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EGGERS: All signs point to a Timberwolves shakeup -- and Rick Adelman/Kevin Love exits

by: COURTESY OF JOHN LARIVIERE - Minnesota Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman: Could he hang it up after this season?I wish it weren't the case. But I think the Rick Adelman/Kevin Love era in Minnesota is nearing an end.

I won't be surprised if Adelman, the former Trail Blazers coach, retires after this season, completing an illustrious NBA coaching career that will earn him a spot in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

I'll be shocked if Love, the Lake Oswego High grad who will start in the Feb. 16 All-Star Game at New Orleans, remains with the Timberwolves after the trade deadline next season.

Adelman, who coached the Blazers to the NBA finals in 1990 and '92, is in his third season with the Wolves in what can only be categorized as a massive rebuilding project.

In the two seasons before Adelman took over in 2011-12, Minnesota had the second-worst record in the league (15-67) in 2009-10 and the worst (17-65) in 2010-11. Unfortunately, the Wolves didn't begin to rectify things in the draft, taking Syracuse's Wesley Johnson at No. 4 in the 2010 draft and Arizona's Derrick Williams with the second pick in the 2011 draft. Neither player made much of an impact with the Wolves, and neither is still with the team.

Under Adelman, Minnesota has shown improvement, going from 26-40 in 2011-12 to 31-51 in 2012-13 to 21-22 this season, the latter despite a 1-11 record in games decided by four points or fewer.

"Those 11 games are the difference between us being up there (in the West standings) and not," Adelman told me before Saturday night's 115-104 loss to the Blazers at the Moda Center.

It's been a frustrating time in Minneapolis for Adelman, who is 1,027-728 in his NBA coaching career along with 79 more wins in the playoffs. He has experienced only four losing seasons in 22 full seasons — his two with Golden State (1995-97), and the last two with Minnesota.

"When I took this job, I thought we could turn it around," Adelman says. "The first year was just weeding people out. The second year, we had so many injuries. This year, we've made changes, and it looks better. It is better. But how much better can we be?"

The Wolves have some talent, including Love, center Nikola Pekovic and guards Kevin Martin and Ricky Rubio. But they're playing in the difficult Western Conference, where nearly every team is a contender, and they're on the outside looking in at the playoffs this season.

"We've lost so many close games," Adelman says. "We're still within striking distance, but winning has to be a consistent theme. We're getting better, but we haven't gotten there yet."

Defense is the biggest problem. Minnesota is second in the NBA in scoring average (106.9) but last in the NBA in opponents' field-goal percentage (.473).

"We're just not that good defensively," Adelman says. "We're more of an offensive team. We get to close games, and we've broken down at the end, not getting stops at the right time.

"The other part of it, we've been up and down with our play with certain people. Kevin Love has been very consistent, and Pekovic has gotten better and better. But we need our perimeter people to be consistent offensively, and we just haven't done it in close games. We've turned it over, we haven't made shots when we needed to.

"Kevin can get his shot, but it's easier to take big guys out of the game. When you have a perimeter person who can break people down and help his teammates, that's a different story. We don't have anybody doing that on a consistent basis."

Adelman's biggest concern is on a personal front. His wife, Mary Kay, went through a period suffering seizures during last season, and Adelman left the team for several weeks during the season. She is stabilized now and living with Adelman in Minneapolis. Their year-round home is in Portland, and Mary Kay spent time before the holidays here, visiting daughters Kathy, Laura and Caitlin in Portland and son Patrick in Salem.

"She's doing a lot better," Adelman says of his wife. "She's pretty much doing what she wants now. But she still gets tired, and a lot of that is the medicine she is taking."

Adelman seriously considered retiring after last season.

Mary Kay's illness "was a big part of it," he says. "She had to get better. It's still hard for her to be (in Minneapolis), when you're traveling so much and she's by herself so much. We talked about it all summer. I really wasn't sure (whether he would return to coaching) throughout the summer. In August and September, we started talking about it and decided I'd do it again."

Part of the decision was Adelman wanted to continue to work with sons R.J., who is Minnesota's director of player personnel, and David, who is an assistant coach.

"I don't know why they want to get into the NBA, but they do," Adelman says with a laugh. "And they're getting some good experience right now. It's been fun to work with them."

Adelman's contract has a two-way option after this season, meaning he can opt to leave, or the Timberwolves can choose to terminate his deal. He says he likes owner Glen Taylor and president of basketball operations Flip Saunders, brought in last May to replace Portland native David Kahn.

"The owner is a terrific man, and Flip has been real good to me," Adelman says. "He's trying to do the right things with this organization."

Adelman, who turns 68 in June, is eighth on the NBA career win list behind luminaries Don Nelson (1,335), Lenny Wilkens (1,332), Pat Riley (1,210), Jerry Sloan (1,221), Phil Jackson (1,155), Larry Brown (1,098) and George Karl (1,131). Moving up on the list doesn't drive Adelman, and he doesn't need the money. But he enjoys the challenge of coaching, which could propel him to continue with the Wolves.

"We'll take a hard look at it after the season," he says. "As you get older, you get tired of the travel. We gutted the whole thing when I arrived (in Minneapolis), and we have a good nucleus, with some good young players we can build around.

"We need to do some things in the draft. The Blazers got (Damian) Lillard, and he ended up being a real find. We did that in Portland (in the late '80s) with Terry Porter and Jerome Kersey and got something going. That's what we have to do (at Minnesota). It's a matter of getting some breaks, getting a couple of players who can make a difference."

Love is one of those players, but I'm not sure he'll be with the club much longer. In his fifth season with Minnesota, the 6-9 power forward has proved himself to be one of the top front-line players in the league. What he craves now is to play for a team that can contend for a championship.

It appeared the Wolves were on the right track last season, but they haven't progressed as quickly as hoped. It's not easy to attract top talent to Minnesota, and he may have tired of playing in a cold-weather, midsize market. Love is under contract through next season — $15.7 million for 2014-15, with a player option at $16.7 million in 2015-16 — after signing a four-year, $60.8-million extension in 2012.

Love probably would prefer to play in Los Angeles, where he was born and attended college at UCLA. He has a home there in the offseason he shares with his girlfriend, actress Cody Horn.

The Wolves surely will attempt to sign Love to another extension. If that doesn't work out, they'll probably opt to trade him prior to the February 2015 trade deadline to get some value in return.

I had a few minutes with Love — whom I've known since he was a Little Leaguer, pitching in All-Stars against my son — after Saturday's game.

We talked about his relationship with LaMarcus Aldridge, which he contends is good.

"I know I have a great deal of respect for him," Love says. "I'm pretty sure there's no hard feelings either way. He's a great player. I gave him a pat on the butt a few times out there tonight and just said, 'Good job.' How can you not respect him? He's a guy who keeps getting better and better, even at 28. It's been great to watch him grow."

Love didn't expect to be voted as an All-Star game starter this season.

"I was very surprised," he says. "I didn't think I was going to be able to make up all those votes on Dwight (Howard). I was very happy when I got the news. How can you not be happy?"

This will be Love's third All-Star Game, but his first as a starter.

"It's cool to have the fan vote," he says. "I think I'd have been voted in by the coaches, but to have the fan vote, that's what you play for."

We didn't get to the topic of his long-range plans. He's smart enough to keep his thoughts on that to himself, anyway.

But my educated guess is that by the end of the 2014-15 season, Adelman will be enjoying retirement in Portland, and Love will be playing for a new team.

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Twitter: @kerryeggers