combination a lot of times that good teams have. If you have one guy, that's terrific. But you still need those other guys to buy into it and I think we have it.
Q: On Ricky and Kevin as leaders...
Adelman: I think they'll both grow as we get better and we start winning. They'll both grow into that. They'll see what they have to do. Kevin just came out of nowhere being the player that he is and he'll grow into that. We talked about that yesterday. I talked about that with Kevin. These are things you've got to think about. And he expressed that. He sees it. If you see it, then you've got to lead your team by example and I think he'll do that.
Q: Any of the treasures stashed over in Europe ready to come over?
Kahn: We're in discussions with all four of them right now, but the discussion's now about getting them over here so our current coaching staff can really get a look at them and see what we have. Some of them are still contractually obligated beyond this season. I do anticipate at least one and maybe two of them to at some point join us in the next couple months for workouts so coaches can get their eyes on them, we can see the kind of development they've made. A couple of them had some injuries but are back from injuries. I'll be going over to Europe next month to see a couple of them. I'll be taking RJ Adelman with me to see a few of them as well.
Q: Are they ready to play next year?
Kahn: One of them, maybe. But we haven't even gotten to that stage yet. I think it's important first to get them over here and lay our eyes on them to see what we have.
Adelman: Have they been hurt? That's not a good sign.
Q: Working with RJ?
Kahn: I think he's a bright young executive that I think if that's the career path he chooses I think he has a future there. This year he was a victim of the schedule. Part of his portfolio by design is, he's doing what somebody in the front office in Houston did, putting together our prep materials for the coaching staff before every game. The advance scout reports to him. Some of the other people in game prep data report to him. But with 66 games in 123 days, I would come into my office and there'd be three books. Last night's game, tonight's game. It was a never-ending supply of information. I think as we get into a more regular season next year, he'll be able to spend a little bit more time on the personnel side and I think that will be helpful for all of us, as it will for some of the other people we have in the organization. As I said before, we have some really young, bright people who have a future in this business, and I'd like to see them grow.
Q: Will Darko ever play here again? Amnesty a possibility?
Kahn: As you've heard me say today, I don't think you've heard me use one name. Because it's not appropriate to use one name. We're coming off a season. It's day one. All those questions have a more appropriate time to be answered and that's much deeper into the summer.
Q: Any upcoming deadlines?
Kahn: Not until June 30. That is the quickest deadline we have in terms of qualifying offers. That’s it. Nothing in May. Nothing until the very last day in June.
Q: What about Beasley?
Kahn: I am not going to break the rule that I just gave to Jerry that I am going to give you a viewpoint of what our decision making might be with him. I just don’t think it is appropriate today. I will say this, both years, and I told Michael this a couple times recently, it is a shame that he got hurt. Last year, the year before coach (Adelman) was here, he was going pretty good before he hurt his ankle. And our team was performing, albeit not winning the games, but we were close in a lot of games against really good teams. It seemed like our season changed almost in concert with when he got hurt. This year, I don’t know why, but his offensive game wasn’t there at the start but I at least thought he was trying defensively and just applying himself with more rigor than he had the year before with the previous staff and I was at least hopeful that maybe there is something here, and he got hurt again, and again. He was one of the guys that we lost for critical parts of the season. When you think about Michael, he can really score so when we talk about Pek, we talk about Kevin, we talk about Ricky, we talk about Luke, J.J. got hurt three different times in critical moments of the season where we really missed him, I think there would have been a couple games we won if he had been available. So I think that Michael has been snake-bitten himself the last couple years. I think that I was very pleased, I will say this for him, that when coach decided to bring him off the bench in kind of that designated scorer role, I don’t think that’s really what Michael sees himself as and I don’t think he liked it, but I at least appreciated the fact that it never became an issue and Michael really got through the year without that ever becoming about him. At least from that standpoint that he handled that part of it very well.
Q: Do you know certain guys won’t be back?
Kahn: Yeah, I could probably say that but I am not going to name names. I think that I am pretty in tune, even before last night, with how coach feels about all these guys and I don’t think much is going to change over the next several weeks, other than that when you get past it a bit, things tend to get a bit less emotional. And the second thing is that I think we are both eager to see who among our young players when they start to workout is serious and really cares and really wants to be great. And that doesn’t mean that that is going to be the only test whether they will be here next year. We will continue to evaluate every single person and evaluate them from the position of ‘is there something we can do to change the team to make them better?’ But I think that I have a very good, I don’t think I need to meet with coach to hear his thoughts on our players. He initiated the process a few weeks ago, we have talked steadily since then, we had a big meeting this week. He doesn’t hold back his feelings, you know exactly where he stands which is one of the reasons he is such a pleasure to work with.
Q: What about what J.J. said?
Kahn: I like the content of J.J.’s comments. I wish personally that he hadn’t said them publicly because I thought we, and still, we made it through this season drama free. If you look across the landscape of this league, either this league has become a lot more volatile than it used to be, but it is like there is one crisis after another. You can go through the league. Coaching change, player demand, it is just non-stop. Despite all the adversity we had the last six weeks I thought the team did a pretty good job, coaches did a good job of at least keeping it together. I know J.J. was frustrated that night. We were all frustrated. But I certainly didn’t fine him or do anything to him, I just told him his comments were very justified and the information in them he was entitled to voice, but I don’t think it needed to be outside the scope of the locker room.
Kahn: No, I think with some of our players it builds. With our coaches it builds. You almost want somebody to get angry like that. That is a good sign, when guys stand up and say ‘Hey, I am tired of this. We are better than this.’ In other words, it is hard for the coaches to always have to be the only voices saying that. So again, his content was dead-on, maybe even his content should have been delivered internally three weeks ago. I am just saying about the public aspect. It probably didn’t need to be there. And it wasn’t a big deal.