Tag: Rick Adelman

Ricky Rubio

Ricky Rubio’s game translates to NBA just fine thank you


For the first three quarters Friday night, the Ricky Rubio doubters out there — those that said his game would never translate to the NBA —  had their chance to crow. “He can’t shoot” and he was 0-10 from the floor. “He can’t defend” and Mo Williams was tearing him apart (along with everyone else on the Wolves).

But he won Minnesota the game, beating the Clippers 101-98. He won it before Kevin Love got free for a game-winning three on a play Rick Adelman has been running since Brad Miller was the guy popping out. He won it before he knocked down his one shot from the field all game, a three from the right corner that tied the game with 20 seconds to go.

Before the dramatic finish, Ricky Rubio earned the Timberwolves a key road win by controlling the game in the fourth quarter, changing the pace and getting his guys the ball in position where they could do damage. He led the Timberwolves back from a double-digit deficit in the final 10 minutes to win. And in doing so showed a kind of veteran savvy and confidence that could take the Timberwolves a long way in a few years.

His game translates just fine. Thank you very much.

“He’s got a real gift,” according to Minnesota coach Rick Adelman. “He’s a great passer in the open court and he’s just a smart player. You’ve got to give him rope and let him go because he’s got that ability. And because of him, we’ve really kind of changed and simplified things we’ve done just to put the ball in his hands. He’s been better than I thought he was going to be.”

“He’s clever with the basketball,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. “He was getting in the lane on us, turning the corner on the elbow pick-and-roll….

“His penetration hurt us more than anything, even though he was missing shots. He was getting in the lane, then at the end with about 20 seconds to go he hits the three from the right corner.”

For most the way Friday night at Staples Center the Clippers were in control. And Rubio seemed out of it, unable to knock down shots or find the passing lanes he likes in the half court. After the game he admitted that the number of games he plays now — dramatically more than the two or so a week he did in Europe — has his legs tired and that was impacting his shot (he was shooting 42.5 percent on the season before this game and 40 percent from three). He talked about the need to get stronger so this is not a problem in the future.

But then came the fourth quarter, and it was different.

“(The fourth quarter) is when you have to control more of the game, it’s when I feel much better…” Rubio said. “We feel comfortable in the last quarter.”

The young Clippers had the chance to put the Timberwolves away for three quarters but never did. Rather than keep doing what had gotten them the lead in the first place, they went for the home run. There were some calls the Clippers didn’t like (Williams got ejected in the fourth) and that seemed to be their focus and not the game.

Rubio never lost focus. Minnesota came back when Rubio pushed the pace in the fourth quarter and finding ways to create. That was one of the questions about him coming into the NBA — will he really be able to make those passes in the NBA against better athletes?

“Over (in Spain) he would pretty much initiate the offense without creating as much,” Wolves coach Rick Adelman said. “We found out right away he can create and we are better off when he does that.”

He did that in the fourth. He wasn’t hitting shots but he was getting in the lane and drawing contact, getting to the free throw line eight times in the quarter. The other thing he does beautifully is drive at and occupy a help defender, all the while waiting for that defender’s man to cut to the basket so Rubio can pick up the assist. Rubio had three assists in the fourth quarter that were started by his penetration. He had a steal and a block, too.

Then there was the game-tying three. He was 0-10 yet he shot it with confidence. Something one expects of veterans.

The next play he defended Chauncey Billups well on the Clippers second to last possession, getting left on an island without help but staying in front and contesting a shot Billups missed. Rubio is not the most athletic guard on the planet, but he’s pretty long and uses his anticipation well.

Some people struggle with Rubio’s game because it is hard to define — it’s not like anyone else’s game. He is not the next Steve Nash or anyone else. Adelman is good with that — and thinks it translates to the NBA just fine.

“I think we get in trouble all the time in this league trying to manufacture players into who you want them to be and not let them be themselves,” Adelman said. “He’s been playing in the pros for so long, and when I watched him he has such great instincts….

