Hard to blame Adelman for walking away from the Timberwolves

Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Rick Adelman reacts to a call during overtime of an NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz in Minneapolis, Wednesday, April 16, 2014. The Jazz won 136-130 in double overtime. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)

The blog writers who cover the Minnesota Timberwolves have tried mightily in the last week to excuse another lost season, thanks primarily to wins over two playoff teams and an injury to a key player who might not even be with the team next season. But last night’s final game of the season, in which the Timberwolves booted an opportunity to finish with the first non-losing season since 2004-05, was a fitting conclusion.

“I really thought we were going to win this game,” coach Rick Adelman said when the double overtime game that wasn’t that close ended. “I thought we’d come out and play a lot harder, with more energy, and it didn’t happen.”

That has been a familiar theme for Timberwolves coaches for more than a decade, code for “the team didn’t care.”

And it would’ve been understandable — there was no hope for the Timberwolves playoff chances and it was the last game of the season — had it not been for the fact the team’s opponent — the Utah Jazz — finished with a much worse record and seemed to want to play the game.

After the game, Corey Brewer, said the things Timberwolves players usually say at the end of a season.

The season likely sends Adelman, a Hall of Fame coach, off into the coaching sunset.

One of Sid Hartman’s sources says Adelman is gone, possibly replaced by team president Flip Saunders, giving the team all summer to tout a new coach and a new day in an infected organization, just as it has with every other failed coach.

But that requires whatever Timberwolves fan base remains to accept an illogical reality: that Adelman was the problem with the team this season.

In an article this week, Sports Illustrated’s Joan Niesen assesses the “greatness” of the coach the team is about to lose.

Back then, in Portland and Sacramento and even in Houston, a title was still in reach. The NBA was a familiar world. Adelman was surrounded by his peers, by Phil Jackson, Mike D’Antoni, George Karl, Gregg Popovich and Jerry Sloan.

They’re leaving the bench now, one by one, and new ownership with new goals is bringing in younger coaches. The league is changing, for better or worse, and Adelman is changing too. He’s mellowed a bit during games, and he doesn’t crouch quite so deep on the sidelines, although his voice is just as loud when he berates referees.

The talk is no longer of titles. It’s of turnarounds, of how he took the Minnesota job because he wanted to make a difference, because he didn’t want to wait around to be handed a winning team, because he wasn’t finished yet. Three years later, it’s hard to blame him if he is.

Earlier this year, Adelman flew his grandchildren to Minneapolis. The eighth was born five months ago, and the oldest is 11. The whole lot of them attended a game at the Target Center, dressed in Timberwolves gear and high-fiving players — and they’re clueless about basketball, Adelman said, laughing.

All they know is they’re Minnesota fans. They’re Grandpa’s fans, and they don’t even know the half of what Grandpa means to the NBA.

After the game last night, Adelman hinted it may only be hours before the team loses some of what little credibility the franchise has left.

“Certainly I’d be lying if I said my wife and I haven’t talked about, but I’m not going to tell you what we said. Tomorrow everything will come together,” he said.

Bring on the next exasperated coach.