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published Saturday, December 10th - 7:04am

Rick Adelman's first practice with the Timberwolves went for more than 2 ½ hours and concluded with a fast-paced scrimmage. That was not quite the end of it for the 17 participants Friday evening on the main practice court at the downtown Lifetime Fitness.

Adelman brought the players together at one end of the court and explained the finale for this long first day of work:

Everyone would line up on the end line. The coach would select a player to shoot a pair of free throws. His teammates would raise their arms, bounce on the balls of their feet and make some noise. And the players would be required to run a suicide drill for each missed free throw.

There were a half-dozen shooters and the players wound up running six or seven suicide drills - to the near foul line and back, to half-court and back, to the far foul line and back, and to the far end line and back.

It's the oldest running drill in basketball. It's not a favorite for any player, no matter how great his physical condition. The twist here is the amount of running was based on free throw shooting, turning players into both fans and critics of the teammate who wound up at the line.

"How long have you been running that drill?'' Adelman was asked a few minutes later.

"A long time,'' Adelman said. "You're not just telling them to run, but they always get enough running in.''

There were a couple of interesting changes in the appearance of key Timberwolves: A) It does not appear to be an exaggeration that power forward Kevin Love lost 25 pounds during the extra-long offseason; and B) You needed to look around for a while to find Michael Beasley, with his nearly shaved head.

"I assume this is for training camp only and our guy Beasy will have the variety of dramatic coiffures during the season?'' I said to David Kahn, the president for basketball operations.

"I don't think so,'' Kahn said. "I think Michael is going to go with this haircut for a while.''

Adelman turned 65 in June. He replaced Mike Schuler as Portland's head coach for the final 35 games of the 1988-89 season. This will be his 20th full season and his fifth team - Portland, Golden State, Sacramento, Houston and now the Timberwolves.

He is taking over a team that went 32-132 during two years of non-stop reshuffling after Kahn replaced Kevin McHale as the boss of basketball operations in  May 2009.

Kurt Rambis was Kahn's first hire as coach. And two years later, Kahn had to go to owner Glen Taylor and get permission to fire Rambis, with two seasons remaining on the coach's contract.

The assumption was that Taylor would order Kahn to find a low-buck replacement, since ownership was on the hook for the Rambis payoff. Instead, Kahn threw out Adelman as a possibility, and Taylor pushed him to make that hire - a coach with a resume to bring credibility to an organization that had none.

It remains a surprise to many that Adelman was convinced to walk into such a massive rebuilding project at this late point in an outstanding career. I was talking with a friend and basketball man late Friday night and asked that question:

"Why would Adelman take this job?''

The man's answer: "A dog has to hunt. Adelman's a lifer, and this was the team that wanted him.''

Adelman has brought him with an impressive group of assistants. Terry Porter was the final addition, when his hiring was announced this week. The others are Jack Sikma, T.R. Dunn and Bill Bayno.

He also has both of his sons, David and R.J., working with other titles in the basketball department, along with former NBA player Shawn Respert.

The Adelman staff has not been around Target Center that much, yet there's already a positive impression among employees.

Rambis had a couple of assistants - Dave Wohl and Bill Laimbeer - that big-timed people at every turn, and left a bad taste for the entire Rambis operation.

"Everyone around here knows Terry Porter is a sharp basketball person and a good guy,'' a long-time employee said. "And these other assistants, T.R and Bayno and Sikma ... you can see that they are confident they know what they are doing, and they have respect for people.

"I don't know about wins and losses, but the whole attitude around here is going to be much better than it has been for the past two years - and for a while before that.''