“People ask me all the time if he is like Pete Maravich. No, no. Not even close. He’s a good young player who has a chance to have a very good future but sometimes people try to mark him as something he’s not right now. Let him develop. So far he’s doing great.”

The biggest skill Derrick Williams needs to develop? Passing.

Arizona v Connecticut
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There’s a number of reasons why this logic is flawed. I’m aware of that going in. When we’re talking about a coach, for some reason, we automatically want to assign the same roles to his or her new team as his or her old team. So for Phil Jackson, Lamar Odom is Horace Grant. For Larry Brown, his rookie is every other rookie he’s ruined the hopes and dreams of. But this all disregards the fact that coaches adjust to their rosters, and that not every team is successful.

So when we start to talk about Rick Adelman, it’s all about that Kings team. That’s where everyone goes. That Houston team that made playoff appearances but never made it to the WCF mostly due to injuries but also because of a mismatched roster? That isn’t factored into the equation. There was no Mike Bibby in Houston, no Jason Williams. Kyle Lowry and Rafer Alston before him both had strains of that creator-shooter guard, but nothing really tangible. Chris Webber? Vlade Divac you can I guess kind of see the vein to Yao but in reality, Yao was a whole different beast that you built around.

And yet, the comparisons are booming for Adelman’s new team, the Timberwolves, and those early 00’s Kings. From A Wolf Among Wolves:

While it’s not exactly like looking into a mirror when you put this Wolves squad and the 1999 Kings roster side-by-side, there are a lot of similarities between the two. With the obvious Vlade-Darko jokes aside, the impact Rubio will make on this team is pretty identical to what Jason Williams put out there for the Kings. It wasn’t so much production as it was an attitude of having fun. J-Will unleashed an unbridled enthusiasm that is missing with most teams, let alone a team that just brought in veteran cogs. The difference between the two is Rubio is actually a pretty decent defender and he seems to know his shooting limitations.

Looking at the wings of that 1999 Kings team and the wings the Wolves will have out there next season, there are even more similarities. The Wolves’ combination of Derrick Williams, Wes Johnson, Wayne Ellington and Martell Webster reminds me an awful lot of the Tariq Abdul-Wahad-Corliss Williamson-Vernon Maxwell-Peja Stojakovic quartet the Kings had. Williams is like a freak hybrid version of Corliss Williamson in that he doesn’t really have a position, will probably be stronger than most of his matchups and can hurt you from various spots on the floor. The big difference is Williams could be a good 3-point shooter as well. Wes Johnson fits into the mold of Tariq in that he is extremely athletic, should be a constant alley-oop target from the pass-happy point guard and can be a pretty good defender. Webster is a younger, better version of the Vernon Maxwell the Kings enjoyed but should provide the same type of experience and perhaps more leadership than what the Kings received from the two-time champion. And then there’s Wayne Ellington stretching the floor the same way that Peja provided (remember this is pre-awesome Peja, not eventual Peja).

via A Wolf Among Wolves.

Zach Harper there goes on to talk about comparisons and he is eventually lead to Kevin Love being the Chris Webber comparison. Talented big man that can score and hit from range. Makes sense.

But in reality, Love’s closer to Divac with his passing ability, range, size, and rebounding. He won’t play center as much and if he does it will be in small lineups. But the comparison I keep envisioning to Webber’s role is that of their rookie, Derrick Williams. An athletic stud with skill who can play either forward spot. Williams and Webber both entered the league at 20 (assuming we get a season). Webber was listed at 6-9, Williams at 6-8. Webber averaged 19.2 points per game at Michigan his sophomore year, Williams 19.5 at Arizona. Webber was a better rebounder, as near Hall-of-Famers tend to be. But for Adelman’s purposes, Williams needs to develop not dizzying array of face-up or post-up moves, or his perimeter shot, but his passing.

