Game Preview & Chat: The Minnesota Timberwolves

Kurt —  December 4, 2007

Records: Lakers 9-8; T-Wolves 2-13
Offensive ratings: Lakers 110.0 (11th); T-Wolves 102.5 (22nd)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 106.0 (15th); T-Wolves 113.6 (30th)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Vladamir Radmanovic, Andrew Bynum
T-Wolves: (Lots of injuries and game time decisions, so this is a best guess) Sebastian Telfair, Corey Brewer, Ryan Gomes, Craig Smith, Al Jefferson

Lakers Notes: First the injury update — Kwame Brown and Ronny Turiaf did not make the trip with the team and are out tonight and tomorrow. (UPDATE: According to the Lakers Web site Mihm did not practice yesterday and is a gametime decision. He needs to play tonight.)

For the last two games, the Lakers offense has been its weakness. For the season the team has an offensive rating of 110 (points per 100 possessions) but for the last two games that has fallen off to 94.2 (Orlando) and 101.2 (Jazz). Odom has taken some heat for part of the offensive problems, but this really has been a team effort. Of course, if you were going to turn that around, playing the worst defensive team in the NBA when they are banged up is the best way to do it.

What to do about Odom has been the hot topic in the comments, now Mr. Green at Sportshub has weighed in. I think a number of you will agree with him.

The Timberwolves Coming In: The Timberwolves were not the most talented or deep team in the league in the first place, so the little run of injuries has devastated this team.

For tonight, Antoine Walker (ankle) and Al Jefferson (bruised knee) will likely play but did not take part in the physical parts of practice yesterday. Marco Jaric, Randy Foye (kneecap stress reaction) and Theo Ratliff (knee) are out.

Jefferson has been the only real quality offensive player the T-Wolves have of late, he has averaged 20 and 10 in their last 10 games. After that it is McCants, who is shooting just 45% (eFG%) in the last 10 games (but 35% from three, so hang with him out there).

Last Time These Two Met: It was Lamar Odom’s first game back and it may have been his best game this season — he had 18 points on 70% shooting, was aggressive going to the hole, had 10 rebounds and was a team best +22. Kobe added 30-7-7. Kwame was out but Bynum and Mihm combined for 20 rebounds and 20 points on 9-17 shooting. And the Lakers cruised to a win.

Of course, they got away with a ton of turnovers that game as well, so there are things to work on.

Keys To The Game: The Lakers offense should get back on track tonight — if it does not, I’ll be a little more concerned. Also, this is a game the struggling Lakers bench should be able to get on track against a depleted Minny second unit.

Minny has one guy who really can take over a game in Al Jefferson. Bynum is still learning on defense, but if he puts out the effort he did against Dwight Howard the other night that will be enough.

Where you can watch: Game time is 5 p.m. (Pacific). In Los Angeles tune into KCAL (9), nationally you’ll need League Pass. Since I’ll be at work late paying the price for a day at home sick, I’ll be watching on Gamecast.



75 responses to Game Preview & Chat: The Minnesota Timberwolves

  1. Did you know: Looking at team point differential, the Lakers are still on pace to win 52 games. (For the record, as it stands that would still be seventh in the West.)

  2. Thats a pretty funny stat. I was thinking the same thing without knowing the numbers that 50 wins might still only be 7th or 8th seed in the west this year. That is crazy. One of the Lakers biggest problems this year has been with quick point guards. Which is not god when you consider that 4 of the 5 best PG in the league play in the west. Then you also have Baron Davis and Jason Terry who are not that far behind (everyone is far behind CP3 this year, his numbers for a 3rd year player are amazing, in fact only Isiah Thomas put up similar numbers in his 3rd year). So the only two playoff teams the Lakers match up well against in the west are Houston and Denver, because neither of those team have a player named Paul, Parker, Nash, or WIlliams.

  3. This is also a pretty good read, I don’t buy all of it but the point is well made:

  4. 2) To be fair, that’s everybody’s biggest problem. Quick point guards are a nightmare for every team, even the ones that have a quick point guard.

