Deep, well-coached, and unselfish are all becoming well-tread (bordering on gushing) early-season descriptors of Rick Adelman’s 2012-2013 Timberwolves squad. And while I have seen plenty tongue-in-cheek references to David Kahn’s eligibility for Executive of the Year, I have yet to see a Coach of the Year article.
The absence of Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love create the predictable National Sports News angle of overcoming injury-inflicted adversity that, assuming the Wolves maintain their habit (does two games constitute a habit?) of blowing out sub-standard competition like the Sacramento Kings and Orlando Magic, should take them to lofty enough heights to be considered as eligible for such pomp and coffee talk.
Not to pour cold water on Adelman’s Coach of the Year candidacy, but the upgrades in personnel, alone, make this team superior to those of season’s past. The long-suffering local fans recognize the culture change that players like Andrei Kirilenko, Greg Stiemsma and Dante Cunningham have brought to the club with their willingness to consistently defend their position and rotate to help their teammates (nevermind the shock of their capacity to do so in the first place) all the while being filed under the ‘hustle’ category.
I would argue that, if being a more intelligent defensive player were purely determined by the amount of hustle displayed, Mark Madsen and Corey Brewer would have been perennial All-NBA Defensive Team honorees. Thus what AK47, Steamer, and Ham are showing is so much more.
Whether attributed to the effects of such a culture change or offseason weight loss (he says leaner muscles), Nikola Pekovic’s defensive presence has been notably different this year. With his 1.5 blocks a game almost a full block better than his career average of .6 a game, he is doing so far this season what so many of his critics once pointed to as his biggest liability.
The cluelessness that plagued last year’s perimeter defense should, of course, only be aided quashed by Rubio’s return, but the length and ability of players like Chase Budinger and Alexey Shved — as they showed against Brooklyn — have already paid dividends in guarding the league’s bigger backcourts.
Coaching vs Personnel? Capability vs Desire? Here’s to a healthy helping of both.