MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Eight days after first leaving the Minnesota Timberwolves to be with his hospitalized wife, Rick Adelman met with his team on Wednesday morning.
The coach wanted to offer some words of encouragement to a reeling team that has lost four in a row and appears to be succumbing to a litany of injuries that just keeps getting bigger.
Adelman also got some words of support as well before leaving again to be by his wife's side as she deals with an undisclosed illness.
"We miss him and we know he's going through some hard stuff," point guard Ricky Rubio said. "But we are with him and we support him any time."
Adelman has missed the last five games after his wife, Mary Kay, went to the hospital to seek treatment. The intensely private Adelman has not disclosed any specifics of his wife's ailment, and there remains no timetable for his return. Mary Kay was still in the hospital on Wednesday and assistant Terry Porter planned to coach the team for a sixth straight game on Thursday night against the Clippers.
While Adelman has been away from the team, the Wolves have crumbled. They lost all four of their games on their most recent road trip, each one by double digits. For a team that prided itself on overcoming so many injuries early in the season and never getting blown out in the losses they did incur, the recent run of decisive defeats has set an ominous tone for a team that doesn't seem to be getting any healthier.
All-Star Kevin Love will miss at least the next two months with a right hand that was broken for the second time this season. Swingman Chase Budinger won't be back for at least another six weeks after injuring a knee in November, and anything from Brandon Roy this season would appear to be a bonus at this point.
Rubio also hasn't been the same dynamic player he was before tearing the ACL in his left knee last March, and a different player seems to miss practice or a game every week with an illness. Andrei Kirilenko, Alexey Shved and Lazar Hayward all were out on Wednesday, leaving the Wolves with eight players for practice.
"We're going through some tough times," guard J.J. Barea said. "We've just got to stay together, keep fighting, keep fighting. Try to steal a couple games here and there and hopefully at some point everybody comes back and we can make a run."
Some of the biggest problems of late have been on defense. The team started the season playing some of the best defense it has in years, putting them in the top five in points allowed for most of the first month. As injuries have piled up, and the schedule has gotten tougher, the Wolves have fallen apart on that end. Their opponents have topped 100 points in seven of the last eight games and the weary Wolves were outscored 63-21 in fast-break points in losses to San Antonio and Dallas.
"We've just got to come ready to play," forward Derrick Williams said. "Even though we're down and we're hurt and a couple guys are playing hurt, we've just got to do what we have to do. Just get out there and play for each other, play for the fans and deal with what we have right now."
Adelman has received a lot of the credit for helping the Timberwolves move from a perennial doormat in the Western Conference to one that started the season with playoff expectations. He's been watching the games while he's been away, calling his assistants to offer advice and encouragement. He finally got face-to-face with the players on Wednesday, and he told them he was proud of the fight they've shown while dealing with so much adversity.
"It was good for the guys to see him and for him to talk to the guys," Porter said. "It felt good to have him here, have him talk to them and just give them an update on everything and kind of let them know."
The team seemed to get a lift from Adelman's appearance, but the hard reality is they play the Clippers twice in the next two weeks and also have difficult games against the Rockets, Hawks and Nets coming up before the end of the month.
"He said we have to stay together," Rubio said. "We've been through a lot of stuff this year and there's no excuses to stop now. We're just going to go forward with the players we (have) and get it all together."
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