    The key for me in tonight’s game is to have enough gas left in the tank for the trip to Denver tomorrow night.

  5. How do the Lakers respond with the gaping holes at center? With an oft-injured Chris Mihm? With an ineffective Vlad?

    This team troubles me more and more. We need quality contributors and not players who will have a good game here or there. The Lakers need to make another trade in February. I can see that Mihm, Brown and Odom are on the block.

    Kurt, any news on Kwame Brown’s return?

  6. Mike in the Mountain West December 4, 2007 at 3:09 pm

    From Hollinger’s Chat on ESPN:

    Mike (Mountain West): Any insight into why Lamar Odom is stinking it up so bad? Other than jacking up 2 threes a game, of course.

    John Hollinger: (3:45 PM ET ) He’s a total misfit in that offense, I’ve been saying this ever since they got him. The only time he plays well is when Kobe is out. They can’t have him spotting up for jumpers all game if they’re going to get his best.

    Trevor Ariza: Why did LA make the trade for me and not use me?

    John Hollinger: (3:55 PM ET ) Money. The deal saved them a bunch of luxury tax dough. It’s rough for Ariza because he’s a promising young player who deserves better than this.

    Erik (Oregon): Since Odom is such a bad fit in LA, do the Lakers try to move him before the deadline?

    John Hollinger: (3:58 PM ET ) Virtually every trade idea floated out there to get another star for the Lakers has had Odom at the center. So I think they’re way ahead of you on this one.

  7. Nice work Mike (6.) I agree with Holl. on all three points.

    And a quick thanks again to Kurt again for running a good blog and doing those game previews.

  8. Mike in the Mountain West December 4, 2007 at 3:46 pm

    If Odom comes out tonight, against these softies, and lays another egg of a performance I think we can officially declare the “Lamar at SF” experiment a failure and he should be moved back to the starting PF spot.

    Since there will then be more playing time at SF I’d love to see Ariza get 8 – 10 minutes a game. He showed quite a bit of talent last year and I’d like to see what he can do.

    If the season ended today, 11 teams would be taxpayers, with the Lakers now carrying the 10th-highest tax bill from that group. There are an additional six teams less than $1 million away from the $67,865,000 threshold, with San Antonio closest to the line at just under $30,000 away after shedding Beno Udrih’s contract just before the season started.

    It should be noted, however, that the Lakers did register some positive cash flow this month. Trading Brian Cook and Maurice Evans to Orlando for Trevor Ariza sliced their luxury-tax bill from more than $3 million over the tax threshold to just under $1 million over.

  10. re: Hollinger and the Ariza trade: I thought this was a good one for more reasons than money. The Lakers got more athletic and defensive minded on the wing with that move. He hasn’t played much yet, and I’d like to see more of him, but I think Ariza is going to be a good addition overall.

  11. This is off-topic but interesting. There is so much clamour about Bostons big 3, that a lot of people forget that SAS big 3 are better. If you look at the PER Parker (8), Duncan (9) and Ginobili (2) are all in the top 10 in the league. Bostons big 3 are not even all in the top 50; Garnett (10), Peirce (34), Allen (52). I understand that PER is not a perfect stat but I thought that was interesting.

  12. Also off topic: Did anyone see the UCLA/Texas game? I didn’t and am curious what the difference was.

  13. 12- Texas ran, a lot. It was giving Love problems becaue Texas would grab the ball and go, making him less of an impact on the game. Collison was a little rusty and Shipp was a little 3 happy. I really think they underestimated Texas’ team speed, it was off the charts, Augistine is a legit PG.

  14. 6- good question Mike, and you’re exchange with Hollinger is now being quoted on several laker blogs.

  15. Mike in the Mountain West December 4, 2007 at 4:53 pm

    I think a long-term future starting five of Farmar, Crittenton, Ariza, Turiaf, and Bynum is really exciting and matches up quite well with any other young team in the league (Portland, Seattle, Minny, etc.)

