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Updated: October 29th, 2013 7:39pm
Wolves' Adelman anticipating 12-team Western Conference playoff race

Wolves' Adelman anticipating 12-team Western Conference playoff race

by Nate Sandell
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- When it comes to evaluating the competition in the NBA's Western Conference, Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman has about as much as experience to draw upon as one could ask for.

Now in his 23rd season as a head coach, Adelman has spent the entirety of his career in the Western Conference.

With that perspective in mind, Adelman is feels the Wolves are gearing up this season to battle through an ultra-competitive conference slate, expecting close to three-fourths of the conference to legitimately vie for playoff spots.

"You probably have four or five teams like Golden State was last year who could be that this year," Adelman said.

"The West just seems to be deeper with a lot of good teams, maybe 12 teams who can get into the playoffs. The East seems to have four or five really strong teams. The rest of them aren't quite as strong. It's just kind of a different year when you look at the two conferences."

Where the Wolves will fall in the Western Conference gauntlet remains to be seen. Expectations are high in Minnesota, with its core starters finally healthy and a solid supporting cast in place. The Wolves seem likely to be locked in a fight with teams like Memphis, Denver and Portland for one of the conference's final playoff slots.

No starting small forward yet

Adelman will hold off until game-day to announce a starting small forward for the season opener Wednesday against the Orlando Magic.

It is a good bet Corey Brewer, who started four games in the preseason, will get the nod. But as Adelman has repeated on numerous occasions, he expects his rotation on the wing to be subjected to plenty of tweaking in the first few weeks of the season.

"It really doesn't matter who the starters are," Adelman said. "It's what rotation you're going to use through the whole game. We could have somebody different in the third game. Right now, it's what is the best rotation for our team. That's what we really haven't decided yet."

Barea reunites with Richard Pitino

Guard J.J. Barea recently visited a Minnesota Gophers basketball practice, where he reunited with friend and former assistant coach Richard Pitino.

Barea was a star for Northeastern University (Boston, Mass.) when Pitino, then only 24 years old, was added as an assistant coach under Ron Everhart.

"He was young and I was a senior in college, so he couldn't say nothing to me," Barea joked. "I'm happy he is doing good. I think it's great for that program ... I'm good friends with him and his dad, so I'll be checking them out."

Barea will likely have company if he heads over to catch a Gophers game at Williams Arena. Rookie teammate Gorgui Dieng is also close with Pitino, having played for Louisville when Pitino was serving as an assistant under his father, Rick, two years ago.

While at practice, Barea, who knows a thing or two about being a small-sized point guard, was impressed by the Gophers' 5-foot-9, 165-pound junior college transfer DeAndre Mathieu.

"He's quick. He's strong. He gets to the lane," Barea said. "I just gave him a couple tips with what I saw, not much, but anything I can help him with I'm going to help him."

Nate Sandell is a contributor to 1500ESPN.com.
Email Nate | @nsandell
In this story: J.J. Barea, Corey Brewer
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