Tonight, the Lakers play host to the Minnesota Timberwolves and their old friend Kurt Rambis. Rambis has been trying to bring some of his old Laker values with him to Minnesota, most notably, the triangle offense, which SLAM notes that the ‘Wolves have struggled with mightily.
With just about a month left to go in the NBA season, the Timberwolves stand at 14-53. Yes, that’s good enough for last place in the Western Conference. Their struggles with the Triangle were evident Sunday night in a loss visiting the Sacramento Kings.
“They need to slow down,” a Los Angeles Lakers scout in attendance said of the Wolves offensive execution. “(As a young team), they have a tendency to rush the offense.”
Patience is key when running a methodical system like the Triangle. With a group of youngsters who are at their best on the run, waiting for an offense to develop in a 24-second-shot-clock League can be difficult.
But the difficulty differs, depending on who you’re talking to.
In his mind, sophomore big man Kevin Love hasn’t had any issues transitioning into the Timberwolves’ new offense in his second NBA season. As a power forward, his responsibilities in the Triangle, he believes, are simple.
“You just need to kind of find out where you fit,” Love said. “For the big men, we just need to pick our spots and need to pick apart the defense on the (offensive) end.”
Mike Bresahan of the Los Angeles Times named tonight’s game against the Timberwolves the Game of the Week because of “The Rambis Factor.”
I know, I know. Lakers-Timberwolves is the game of the week?
The opponents are pretty weak this week — Golden State on Monday, Sacramento on Tuesday and Minnesota tonight — so why choose the Timberwolves?
The Kurt Rambis factor.
Few people know the Lakers better than Rambis, who was hired by the Timberwolves last August after 10 seasons as a Lakers assistant.
The Minnesota coach made his old team work hard for a 104-92 victory in December, packing the lane and daring the Lakers to score from outside, which they did…eventually…sort of.
That’s why I’m thinking tonight’s game will be close. Besides, this is the Lakers. They don’t blow anybody out.
The Los Angeles Times’ Lakers Blog has a few noteworthy posts on what the Lakers have improved on in their last few games and some practice reports:
On Gasol missing practice: Lakers foward Pau Gasol missed Thursday’s practice because of tonsilitis and is listed as day-to-day. Gasol, averaging 17.3 points and 11 rebounds a game, might be a game-time decision for Friday’s game against Minnesota. Derek Fisher did not practice because of what Coach Phil Jackson called an injury in the “groin/hip area.” Fisher is expected to play against Minnesota
On Lakers improvements: Among the highlights: — After going through a rough stretch during the team’s three-game losing streak, Gasol has responded with improved play in the last three games. In those contests, he’s averaged 23 points and about 10 rebounds, two blocks and one turnover a game. Sure his free-throw shooting as of late could improve (six of 10 against Golden State, one of five against Phoenix), but he no longer looks like the “sickly” player as Coach Phil Jackson described of him during the team’s three-game trip two weeks ago. Also, he shown an ability to play tougher, as evidenced by his hard foul against Phoenix center Louis Amundson. — Center Andrew Bynum’s play has improved at the same time, proving that, yes, it is indeed possible for Gasol and Bynum to be productive on the floor at the same time. Their inside dominance has been a thing of beauty lately, with Bynum using his presence to his advantage and Gasol complementing that with his finesse. The two combined for 49 points against Sacramento, 45 points against Golden State and 33 points against Phoenix. Bynum’s 22 points on eight-of-12 shooting against Toronto came after an ineffective five points against Orlando. But he recently pointed to his turnaround in the Magic game, where he learned from his matchup with Orlando Center Dwight Howard. — Team balance has been apparent in its games against Phoenix, Golden State and Sacramento. All five starters cracked double digits against the Suns.
The Lakers post-practice report (complete with video interviews): Lakers guard Kobe Bryant acknowledged the opponents the team faces this weekend aren’t the most threatening. The Lakers play Friday against the Minnesota Timberwolves (14-55), who have lost 11 consecutive games and have remained at the bottom of the Western Conference standings. The Lakers follow with a home game Sunday against the Washington Wizards (21-45), who have dealt with several issues this season, including the suspension of Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton for their involvement with having handguns present in December during a locker room dispute. Washington also made several trades before the Feb. 18 deadline, including a seven-player trade with Dallas that entailed Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood going to the Mavericks. Washington was also involved with a trade with Cleveland that entailed shipping out Antawn Jamison. But Bryant says the quality of the opponents shouldn’t define the team’s concern. “We just have to worry about the things we need to work on and focus on for ourselves,” Bryant said. “It’s not about playing our next opponents. We have to focus on doing what we have to do to become a better team.”
You can also find more post-practice video over at Lakers.com.
Land O’ Lakers asked Kobe if he filled out his NCAA Bracket. Apparently, Kobe plays by different rules.
“I make my own rules,” said Kobe with a grin.
Look, it’s one thing when folks claim somebody of Kobe’s stature has earned the right to shoot his way through a bad game or call his own number outside the offense. We are in fact talking about one of roundball’s all-time greats and leeway is oft rightly afforded to such luminaries. But to paraphrase Walter Sobchak in The Big Lebowski, “This is not ‘Nam. This is March Madness. There are rules.”
Sorry, I’m calling shenanigans. Kobe’s toe was over the line.
At any rate, if your pool contains an entry marked “Mamba,” don’t be surprised -or frankly, impressed- at this cat’s foresight to select Saint Mary’s, Old Dominion, Ohio AND Murray State. However, Kobe did admit rooting interest towards teams wearing his shoes. So assuming he doesn’t wait until the Elite Eight to turn in his choices, there’s always a chance you can make up ground due to votes cast by Nike loyalty over RPI.