Webber’s assist totals weren’t sky-high. At Michigan his last year there, he averaged just 2.5 assists per game. That’s not crazy high. His career NBA average is 4.2. Good, no doubt, but not extremely so. But with the Kings, Webber averaged between 4.1 and 5.5 assists per year, with a high of 5.4. It was his ability to pass from the high post that replaced Jason Williams as the central playmaker, along with Divac, re-configuring the offense and how it was managed. Williams is considered a small forward, but his bulk and frame suggest that he can work in the high post as effectively.

The question is whether he can pass effectively enough to take that role. Williams averaged just 1.1 assists per game at Arizona last season. Watching passing plays of his in Synergy, there is some potential. He’s got good control of the ball and is able to see the floor and spot his teammates. His decision making is sound for the most part and he’s got a cannon of an arm. But to become the all-around asset Webber was, or even a poor man’s version, he’ll need to be willing. Which might be difficult for him given his No. 2 status and previous role as do it all man-beast scorer.

If Williams can adapt, though, the Wolves could make huge strides, even in their first season under Adelman. With Rubio making Rubio-like plays (assuming they are pre-2010 Rubio plays and not the disappointment he turned last year), Love becoming some sort of wholly new beast with his range and rebounding ability, and Darko Milicic relegated to a bruiser, “just don’t screw up” where he belongs, the Wolves might have something. Throw in Wesley Johnson’s perimeter shooting, and the Wolves might surprise a lot of people.

Maybe Love is the closer comparison. But there has to be a more complete role for Williams than just cleaning up misses (he’s a decent not great rebounder) and filling in spot-up shots. He has the ability and confidence to be a big piece of the puzzle. But to get the success he wants, he needs to learn to give better.

On Aaron Brooks and life after Steve Nash in Phoenix

Aaron Brooks
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Steve Nash has defined the Phoenix Suns franchise since the summer of 2004, but every passing day brings the Suns that much closer to parting with their only remaining star. Joe Johnson, Shawn Marion, and Amar’e Stoudemire have all come and gone, and the last great remnant of the Suns team that embarked on Seven Second or Less’ maiden voyage will likely be out of Phoenix by the end of the season. By this time next year, Nash will be almost 39 years old and an unrestricted free agent. As committed as he’s been to the Suns over the last half-decade or so, the man would be twiddling away the twilight of his career on a fringe playoff team if he elected to remain in Phoenix beyond the completion of his current deal.

With Nash no longer in the locker room, controlling the offense, and selling tickets, the Suns will have a lot of introspection to do. If Phoenix lets Nash’s contract expire without dealing him for assets of some kind, the team will be left with what’s functionally a blank slate in terms of roster construction. Marcin Gortat, Jared Dudley, Channing Frye, Hakim Warrick, and Josh Childress are all rotation-caliber players, but they lack the ability to collectively grant their team a post-Nash identity. The Suns will have options, but for the moment appear lacking in the ability to execute a rebuilding plan with any kind of expediency.

That said, the one unknown in Phoenix’s future that could potentially shift their long-term plans — if only slightly — is Aaron Brooks. The Suns already gave Brooks a qualifying offer back in June, giving them the right to either retain him for another season or match any offer sheets he gets as a restricted free agent. That should extend Brooks’ trial run in Phoenix, and give Alvin Gentry and his staff time to properly evaluate whether Brooks is able to act as some kind of Steve Nash surrogate in order to keep the current offensive system in place after the former MVP’s departure. That may not sound like much, but a capable initiator — armed within a team’s proven stylistic approach and given effective sets to work with — would at least give the Suns a very basic foundation.

Brooks is coming off of the most disappointing season of his professional career, but that’s true in part because his play had previously never garnered much expectation at all. The ’09-’10 season served as his public arrival; Brooks’ per-game averages shot up to 19.6 points and 5.3 assists per game, good enough to earn him the league’s kind-of-bogus Most Improved Player award. Brooks was able to live up to his solid per-minute projections from his first few seasons in the league, and play well for a winning team that barely missed the postseason.

