Shootaround Access: Wolves vs. Thunder | Nov. 1, 2013

Brooks A Younger Version Of Rick Adelman? Martin Says So

Scott Brooks crunched a few numbers this morning at shootaround. First, standing inside Target Center, he noted he played inside this building for the Wolves 24 years ago—that dates him as a player. And when he was told Kevin Martin called Brooks a younger version of Rick Adelman, he started trying to decipher where he’s at in the coaching wins ranks.

The fact that Adelman joined the NBA’s exclusive head coaching 1,000 wins club last April made Brooks shake his head. That’s a lot of wins. He had the Oklahoma City reporters try to figure out where he’s sitting on the list. One chimed in with the right number: 235.

“I have 800 more to go?” Brooks said, laughing.

That’s a long ways to go, but Brooks is putting together the chemistry and philosophy in Oklahoma City that puts him on the right track. He and the Thunder will take on the Wolves tonight Target Center, where Minnesota will try to deny him win No. 236 for now. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. on Fox Sports North and 830 WCCO-AM.

Brooks said he doesn’t try to compare himself to any coaches, and Adelman is one of the best there is. But if you look at how the two got to where they’re at in this league there are similarities to be had. And the level of respect they command from their players and peers is evident.

Both coaches were journeymen in the NBA. Adelman played for five teams over seven seasons, Brooks for six teams in 10 years—including the Timberwolves in 1991 and 1992. They made the transition to head coach at about the same time in their lives (Adelman at 42, Brooks at 43), and turned their clubs from sub-.500 to 50-plus wins by Year 2. In their first five seasons, each led his team to the NBA Finals, and Adelman held a slight edge in wins: 244-235.

The way Brooks and Adelman interact with their players, the term “players’ coach” gets thrown around because they’re relatable. They played, they understand the ups and downs guys go through on and off the court, and they believe in their players and put them in positions to succeed.

Adelman said Brooks understands the dynamic between the players he has and how to maximize their abilities. Looking back on Adelman’s career, he’s done the same thing for two decades.

“Even when you have really good talent, you’ve got to put them in situations, you’ve got to buy in that this is the way we are going to be successful,” Adelman said. “This is how to be successful as a player, and that’s not easy. Trust me. I’ve seen, and I’ve had very, very good teams, and it’s still a lot of work. You know you’re going to win a lot of games, but the pressure is different. And I think Scott has brought this team, they went from this stage, kept moving up and then he lost two good people (James Harden and Kevin Martin), and they are still going to win because of the system he’s put in.”

The system in relation to the players is crucial, and it’s how Adelman reached his 1,000 wins. But it’s not just on the offensive end. Adelman is looked at by his peers as an offensive guru of his generation, but during his time in Portland and Sacramento he also sported sound defensive statistics that got overlooked. And Brooks, while he has two of the game’s best offensive talents in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook (who is still injured early in the season), the focus he puts on his teams comes from the defensive end.

He said he believes the Thunder try to build their offense out of their defensive production. When it comes to Adelman’s style, that fits the mold.

“He’s not just the offensive genius that he is,” Brooks said. “He’s a defensive guy, too. They play good defense. It remains to be seen this year, but his teams in Portland and Sacramento, how good they were but they were tough defensively.”

The biggest difference might be their demeanor. Adelman is a quiet individual who brings calm, poised respect. Brooks has both of those characteristics and showcases them on the sidelines, but Durant said the competitive streak in Brooks also makes him fiery at times. He likes that part of his coach’s personality.

And when it comes to trusting their coaching staffs, Brooks and Adelman are similar, too. Adelman delegates to his assistants regularly and has them put in creative input on how to address upcoming opponents or situations. Durant said Brooks puts a lot of faith in his staff, too, and it pays off.

“Our whole staff, they do a great job of complementing each other,” Durant said. “They make us better every single day. Always keep us prepared no matter who we’re playing in practice, shootaround. I’m blessed to be part of a great, great staff that has helped me grow as a player as well.”

Does Adelman see himself in Brooks? He’s not sure—they haven’t been around one another that much. But he respects the way he approaches the game.

Martin, a 10-year veteran, has played for Adelman in three different cities as well as Brooks last year. He sees the connection.

“I hope coach doesn’t get mad, but he’s a younger Rick Adelman,” Martin said. “He lets you play your game to your strengths, and he has a lot of faith in his players. He’s a great coach.”

Just be careful how you phrase that “younger” word in that statement. Brooks sees it a little differently.

“I’m not that much younger [than Adelman],” he said. “I played here 24 years ago.”

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