MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Coach Rick Adelman has returned to the Minnesota Timberwolves after spending three weeks with his ailing wife. He rejoins a club that lost nine of 11 games in his absence.
In some ways, Adelman may need the Wolves as much as they need him.
Adelman ran practice on Monday and said he planned to be on the sideline against the Clippers on Wednesday night if all continued to progress with Mary Kay Adelman, who was being treated for an undisclosed condition. Adelman said he wanted to wait to return until he got the feeling that he would be back for good. He said his wife's condition is improving and he hopes that the worst of it is behind them.
``It's hard,'' Adelman said. ``I've never done this. It's never happened. But there's some things that are more important than basketball or anything else. I think the team understands that. Hopefully things will settle down here now.''
The Wolves have suffered long-term injuries to Kevin Love, Brandon Roy, Chase Budinger, Josh Howard and Malcolm Lee and recently Nikola Pekovic and Alexey Shved went down with injuries that have kept them out for more than a week now.
Ricky Rubio is still working his way back from a torn ACL in his left knee last March, and with no healthy stars and no head coach, the Wolves have crumbled in January.
A team that started the season with expectations of making the playoffs for the first time since 2004 is 17-24, good for 12th place in the demanding Western Conference. They have lost four straight games, including a back-to-back on the road last weekend at Washington and Charlotte, where the Bobcats snapped a 16-game home losing streak.
Adelman has been in constant contact with his coaching staff throughout his absence, speaking Porter daily and talking with president of basketball operations David Kahn about any possible roster moves that can be made. He returned to the team for a brief meeting on Jan. 16, both to apprise his players of his personal situation and try to give them a pep talk to get through a grueling stretch.
``Even having him in the practice, it's already a big deal,'' forward Andrei Kirilenko said of his coach's return. ``You feel the positive emotions get back. You were feeling down but now you feel everything getting back to normal.''
Whatever difficulties the Wolves have slogged through on the court have no doubt paled in comparison to Adelman's trials off of it.
Those who know Adelman well speak with fondness about his love for Mary Kay, and the rare smiles that are seen on the curmudgeonly coach's face usually come before games Mary Kay attends, when he looks for her in the stands and gives her a wave before pregame introductions.
The intensely private Adelman has made an effort to keep Mary Kay's situation out of the public eye. Two of their sons also work for the team, with R.J. in the front office and David on the coaching staff. Both have remained at work while their father has been away.
``They're looking better,'' Adelman said. ``We're going to take it each day as it comes.''
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