Be careful for what you want. I’m now convinced that’s true. April hasn’t started fantastically but let’s face it, March was a horrible month. It started tremendously and ended with a gigantic thud. The Wolves were playing for the post-season, Ricky Rubio was the starting point guard and the team was riding high.
Now, after teetering with playoff possibilities, there’s no doubt about it, the Wolves have hit a rough patch. You might call this the longest 15-game stretch I can recall.
Well, thanks to plenty of emails, phone chats and one on one time with friends who have not forgotten that week in March when I was feeling a run percolating, it’s feeling strange. This has been a week of looking back on this whirlwind season and March in particular. In just a month, what a turn of a season. I recall that first full week in March and it was the best bit of basketball since 2006. In fact, with many of you, I had just watched the dismantling of the LA Clippers and Portland when I wrote on March 8, “This is the week I’ve been waiting for all season. I’m like a kid in a candy store when it comes to schedules, planning and essentially looking forward to games. So, when the NBA schedule was released months ago, there were key games I had circled. It gave us a week of amazing basketball. The suddenly vogue Clippers, the always pesky Portland TrailBlazers, the Lake show and then the Hornets. All in a week. Without a doubt, the scheduling gods have given us something special. It’s lived up to the billing.”
In that first week of March, everything was looking up. Kevin Love was on fire (still is), Rubio and company were playing at .500 and there was no reason to shrug shoulders at the thought of printing post season tickets. Then, on March 9, The Lakers rolled into town, Rubio went down with the ACL tear and things changed.
Now, just weeks removed from that high point, watching the season’s final stretch play out is an exercise in patience and hope. Guard Wayne Ellington (who headlines this Sunday’s GameON! TV show) told me “We’re NOT out of the playoffs. We have a lot of work to do, we have lost a lot of guys to injury but no one, not one of us players, thinks it’s over.”
As the Wolves turn the page past March and start the month of April, it’s good to see JJ Barea & Nicola Pekovic back against Golden State. It’s nice to see the effort Malcolm Lee is giving at the point in a critical situation (with fewer guards due to injury). It’s even more amazing to see the job Head Coach Rick Adelman continues to do despite playing with a less-than-full deck.
In the past 16-games, the Wolves have gone 4-12. And through it all, Adelman has had perhaps the toughest job in the NBA because of additional injuries to Luke Ridnour, Michael Beasley, Pekovic and Barea. Big Pek was having a remarkable season after winning the starting job and taking over for Darko Milicic in the middle. It was clear Pek’s benefitting from the help from assistant coach Jack Sikma scoring nearly 14 points a night with 7 rebounds per game. Pek is a redwood tree in the middle and solid defensively.
Adelman has pushed many of the right buttons. I was a fan before he arrived (as my past blogs will clearly support) and I’m a bigger fan now. Adelman has been the bench boss this franchise needed and expected. For as much as I respect the season that Kevin Love is having, Adelman is the MVP of this team’s turnaround. Coach has managed to instill confidence, teach them to play on both ends of the court, he’s guided them through highs and lows but most importantly, Adelman is teaching them to win. Winning with a better offensive plan and a defensive unit that stops the other team. Finishing games.
Adelman is a teacher. He’s still teaching and yes, present tense. Assistant Sikma told me recently, “Our team is a work in progress. We’re young. Very young. A few wins and good times and some of the inconsistencies with these young guys creep back in. Injuries mess it all up because we’re juggling and not working with everyone. We’re not done and we have a lot of work to do. But if you ask me, Coach (Adelman) has done a terrific job pulling us all together.”
Even though the Wolves are fighting through this tough stretch, I continue to hold my ground with friends this week, looking forward and remaining steady in my belief that these Wolves are not far from post-season nirvana. I said it in early March, “This is a team that’s arriving faster than anyone could have imagined. Even me, Mr. Glass Half Full couldn’t have believed they’d jell so fast and so many elements would be coming together so quickly. The proof is all around us. On the court or in the stands where fans are flocking back and outside where the national media and basketball watchers are looking in with a curious eye, the Wolves are back.”
