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Rick Adelman to Minnesota Timberwolves: ‘If you think you’re a playoff team, why don’t you just forget it?’

Jan 17, 2014, 12:52 PM EDT

Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic, Rick Adelman

Before the season, all five of us predicted the Minnesota Timberwolves would make the playoffs (and I didn’t include that link just to point out I was the only one to predict the Trail Blazers would make it, but check that out as long as you’re on the page).

The Timberwolves had a star (Kevin Love), an underrated interior force (Nikola Pekovic), an intriguing point guard with breakout potential (Ricky Rubio), one of the league’s most efficient scorers (Kevin Martin), a good coach (Rick Adelman) and a deep roster that offered several players capable of filling in the cracks. It seemed health would be the top obstacle they faced.

But Minnesota has mostly avoided injury and still stumbled to an 18-20 start.

Adelman, via Kent Youngblood of the StarTribune:

“We have to face facts that we’re a .500 team,” he said. “Right now we’re below .500 [18-20]. I told them, ‘If you think you’re a playoff team, why don’t you just forget it? Because you haven’t proven that you are. You haven’t gone out and really established yourselves yet.’ ”

Here are the current standings of the 11 Western Conference teams with seemingly realistic playoff hopes:

1. Spurs, 31-8
2. Trail Blazers, 29-9
3. Thunder, 29-10
4. Clippers, 27-13
5. Rockets, 26-15
6. Warriors, 25-15
7. Suns, 22-16
8. Mavericks, 23-17
9. Nuggets, 20-18
10. Grizzlies, 19-19
11. Timberwolves, 18-20

And here are the standings if we used Pythagorean win percentage, historically a better indicator of future success than standard win percentage:

1. Spurs, 29-10
2. Thunder, 28-11
3. Trail Blazers, 27-11
4. Clippers, 27-13
5. Warriors, 26-14
6. Timberwolves, 24-14
7. Rockets, 25-16
8. Suns, 22-16
9. Mavericks, 22-18
10. Nuggets, 20-18
11. Grizzlies, 18-20

The Timberwolves have experienced bad luck in tossup games, and though they’ve accentuated their own problems, there’s little reason to predict the run of poor fortune will continue. It’s most likely to regress to the mean.

However, even if they immediately begin playing like the team Pythagorean win percentage says they are, their 18-20 start will weigh down their record. Here’s what the end-of-season standings will look like if each team wins at their current Pythagorean rate the rest of the year:

1. Spurs, 63-19
2. Thunder, 60-22
2. Trail Blazers, 60-22
4. Clippers, 55-27
5. Warriors, 52-30
6. Rockets, 51-31
7. Suns, 47-35
8. Timberwolves, 46-36
8. Mavericks, 46-36
10. Nuggets, 43-39
11. Grizzlies, 40-42

It’s quite possible the Timberwolves keep their mindset exactly as it is now, get a little better luck the rest of the season and make the playoffs. But it’s close, and that’s why Adelman’s displeasure is warranted.

The Timberwolves need more urgency.

No franchise has a longer active playoff drought than Minnesota, which hasn’t made the playoffs since 2004, when a Kevin Garnett-Sam Cassell-Latrell Sprewell core led the Timberwolves to the Western Conference Finals. And it’s not just an organizational issue. It’s not as if Love, Pekovic and Rubio have made the playoffs elsewhere before arriving in Minnesota. It should be personal to them.

Objectively, Adelman might be being too hard on his players. But he’s also probably treating them as their head coach should.

  1. drago2012 - Jan 17, 2014 at 1:06 PM

    Rubio cannot score at all, he just dribbles and dribbles and dribbles and dribbles and dri…..
    The other night i saw him miss a point blank uncontested layup!!

    • spursareold - Jan 17, 2014 at 4:04 PM

      A homeless man’s Nash. A homeless man without any shred of a jump shot, that is.

  2. frankgarrett - Jan 17, 2014 at 1:19 PM

    just like everything in MN. it fails ..

  3. jp21770 - Jan 17, 2014 at 1:57 PM

    Maybe rick should put alex at point where he belongs and dump J.J. as they guy gives up more points than makes. Move Shabazz in the rotation at S.G. behind Martin. And eat crow for pushing Williams out. He complains his team is out of control. Any other coach would of been fired by now for admitting they have no control. Also, why is Price not in the rotation considering he provides for a stable point guard.

  4. azarkhan - Jan 17, 2014 at 2:09 PM

    The Pythagorean win percentage? Oh yeah, I use that all the time!

