By Jerry Zgoda, Minneapolis Star Tribune
December 22, 2011
MINNEAPOLIS — There are point guards who are made and those who, for the lack of a better term, are born to orchestrate because of their smarts, their vision, maybe just their innate nature.
The Timberwolves possess each kind.
On their coaching staff, they have Rick Adelman and Terry Porter, who played a combined 24 NBA seasons at that position because of their diligence and lessons learned.
On the court, they have Ricky Rubio, who home video will show seemingly possessed an understanding of the game's angles and textures from nearly the moment he learned how to dribble.
Now those two who overcame their limitations and learning curves will lead the long-awaited rookie who has been something of a point-guard prodigy since he first turned professional at age 14 in Spain.
"He sees things, he knows things you can't teach," Porter said.
Porter knows about such things.
A small-college forward, Porter was drafted by Portland 24th overall in 1985 out of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and quickly learned to play point guard because he was 6-3 in a league in which 6-9 Magic Johnson dominated at the same position.
He did so by watching now-long-forgotten teammates Steve Colter and Darnell Valentine and from listening to a Trail Blazers assistant coach and former journeyman point guard named Adelman.
"I played small forward in college, I had to learn how to start thinking like a point guard," said Porter, who learned well enough to play there in two All-Star Games and two NBA Finals for a head coach named Adelman. "Most of that came from Rick. Me and him spent a lot of time talking about that position."
So when Adelman in September decided to take the Timberwolves' coaching job, he hired Porter to be his top assistant and entrusted him with nurturing a rookie in whom the franchise has invested so much time and energy.
"He knows things I do not know," Rubio said. "He knows how to do it. He's going to try and teach us how he did in the past. Especially for a rookie, as I am, it's very important to have a guy on the staff to show you how you can handle the hard situations, how you can be a point guard on the floor with other four guys."
That past to which Rubio referred just as well could be ancient history.
"Not a lot," Rubio said when asked if he has seen footage of Porter's playing career with the Blazers, Spurs, Heat and Timberwolves. "It was a long time ago."
Yes, it was. Porter retired in 2002.
"I guess he'll have to go find some old 8-reels of me," Porter said, referring to 8-millimeter film Kodak put on the market in 1932. "Or maybe he can go find some games on ESPN Classic and learn and watch."
If Rubio thinks Porter played long ago, he might have to search for some cave paintings to find evidence of Adelman's playing career.
It was so long ago, Adelman came out of Loyola Marymount in the West Coast Athletic Conference and played seven NBA seasons with the San Diego Rockets, New Orleans Jazz and Kansas City-Omaha Kings as well as stints in Portland and Chicago.
"I could dribble the ball and pass it, that's about it," Adelman said. "I played point guard my whole life, but I didn't have the physical attributes I needed. But I got by. I played seven years. That's seven more than I thought I'd play."
He exceeded his expectations because he studied the game and understood it enough to play those seven pro seasons and coach a community college team and NBA teams for the last 34 years.
He passed along that knowledge to Porter 25 years ago.
Now, both will do the same with Rubio.
"It helps," Adelman said about a point guard teaching a point guard. "You can point things out easier to him as to what he's going to have to do — especially in this league — to keep getting."
Adelman was asked if believes some players were born to play the point.
"I think so, but guys can teach themselves," he said. "Terry Porter did. Some guys are just natural the way they handle the ball, the decisions they make and I really think it comes with the way they grew up and where they played.
"You can tell guys who have played it their whole life."
It has taken Adelman less than a week to recognize Rubio as one of those guys.
"There's no doubt he is," Adelman said. "He has been doing it his whole life. He's used to playing a certain way and he's going to have to change it a little bit. … The thing I'm really impressed with, he's really a smart player. He just doesn't know what he's supposed to do. He knows what everybody else is supposed to do and where they're supposed to be.
"And he's not afraid to talk about it. You can tell he's just a natural point guard."
Natural, smart, precocious, ambitious …
It almost sounds like Rubio is after Adelman's job, doesn't it?
"There are a lot of times he can have it," Adelman said.
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