    Looking at that exciting young core almost makes we want to trade Kobe for picks, cap-relief, and vets that can help the youngsters grow, ala Derek Fisher.

  16. Mike in the Mountain West December 4, 2007 at 4:55 pm

    Kwame a.,

    Really?! Several Laker blogs? I always knew my name would be up in lights someday…..(sigh).

  17. Kurt –

    Good Holinger post and excellent question Mountain West. Not sure on the UCLA/Texas game, but will be rolling through town for the UCLA-Davidson game and the Lakers v Warriors game on Sunday night.

    No news on Kwame yet? I thought I heard he was supposed to play next week.

    Since Cleveland now missed out on Varejao (unless they match Charlotte’s offer), why not shop Odom to Cleveland?

    The Lakers could probably end up with Gooden and probably a sign and trade with Malik Rose (NY) or FAs PJ Brown/Webber

  18. the other Stephen December 4, 2007 at 5:09 pm

    17. Gooden is ugly. this is LA, baby. we’ve got movie stars, not ducklings.

  19. 17- how much did Charlotte offer? If its reasonable, I wouldnt be surprised if Cleveland ended up matching it, although theres gotta be a little friction on both ends of that at this point.

  20. 81 Witness,
    In the other post, comments section, Kwame is missing the 2 games (Minnesota and Denver). Turiaf may be back in Denver. Maybe.

    You can just check the Lakers blog (linked on the sidebar). It has all this wonderful info.

  21. 81 Witness, all I hear about Kwame is a week or two, kind of where it’s been for a couple weeks it seems.

    And there is no way Cleveland won’t match that offer. The real battle there was the length of the contract, I bet Cleveland would have paid him that but wanted four years, Varejao wanted out sooner. He’ll be back in Cleveland, and that’s a big boost for them.

    And enjoy UCLA/Davidson, that little team is for real (sweet 16, I bet).

    7. Bobby Smith. Thanks. It means a lot.

  22. re: Varejao
    According to “team sources,” the Cavs will probably match.

    Take it for what it’s worth.

  23. 19. The Varejao deal is three years at $17.4 million, basically the mid-level exception. Varejao has an opt out after two years.

  24. Wolves coach to have back surgery
    Timberwolves coach Randy Wittman is preparing for back surgery and will miss Tuesday night’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers.

    Wittman is scheduled to have surgery Wednesday, and the team said it’s unclear when he will resume his duties. Assistant coach Jerry Sichting will coach the Wolves in Wittman’s absence.

  25. 23- fair deal for all sides, he can prove his value in those 2 years, and both sides can go from their.

    4) I echo your sentiments Exick, I hope the Lakers take an aggresssive approach towards this game, looking to get up big and push the lead out. Denver at Denver is tough, even tougher on a back to back, rest would help, but obviously a win at Minny is imperative.

  26. Two good achievements so far this season:

    1- See Bynum and Farmar growing.

    2- Free up some cash (from the trade).

    i can’t see anything else other than # 7 or # 8 spot.

    Kobe once again can’t get his first MVP.

    Lamar is just Lamar after all. So is Kwame “The Hot Hands”.

    I wish I can just TIVO this season and Fast Forward to the first series of the playoffs and see how the team respond.

  27. Kurt, Kobe for Kidd sounds evil, although Bynum would be much more effective than Mikki Moore ever was.

    Let’s hope they dismantle the wolves tonight. We need soemthing like that about now.

  28. Mike in the Mountain West December 4, 2007 at 7:23 pm

    Interesting starting lineup tonight with Mihm and Walton starting.

    I wonder why?

  29. Mike

    Andrew has the Flu. Hes back in the locker still on the active list. He can still play if he starts to feel better.

  30. Nice to see the Lakers put up 30 on the 1st.

    Its noticeable that aside from us being shorthanded on this trip, its nice to see Luke back on the starting five and Lamar at the 4.

