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Adelman’s Timberwolves coming together


This news story was published on January 31, 2012.
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By Kent Youngblood, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) –

MINNEAPOLIS — It was not the first time Wolves coach Rick Adelman had expressed some exasperation.

But the question had to be asked, right? So, Monday night, after Michael Beasley had come off the bench to score 34 points against Houston, Adelman was asked: Is it time to move Beasley back into the starting lineup?

Cue the eye roll. “I’m not going to answer that,” Adelman said. “Let’s just let that lie and just take this win.”

It was a fair request, given the way the Wolves had dismantled a Rockets team that has been very good at home. The Wolves set a franchise record with 42 third-quarter points. Beasley matched a franchise record for points off the bench with 34. The Wolves scored a season-high 120 points while shooting a season-high 58.1 percent.

But Beasley’s performance, in his third game back after missing 11 games because of a foot sprain, just points up the nice problem facing Adelman. The team, shorthanded by injury since the start of the season, is starting to get healthier.

Beasley is back. And when he plays as efficiently as he did Monday — taking the open shot when available, but driving to the basket when covered by a smaller defender — he is a huge offensive boost.

Also back is Martell Webster. Tuesday, in 22-plus minutes, he did a nice job on defense at the shooting guard position and was an efficient 3-for-4 from the field.

J.J. Barea’s hamstring could be healed enough for him to return to action against Indianapolis on Wednesday. But when asked about this post-game Monday, Adelman joked that he thinks Barea signed a 30-game contract for this season. “But I don’t know which 30 games those are,” he said.

Brad Miller is back, giving some flexibility off the bench in the frontcourt, where Nikola Pekovic’s star has risen. When Darko Milicic returns from illness and rookie guard Malcolm Lee comes back from knee surgery, Adelman will have the entire roster available.

And while that presents challenges for a coach trying to find time for all his players, isn’t that a good problem to have?

“Michael is back, and Martell is playing now,” Adelman said. “And we didn’t have them for a long time. They really add to our team. They give us a lot more flexibility.”

So how does Adelman fit them all in?

It won’t be easy. Beasley’s game Monday is a big reason rookie Derrick Williams played a season-low 6 minutes, 46 seconds. Anthony Tolliver played 5:31 off the bench after not playing for two games.

At full health, matchups should dictate minutes. But now Adelman has more cards to play when it comes to matching up with teams.

“This game tonight showed how high the ceiling is for this team,” said Webster. “We still need to focus on finishing games defensively. But we had glimpses of greatness tonight. If we can get more consistent, this team will turn around.”

Said Kevin Love: “Now we have the bodies. Guys are getting to rest more. More importantly, we can throw different matchups and different bodies out there that help us.”

How that will all play out isn’t clear. For example, is Beasley best back in the starting lineup, helping a team that — Monday’s game being the exception — has not started games particularly well of late? Or is he better off, at least in the short term, being a spark off the bench?

“I mean, anybody would say they’d like to start,” Beasley said. “But I’ll do whatever I have to do for my team to win. Right now I think I’m sparking off the bench, not just for myself, but for the team.”

The team still is looking for production out of the shooting guard spot. Could Webster provide some of that as he works the rust off his game?

One thing is clear. Adelman has far more options now than he did a few games ago, when he had just nine healthy players. And that has to be a good thing.

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