Back but a bit beaten up in this grueling post-lockout season, the Wolves are glad to get out of the calendar’s third month. March may have departed like a lamb and April’s start a bit of a swoon with a 3 point loss to Golden State (after losing a second quarter 20-point lead) but don’t say they are collapsing. There’s no quit in Team Adelman.
Adelman’s frustrated but knows it’s just a matter of time. He’s been there, done that with 970 wins in his 21st season in the NBA. Adelman played with five NBA teams, so his court-cred is legit. On the bench, he’s 8th all time. So he’s covered on the court and on the bench with players. He gets ‘em. As I mentioned earlier in March and then thought about it again and again Wednesday after watching a rough Wolves game (a winnable game against the Warriors), Adelman will have his team ending the season on a positive run.
Ellington reminded me of our conversation regarding Coach. Adelman, according to his reserve guard Ellington, “builds us up, teaches us and finds ways to bring out the best qualities. He’s the “coolest 65-year-old Coach…he gets it.” He (Adelman) makes it clear what happened in the past needs to stay there. Adelman wanted to make sure he put his team in a position to win and finally, when the fourth quarter rolled around, Adelman wanted the Wolves to finish instead of giving away games. We’re doing that stuff”.
So, 10 games remain in the season—six will be at home, four on the road—and the Wolves are about five games from gaining the last seed. And even though it was a very winnable game, you won’t see me complaining after a loss like this against Golden State. After 15- and 17-win seasons, it’s nice to see the building abuzz night in and night out and nice to have a winning team back in town. After 56 games last year, the Wolves were 13-43. Team Adelman is 25-31. Times are changing and getting better. That is a march I like very much.
Did you notice the new look Wolves warm-ups and green headbands? The Wolves Fast Break Foundation is celebrating Think Green Month as are all NBA teams hoping that fans implement a more eco-friendly lifestyle. The Fast Break Foundation’s Think Green Month focuses on organizations and events that help to preserve and protect the environment and includes the awarding of a $5,000 grant and a Think Green Competition award winner. At each home game in April, the Timberwolves will honor organizations and individuals that have helped preserve and improve the environment as Heroes in the Making and also air an in-game PSA that explains and promotes the importance of "Thinking Green."
Congratulations to Lynx players Seimone Augustus, Maya Moore and Lindsay Whalen! They are members of the USA Olympic team that will play in London this summer. The three are among 11 players named to the final 2012 U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team. This is the fourth consecutive Olympic year in which the Lynx have been represented on the final Olympic roster, with Augustus (2008) and Katie Smith (2000, 2004) previously members of the USA team.
In Our House:
The Wolves game against Boston drew a Friday night crowd of 19,356. That is the Wolves' 10th sellout of the season which is the most since they had 14 during the 2003-04 campaign. At 17,684, the Wolves are averaging 2,441 more fans per game this season, a 16 percent increase from a year ago (15,243) which represents the biggest turnaround in the NBA this season. The Wolves are on pace for its highest average attendance since the 2001-02 season when they averaged 17,846 per game.
See you on TV:
You don’t want to miss GameON! powered by SEVEN Steakhouse/Sushi/Ultralounge & Skybar this Sunday morning on FOX’s My29 at 10:30 a.m. Our special guests will be Wolves sharpshooter Wayne Ellington and former Vikings QB great Joe Kapp. This show also marks the kick-off of my charity golf event to benefit adoption, Golf for the Gift, which will be held on June 21 at Troy Burne/Hudson (www.GolfForTheGift.com). All GameON! shows are broadcast in High Definition and shows with Wolves like Coach Adelman, JJ Barea, Ellington, Jack Sikma and Anthony Tolliver can be found on iTunes & online @ www.gameontvmn.com.
GameON! powered by SEVEN allows you the opportunity to get up close and personal, to meet your favorite players and fellow fans at our weekly tapings next door to Target Center at SEVEN (7th and Hennepin). GameON! offers in-depth interviews with the top players, great food, sports newsmakers and we get you inside your favorite teams (including the Wolves). You can friend us on Facebook at GameOnTvMN and drop me a note, Rod@GameOnTvMN.com. We reserve the right to use your e-mails here in SimonsSays at Timberwolves.com.
Keep your GameON! See you soon!