  31. The Dude Abides December 4, 2007 at 7:41 pm

    Bynum is sick, and is in the locker room. Mihm is playing great right now with the starting unit. He’s still weak on help D around the basket, but kept Jefferson off the offensive boards and away from the rim when he has the ball. Mihm has a decent jump hook and a pretty good spot-up 15-footer. If the first unit plays to his strengths a little bit, he is a serviceable sub for Kwame with that unit. Ugh…he just fumbled the ball again.

  32. Mihm has held his own according to the box score, it seems. 7 points and 5 rebounds for the quarter. Not bad at all. Only 3 TOs for the team, and Lamar has not yet launched a three, so I’m happy thus far…

  33. Uhm. Sasha night? basket and one, three pointer, and a block in quick succession.

  34. 27. I’m not a big fan of Beri’s win produced number but I thought the basic concept was amusing (not realistic).

  35. 34, exactlt what is he measuring by wins? Guess I could look it up but I need to work on my test.

  36. I got drew for my fanstasy team so him being sick sucks. I like the fact that Crittenton and Ariza are getting some burn…

  37. wow, critt and ariza came in during the 2nd and we looked like a fast, defensive team. critt looks as good as Tex and Phil have been talking about.

  38. The Dude Abides December 4, 2007 at 9:14 pm

    One thing I like about this year’s team is that our bench is so fiery and competitive that we’re not going to lose very many games to the league doormats. In fact, when the team gets ahead by 15 in the second half, they build on that lead and turn it into a blowout.

  39. random interesting probably-too-small-of-a-sample-size stat of the day:

  40. 39. That uses last season’s numbers, so the sample size is small but not tiny. Still, very interesting.

  41. So how did Ariza look? kwame a. said the defense was good, and I see 5-5 shooting. But I haven’t watched the game.

  42. Ariza brings some skills unique to the team, they gotta find him some minutes. I really hope we get healthy here soon, and after, Phil finds a 10 man rotation.

  43. 41-he was slashing to the hole, grabbing o boards, and getting steals. We had something like 21 pts from fast break pts and most of those came with him in the mix. A lineup with Critt, Kobe, Ariza, Vlad and Mihm was really effective in the 2nd qtr

  44. Ariza did look good, but I saw quite a bit of that gambling we heard about. There was at least one missed steal on his part that turned into dribble penetration for an easy deuce in the paint. Tonight the gambling mostly worked out. I can see some nights in the future when it might drive Lakers fans nuts. You know whose defense it reminded me of? Smush. But like Smush actually cared and worked his butt off. A perfect player for Phil. He does love defensive gamblers.

  45. the guy is also playing like half a minute a game…do you think he expects ‘good box out form’ to be rewarded with more minutes?

  46. I was impressed not only with Ariza’s steals in playing the passing lane, but also his help D and his driving ability. He finishes very well at the rim, and also dished well when his path to the rim is blocked. One question I have that’s been bugging me: what has become of the draft pick the Lakers got from the Heat in the Shaq trade?

  47. I can’t stand it when Joel Meyers says after a dunk “he flushed that one” . What the hell is that??? Why can’t he say SLAM, or DUNK or JAM??? Flush is so anticlimactic. There’s only one thing you’re doing when you’re flushing…

    Joel is dull. As a fan, I know this team isn’t going to win a championship this year. So I at least want some excitement when I’m watching these games. And Joel Meyers doesn’t give me that.

    Just my two cents.

  48. Maybe Kobe gunning early is a good thing. Our bench, especially Sasha, seems far more comfortable coming in when the team is leading. And when Sasha is comfortable, we can expect good things (reportedly he is often the leading scorer in practice; if that means anything). Instead of Kobe trying to set the team up first and getting his shots in the fourth, it may actually be better for him to set the tone early and let the bench get their minutes.

    Of course, more easily said than done, and we won’t have the luxury of facing the wolves every time, but our bench doesn’t have the poise to weather opposing team’s run yet.

  49. For those of you waiting for the Lakers to collapse without Bynum’s scoring and rebounding–keep on waiting.

    Chris Mihm held Jefferson to 12 points–9 below his average on 5-14. Lamar did little to help offensively or defensively. Ariza did well.