    • sellahh - Jan 17, 2014 at 2:59 PM

      Dude, it’s only the halfway point of the season. Wait for the Talesyean playoff predictions.

  5. joeyashwi - Jan 17, 2014 at 3:11 PM

    Minor league team for the rest of the NBA. They develop draft picks then lose them to the Lakers, Celtics, etc of the league. Horrible franchise!

  6. norcalkingsfan - Jan 17, 2014 at 3:35 PM

    “The Timberwolves have experienced bad luck in tossup games, and though they’ve accentuated their own problems, there’s little reason to predict the run of poor fortune will continue. It’s most likely to regress to the mean.”

    “Bad luck in tossup games.”

    … also translates to …

    “Can’t close out.”
    “Can’t compete for four quarters.”
    “They get shook.”
    “Have no marbles.”

    Closing out close games has nothing to do with luck. Either they have the ability to play 48 minutes or they don’t. Consistency is the issue. The best teams have the ability to play good ball for the whole duration of a game.

    There is no “luck” or “poor fortune” in basketball.

  7. bkbell3 - Jan 17, 2014 at 4:02 PM

    It would be great if you could develop theories and when they don’t pan out just chalk it up to BAD LUCK lol. Well boss i came up with this new explosive compound and the theories are sound so i don’t understand how i blew the whole factory and killed 97 people. Must be that bad luck factor that i put into my new fancy theory. By the way, do i still get that raise you promised?lol

  8. spursareold - Jan 17, 2014 at 4:08 PM

    One of the best NFL coaches of the past 25 years said it best:

    “You are what your record says you are” – Bill Parcells

    • antistratfordian - Jan 18, 2014 at 2:23 AM

      Is that right? What did the 9-7 record say about the 2011 NY Football Giants?

      • jimatmad - Jan 19, 2014 at 12:07 AM

        That they’re 9-7?

        Why? What do you think it said?

      • antistratfordian - Jan 19, 2014 at 6:46 AM

        I think it says that Bill Parcells often talks out the side of his neck.

  9. kraa0901 - Jan 17, 2014 at 5:55 PM

    frankgarrett | Jan 17, 2014, 12:19 PM CST
    just like everything in MN. it fails ..

    Hey Frank……where you from chief?

    Let’s expand on your little idea about how everything fails in Minny. 10th best educational system in the country and 6-7th lowest unemployment rate….far from failing, bud!

    We enjoy our sports here, but at the end of the day, I’d rather have a mediocre basketball team, than not be able to form a proper sentence, like yourself, and have a legit job. Good day to ya, champ.

    • denverhoopdreams - Jan 17, 2014 at 8:59 PM

      You took it way to personal and turned your comment into an insult of your own.

      I don’t mind MN, it’s actually a great state. Don’t take me for taking Frank Garrett’s side. I’m just taking the side that you came off like a total tool.

  10. dinofrank60 - Jan 17, 2014 at 8:40 PM

    Explain why the Pythagorean win percentage is a better indicator of future success.

    • antistratfordian - Jan 18, 2014 at 2:27 AM

      • dinofrank60 - Jan 22, 2014 at 2:42 PM

        There has to be a better explanation than that.

        And since it is mathematically( or statistically) based and since there is so much data to play with, shouldn’t someone write or at least start a proof? Even the pythagorean theorem has proofs.

      • antistratfordian - Jan 22, 2014 at 5:02 PM

        I’m sure one exists somewhere online. You should try searching the internet for it.

      • dinofrank60 - Jan 22, 2014 at 9:41 PM

        i have; no luck so far.
        The closest is the paper for the Pythagorean win-loss theorem baseball by Steven Miller of Brown. I’m surprised the MIT Sloan analytics get togethers don’t have more.
        And the Morey link is unconvincing, doesn’t sell the notion of Pyth W/L at all. The Miller paper is at least a better starting point, even if it is baseball.
        I will also say that these papers don’t purport to re-inventing the wheel, which is refreshing.

  11. monkeyhateclean - Jan 18, 2014 at 3:10 PM

    Love can’t lead
    Rubio can’t shoot
    Pekovic can’t defend
    Martin can’t be clutch
    Brewer can’t do much

    If the Pups were in the weak Eastern Conference, this starting five would be a perennial playoff team, but in the West? No such luck.

    Might be time to blow this experiment up, while Love and Rubio might still be worth a team sacrificing future assets for them.

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