Yet his latest campaign was a fair bit more disastrous, as Brooks combined injury, poor play, and a worse attitude in order to put up some incredibly underwhelming numbers . Houston traded Brooks to Phoenix mid-season for Goran Dragic, and a surface-level glance at that production and narrative would deem Brooks unworthy of starting responsibilities just about anywhere.

But Brooks is a better player than he let on last season in Houston, and he showed just enough in his 25 games as a Sun for us to wonder how extended playing time in Gentry’s system might bode for Brooks’ career. Don’t let his mere 9.6 points per game fool you; Brooks played limited minutes as a Sun, but he produced at a level virtually on-par with his offensive production in ’09-’10. That doesn’t make him an offensive star, but all signs point to him being a decent shot creator and a strong outside shooter in Phoenix for as long as they’ll have him.

Picking out the inconsistencies

A player who posts unremarkable points per game averages for two consecutive seasons to start his career, manages one season of almost 20 points per game, and subsequently falls back to Earth in the following year naturally garners some skepticism. Yet in Brooks’ case, his per-minute averages suggest he was capable of solid production in each of his four NBA seasons to date. It’s his minutes per game that have dictated the variance in his production, all the while his efficiency has stayed within a much smaller range. Brooks’ latest partial season in Houston was still a step down, but his uptick in Phoenix was enough of a return to normalcy to quell the thought of Brooks’ 2010 season being an aberration.

Instead, the real inconsistency appears to be Brooks’ randomly slashed three-point percentage. After starting out his career as an average shooter from the perimeter and improving that percentage in his second and third seasons, Brooks’ shooting from beyond the arc plummeted to .284 in his 34 games for Houston last season. Perhaps Brooks won’t consistently be able to shoot around 40 percent from three-point range as he did in ’09-’10, but there’s something to be said about Brooks’ best shooting season coinciding with his most consistent playing time.

The fluke in Brooks’ profile is this latest season, if only because his awful shooting percentages sandbagged what otherwise was a comparable statistical campaign. We can expect that shooting to return to a more acceptable mark in the year(s) to come, as he’ll likely settle in at slightly above the league average in three-point percentage.

Hope as a playmaker

Even in a golden age of point guards, Nash’s vision is unparalleled. In that regard, Brooks is a poor substitute; he sees the most obvious and immediate trees in the forest, but fails to see the forest itself for the trees. Passing is a simple action for Brooks rather than a mechanism through which an offense functions, a reality that warranted him a “shoot-first,” label.

Yet Brooks’ skill as a set-up man surfaced a bit when he was asked to back up Nash. His mere 25 games in Phoenix provides a terribly small sample size, but in those contests Brooks posted easily the highest assist rate of his career (35.3% — on par with Jason Kidd, Andre Miller, and Tony Parker). His assists per minute didn’t just crank up as a product of the Suns’ fast pace; Brooks was legitimately making plays for his teammates more than ever, as he benefited from the perimeter shooting and offensive fluidity that makes the Suns such a marvel.

Rick Adelman’s offense can be a beautiful thing, but it doesn’t exactly empower the point guard. By using the high post as a focal point of the offense, Adelman took the ball out of Brooks’ hands in Houston and pigeon-holed him into a label he barely had a chance to earn. Next season could serve as a referendum on Brooks’ ability to create plays for others.

The bad news

There’s no getting around it: if Brooks is going to be a regular for Phoenix going forward, they’ll have to account for his defensive limitations; Brooks is undersized and lacks the defensive technique to properly make up for it. Starting from square one with a defensive liability isn’t ideal, but again, the Suns aren’t without a ton of assets at this point. Brooks is capable of becoming a decent contributor (if not a tradeable asset down the line) for Phoenix, and any new deal he signs would be under the more team-friendly limitations of the next collective bargaining agreement. The Suns could lock up a good offensive player for relatively cheap, and considering the limitations throughout the rest of a Nash-less roster, Phoenix can’t afford to be terribly picky.