    The Lakers held Minnesota under 100.


  50. Mihm’s performance was good. He did everything that was asked of him. The Lakers holding Minnesota below 100 is probably more because they have no quality players besides Jefferson.

  51. 49-minny is one of the worst teams in the leauge. Its ok to like Drew, Mihm and Kwame. Don’t know why you seem to hate Drew, he’s gonna be here for awhile, get used to him, and stop looking to paint him as a garbage player, you will find nobody agrees with you

  52. Yeah I don’t understand the hate for drew either. Yeah he makes mental mistakes sometimes and his defense isn’t the best in the league. But he has improved a lot this year, and if he continues to work hard like he did this last off-season than I don’t see any reason why he won’t continue to improve. He’s not going to be Dwight Howard or Tim Duncan but then if you expect him too be those players become a Spurs or Magic fan.

    I didn’t see the game but Arizas stats looked pretty good. I especially liked the 5 rebounds and 4 assists. But I will take that with a grain of salt, since anyone can look good against Minny. If he can grab a few rebounds and play solid D off the bench then he will help this team.

  53. It was nice to see some positive things happening for Mihm. Although he ended up with decent stats it was obvious to me he still can’t really run or jump. He just has no lift, which kills him defensively and on rebounding. That said, he did do some positive things tonight, but lets not forget Minnessota is unquestionably the worst team in the league and they were missing players.

    After wathcing Jefferson I would never trade Bynum for him. Jefferson wasn’t all that impressive and I can assure you that didn’t have much to do with Chris Mihm.

  54. The important thing is that they won. This season every W is significant if they want to make the playoffs.

  55. I know I spoke earlier of reviving the LO for JO talks, but I think those may be dead now. After Stoudemire dumped 42 points on JO, I think we can dismiss JO coming to the Lakers.

    I still believe he’s not able to push off of his knees and recover and pivot on defense.

  56. 53. Still managed to get a Mihm dig in there, good job.

  57. 46. The Lakers drafted Farmar with the draft pick they got from the Heat in the Shaq trade.

  58. 57. And they wouldn’t have gotten Bynum if they hadn’t stunk it up the following season after trading Shaq.

    I wish there was another big Lakers-Heat Christmas game this year, so we could hear all sorts of commentary about how Jerry Buss perhaps wasn’t as dumb and crazy as everybody thought previous.

  59. 56. That’s not a dig. Mihm is a really good player considering how terrible he is, and I really mean that.


  60. 57 – he might be the best thing we got out of that trade. That and not having to pay Shaq $20m this year (and the next few…)

  61. 58 – All in all it wasn’t a bad trade. If only we kept Caron (the legit #2 we’ve been begging for).

  62. Phil should at least try out Lamar coming off the bench. Run the offense through him when Kobe sits down. Make him responsible for the offense and tell him to shoot. Have Rony start with Luke and bring Andrew and Farmer off the bench when Kwame comes back. Lamar needs to be tried out in a different role before we seriously consider trading him, ( I don’t think the Lakers are BTW). I’m not convinced Lamar will freak out about it if it’s presented correctly. Ginobli comes off the bench and he’s an All-Star.

  63. 59. It’s a good idea Hebisner, but do remember the Spurs are the better team. They can affod that.

    It may help us win games now, but come playoff time, we need both Kobe and Lamar to mesh. What, you want Lamar to run the offense the 5 minutes Kobe is on the bench?

  64. Cavs match offer for Varejao
    By Beacon Journal staff report

    The Cavaliers have matched the Charlotte Bobcats’ contract offer sheet signed by Anderson Varejao, General Manager Danny Ferry announced this morning.

    After months of being unable to get a deal done with the Cavaliers, Varejao accepted a three-year, $17.4 million offer sheet from the Charlotte Bobcats late Monday. The deal has an opt-out clause after two seasons, which is the key part of the deal.

