Preview & Chat: The Minnesota Timberwolves

Kurt —  February 22, 2009

NBA: JAN 26 Timberwolves at Bucks
Records: Lakers 45-10 (1st in the West) T-Wolves 18-36 (11th in the West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 114.3 (1st in league) T-Wolves 106.4 (20th in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.5 (8th in league) T-Wolves 110.4 (25th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
T-Wolves Randy Foye, Sebasian Telfair, Ryan Gomes, Mike Miller, Kevin Love

The Lakers and The Oscars: No, Lamar Odom isn’t going (an odd rumor running around the Internet a couple weeks ago, until somebody bothered to check the Lakers schedule).

But who is the Best Laker in a leading role? Best Foreign Language Laker? Well, the Oscar goes to… Or, it goes to… (Great minds….)

By the way, I’ll be flipping between the Lakers and Oscars, so feel free to comment on both. I just wish the Lakers were as big a lock tonight as Heath Ledger.

Phil Jackson thoughts: There was some talk about Phil and his strategies in the last thread, but I thought Zephid did a great job summing up the argument about Phil just having talented teams (which his coaching job in this second stint with the Lakers should clear up):

Any great coach has to have great players to succeed. Would Jerry Sloan have been around for 20 years if not for Stockton and Malone being there for so many of them? Would Red Auerbach have won any championships if he hadn’t had 7 Hall-of-Famers on his squad? Would Gregg Popovich have won any without TD? Same goes for Riley and Showtime.

A great coach with a bad team will be marginally successful (Larry Brown’s 76ers come to mind), and a great team with a bad coach will underachieve (George Karl and the 90’s Sonics come to mind), but a great coach with a great team will get the most out of them. It doesn’t matter how good Michael Jordan was, he didn’t win anything until Phil Jackson became his coach.

His methods may be unorthodox, but 9 championships speak for themselves. Those Jordan-Bull teams did not win because of the greatness of Michael Jordan, they won because Phil Jackson (and Tex Winter) developed a system that got the most out of ALL their players.

The T-Wolves Coming In: As a team they have been struggling, losing 8 of their last 10 and four in a row. The key reason is are struggling is that they are without Al Jefferson 9torn ACL four games back), and he was the focal point of the offense. Without him this is a team that does not play great defense and can go on long stretches without offense. That’s a bad combination. Also out is Craig Smith, one of the starting forwards.

Then at the trade deadline the Wolves gave up Rashard McCants, he of the nice game and the sulking attitude, to bring in Sheldon Williams, he of the questionable skills but considerable effort. If you don’t think the more skill guy is going to figure it out, give me the guy with the effort every time.

Keys To The Game: If Jefferson was healthy, this could be a challenging game. But without him, and without Smith, the Wolves are very thin up front. So the Lakers should be able to control the paint — the Wolves have nobody who can stop Gasol or keep Odom off the boards. The Lakers need to go inside out on the offense tonight.

Honestly, I have no idea what the Wolves are doing on offense now, but if you look at their game tracks they just go cold for stretches. The Lakers need to be consistent on offense, if they do that they can get some big runs in this game and just pull away.

The focal point of the T-Wolves offense now is Randy Foye, who the Lakers need to focus on (Ariza and Kobe?).

Also, this is a team the Lakers can run on. The second unit could get out and run and be a key to the Lakers pulling away.

Where you can watch: 4 pm starts out West on KCAL 9, and the usual spots around the Web.