Brooks isn’t a poor enough defender that his weakness can’t be hedged elsewhere in a potential lineup, meaning all Phoenix has to do is keep him in mind when selecting wing players to put on the floor with him and bigs to cover the space behind him. So long as the Suns are willing to begin reconstructing their team with that consideration in mind, Brooks could be a very affordable playmaking option with decent long-term returns.

Timberwolves introduce Rick Adelman, everyone plays nice

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Eventually, there is going to be some tension in Minnesota. There is GM David Kahn in the last year of his deal. New coach Rick Adelman brings with him real gravitas and will have say on player/personnel issues. You can see the friction coming.

But at Adelman’s introductory press conference on Wednesday it was “smiles everyone, smiles, smiles.”

Adelman said what you would expect, how he looks forward to building something with the young core of players assembled in Minnesota, led by All-Star Kevin Love. Because of the lockout Adelman and Kahn could not talk about specific players. But Adelman talked about style and this being a team that will be up-tempo.

“We want to push the ball, we want to be on the attack all the time,” he said.

Kahn said the pace of the coach hiring process was deliberately slow, and part of the reason for that was for Adelman to make up his mind and maybe think about coming to the T-Wolves. Adelman admitted he talked to Lakers but they were moving quickly and he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. He said talks never got serious.

Meanwhile, Kahn was patient.

“I thought it would be a mistake for us to hurry up and make a decision until we saw the full array of candidates,” Kahn said.

You can bet everyone in attendance wanted to ask Adelman how he planned to bring Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio along, but he couldn’t discuss specific players. So Adelman instead talked about bringing young European players in general along.

“The players there are very good players, they are renowned over there, they have agents and family, but when you come to the NBA it’s a different game and they have to learn the game….” Adelman said. “You have to figure out what they can do in the NBA game, play to their strengths, be there for them but and let them know it is a process.”

He was already trying to tamper expectations, saying it usually takes a year or two for European players to adjust to the NBA. Which fits in with the young, learning to win in the NBA team Minnesota has. It’s just that taking your time and learning to win can create friction in the front office. Something to watch if and when we ever get a season.

Maybe Adelman came to Minnesota in spite of GM Kahn

rick adelman

It is official — the Minnesota Timberwolves have announced that they have reached a deal with Rick Adelman to become the franchises next head coach. Sure, PBT and every other news outlet in America reported that yesterday, but now the team is confirming it.

But is Adelman doing this in spite of GM David Kahn? Or does he even have eyes on that job?

We praised Kahn for his summer, but Adrian Wojnarowski at Yahoo says that the Wolves got Adelman only because owner Glen Taylor stepped in and took over. Woj details how Adelman has not liked Kahn since Kahn was a beat reporter at the Oregonian while Adelman was the coach there.

“Rick would never agree to anything with Kahn,” one league official connected to Adelman said Monday. “This had to be [a deal] with Taylor. …Rick has talked many times of his dislike for Kahn….”

Adelman took the job despite Kahn, and the owner won’t let Kahn get in the way of what Adelman wants, and what he tells him needs to happen there.

Adelman also took the job because of the $5 million a year, four years guaranteed deal. Money talks and there were questions if the Wolves would step up on that count, but Taylor did.

This leads to another fun bit of speculation yet, something our man Matt Moore mused about on twitter.

At the start of this summer, Adelman mused about wanting a front office job. Right now he has a longer contract than Kahn and the ear of the owner. If Adelman says they need to make a player move and Kahn disagrees, it sounds like Adelman may have the power. And it is entirely possible Adelman will be able to push Kahn aside and take over both the coach and GM jobs.

Just something to watch.

But know that just because Kahn had a good summer and Adelman is on board in Minnesota, there is still plenty of friction and drama in that front office.