    The Cavs waived guard/forward Demetris Nichols to make room for Varejao on the 15-man roster. Nichols played in three games for Cleveland and scored two points and grabbed one rebound in 14 minutes.

  65. 61. Thats not a big surprise. I guess Verajao kind of got what he wanted. He can opt out in 2 years and then try to make more money as a FA.

  66. 52. I watched a lot of Wake games when Duncan was playing there (shout out to Randolph Childress), and frankly Bynum reminds a lot of young Duncan. Late to organized ball, slow to grow into his body, making up for this by really working on his technique, stoic demeanor on the court… the only real difference I see is that Duncan got to develop at his own pace in a nurturing environment for 4 years against kids at or near to his own age while Bynum got thrown to the wolves.

    I am just glad the Bynum has also shown that he also has at least some of Duncan’s mental strength by not cracking the way Kwame did (it’s hard to believe now, but Kwame put up 18 double-doubles and scored at least 15 points 22 times as a 21 year old in his 3rd season).

  67. the other Stephen December 5, 2007 at 1:46 pm

    they call varejao a clownfish in detroit because of how much he flops. let’s not talk about him too much here.

  68. Minnesota or not, Ariza gave us a glimpse of his athleticism and defense last night. He seems to do gamble a little too much, but he recovers quickly when he does.

  69. Every Laker fan has been amazed and pleased by the progress of Andrew Bynum this year. It can lead some of us to accelerate expectations and may lead us to ignore his problems.

    Giving love to Andrew this way could end up killing him with love.

  70. 66.
    Exactly. Because Andrew reads this blog and cares what we say about him.

  71. Kurt, I saw the Q&A you did with The Nugg Doctor. Hurry up and post the game preview so I can see his answers to your questions! hehe

  72. 66. Drrayeye, imagine if we applied that logic to Kwame Brown….lol…..the way I see it, people have been pleased with Kwame’s defensive progress and that has lead many to accelerate expectations as he is now the savior of our team and we would be 20-0 if he didn’t get injured, which has lead us to ignore his problems:

    Can’t shoot or play offense
    Can’t rebound
    Can’t catch
    Can’t block shots
    Doesn’t work hard to improve
    Can’t stay healthy
    Too stupid to play power forward

    Why do people have to insist Kwame is more valuable to this team than Bynum??? What’s wrong with saying that Kwame helps us defensively and still praise Bynum for being one of the most productive big men in the league?

    What are Bynum’s mytical “problems” you reference? That he isn’t Shaq in his prime at 20 years old? Bynum has exceeded expectations this year and we should be thanking our lucky stars we have such a great, young center.

    The fact is, this team would be WAAAAAAYYYYY better if we could play BOTH Bynum (at the 5) and Kwame (at the 4) at the same time……TOO BAD KWAME IS TOO MUCH OF AN IDIOT TO PLAY POWER FORWARD IN THE TRIANGLE and even if he could, he gets injured every other game so it wouldn’t matter anyway.

  73. 71. It’s up now. Damn work gets in the way of blogging way too much some days…..

  74. (72) Bobby,

    I’ve posted in some detail where Bynum has problems at defense.

    I’ve also indicated why his strongest supporters might be his worst enemies.

    The Bigfoot Andrew/Twinkletoes Kwame tandom is about right for both of them right now.

    We don’t disagree that much, but your language is usually far too strong for me. Why not add a few shades of gray to your black and whites and a little gentleness to your harsh statements?

  75. The Dude Abides December 5, 2007 at 9:40 pm

    Bobby, you seem to imply that those of us who want Kwame to start believe that he is better than Andrew. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Kwame doesn’t block shots as well as Andrew, you can’t even mention their hands in the same sentence, and Andrew has a much better touch on his shot. We just think that the five-person combos are better with Kwame starting the game. They can play it by ear on whether to finish the game with Andrew or Kwame, or substitute offense for defense, etc….and it’s also possible by the end of the season that Andrew will have continued to improve so much that he takes even more playing time away from Kwame.