What if Rick Adelman became the Lakers' head coach?
In only his first year as head coach, he's helped his players transition from the triangle offense, has overseen a promising point guard and has witnessed an all-star forward flourish.
We're not talking about Lakers Coach Mike Brown. His team remains inconsistent on running his read offense. The Lakers' point guard spot is their weakest link, and forward Pau Gasol has lacked consistency.
Instead, we're talking about Minnesota Timberwolves Coach Rick Adelman. Even though Minnesota's total offense dropped this season from 101.1 points per game to 95.11, the team's record (9-11) will easily surpass last season's win total (17). First-year point guard Ricky Rubio looks promising as a playmaker, averaging 11.4 points and 8.8 assists. Four-year all-star Kevin Love has increased his scoring average from 20.2 points per game to 24.9 and has decreased his weight from 265 pounds to 240.
Adelman told reporters he's hardly thought about the Lakers front office passing over him and Brian Shaw in favor of Brown. But given the L.A. team's current struggles, many fans sure are. Below are a few possibilities on how things might have unfolded.
1. The Lakers wouldn't face as steep a learning curve. Both Adelman and Brown use a strong-corner system, but the Lakers would likely face less of a learning curve under Adelman. Published accounts say that Adelman has kept the offense simple for Minnesota. Though Brown has said he's only used a third of his original playbook, he and various players have acknowledged a problem with information overload.
2. Adelman wouldn't be so quick with his rotations. Adelman knows how to maximize players' strengths, partly by giving them enough freedom to play through mistakes. That's why it's likely Adelman wouldn't be doing the lineup shuffling that Brown has done. Some may see Brown's approach as a virtue because the chemistry hasn't clicked and it holds players accountable. But it also points to knee-jerk reactions by the coach, increasing or reducing a player's minutes based on an extremely small sample size.
3. Adelman would have a stronger say in personnel decisions. Adelman told Sports Illustrated's Sam Amick that one attraction of the Minnesota job was that he'd have a voice in the team's front office. Meanwhile, the Lakers' front office has historically maintained its independence, although officials at least considered the advice of Brown's predecessor, Phil Jackson, such as re-signing Lamar Odom in 2009. Perhaps Adelman's influence would've persuaded the front office not to pull such a quick trigger on Odom this season.
4. Adelman would have a stronger locker-room standing. Players instantly embraced Brown for his enthusiasm, respect and work ethic. But privately I've been told that some players are starting to tire of Brown's intense practices and constantly evolving lineups. Adelman has had more experience coaching stars -- including Clyde Drexler, Chris Webber, Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady and Metta World Peace -- and perhaps that would earn him more respect.
5. Adelman wouldn't fit in Los Angeles. Who knows to what degree, if any, this would actually affect his time with the Lakers. Although Adelman grew up in Lynwood, went to high school at St. Pius X in Downey and was a standout at Loyola Marymount, the Sacramento Bee's Joe Davidson said the coach is not a "big-media kind of guy." But that is a job requirement with the Lakers. It's not really about media relations as much as it is about dealing with all the distractions Los Angeles offers. All coaches have to handle that to some degree, but it's easier for players to be led astray here by branding and marketing opportunities and a glitzy nightlife.
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: Coach Rick Adelman tries to rally the Timberwolves during their game against the Lakers on Sunday evening at Target Center in Minneapolis. Credit: Jim Mone / Associated Press