Preview and Chat: The Minnesota Timberwolves

Phillip Barnett —  March 16, 2012

Records: Lakers: 27-16 (3rd in West), Timberwolves: 22-22 (9th in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers: 104.1 (17th in NBA), Timberwolves: 105.1 (11th in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers: 101.4 (10th in NBA), Timberwolves: 104.2 (15th in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Steve Blake, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Timberwolves: Luke Ridnour, Martel Webster, Wesley Johnson, Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic
Injuries: Lakers: none; Timberwolves: Ricky Rubio (Out), Michael Beasley (Questionable)

The Lakers Coming In: The Trade Deadline has come and gone, and with the deadline went Jason Kapono, Luke Walton and Derek Fisher. Both Darius and Dave shared their thoughts on dealing Fish yesterday, and without drawing this out more than they should be, I’ll just quickly add that I share many of their sentiments about Fish, and am truly sad to see him go, although I understand the implications of his departure. With Fish, Walton and Kapono gone, the Lakers will turn their focus toward the end of the season (which is rapidly approaching), with what should be a upgrade in offensive production from the point guard position in Ramon Sessions. It’s unclear whether or not Sessions will suit up for the Lakers tonight, but Sessions will soon likely get the starting minutes at point with Steve Blake coming off the bench.

The Lakers are coming off two straight overtime road wins, and have won 12 of their last 16 overall. They’re steadily improving on both ends of the floor as the season progresses, and look to nab another home win tonight.

The Timberwolves Coming In: Last Friday, the Lakers beat Minnesota and took more than just a victory from the impressive Wolves, they took their rising star in Ricky Rubio when Kobe took out his knee. Since the last meeting between the two, the Wolves have lost two of three, including a tough overtime loss in Utah last night. Minnesota let the trade deadline come and go without making any moves, which isn’t going to help for their playoff push this season, but keeping their core intact is likely the best move for them looking ahead. The Wolves were in talks with the Blazers and the Lakers for a deal that would have sent Jamal Crawford to Minnesota and Michael Beasley to the Lakers. Obviously things never materialized, but that was as close as the Wolves got to making a deal before the deadline.

Timberwolves Blogs: Make sure you check out A Wolf Among Wolves. Ben Polk, Zach Harper and Myles Brown do a great job proving all the Wolves analysis you can handle.

Keys to the Game: The last two times these teams played, Kevin Love was out either sick or nursing an injury. Tonight, the Lakers will not have the luxury of not having to box Love out, but will have to dominate on the boards to win tonight. The Lakers had a +15 rebound advantage in the previous two games combined, and will have to find a way to continue this trend despite the magnetic  force field that sends all rebounds to wherever Love is on the floor.

To do this, the Lakers are going to need to go into Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum early and often, eliminating the number of long jumpers and the time either Pau or Bynum would otherwise spend away from the rim. This not only puts them in position for high percentage shots, but it puts the best rebounders in prime position for offensive rebounds. Defensively, the Lakers are going to have to work to box out. Not only Love, but Nikola Pekovic and Derrick Williams can kill the Lakers on the boards if it becomes a matter of effort.

Other than rebounding, closing out on shooters is going to be huge for the Lakers tonight. They have a number of guys who aren’t afraid to pull the trigger from three, and when you’re overmatched, the three pointer is a great equalizer. In the three-point victory, the Wolves shot 40 percent from behind the arc, while in the 19-point win, the Wolves shot 26 percent from behind the arc. If you can keep this Timberwolves team from dominating the glass and can  run their shooters off the three point line, you have a great shot at not only winning, but putting them away early.

Where You Can Watch: 7:30 p.m. start time on Fox Sports West. Also listen at ESPN Radio 710AM.

Phillip Barnett

Posts

115 responses to Preview and Chat: The Minnesota Timberwolves

  1. For Warren!

  2. And for Fish!

  3. It was just reported the Rockets are planning to cut Fisher immediately. Also reported the Lakers have zero interest to re-sign him :( Very sad… Although probably a good idea for the Lakers to cut ties and give the keys to Sessions.

  4. Also reported Sessions will be available to play tonight :) Can someone please breakdown the Matchups tonight Sony can read for the first time since 2004…. “The Lakers have a slight edge at PG”. Someone? Anyone?

  5. What’s with the uncertainty about the new players being available? Does anyone know what the physical requires? I guess there could be a wait for blood analysis (HIV), but not sure what else could possibly hold things up…

  6. Phillip, game starts at 7:30

  7. Would anyone be surprised if Fish is p/u off of waivers by the Clips? They have missed some veteran leadership since Billups went down.

  8. lil pau,
    Players have 48 hours to report to their new team after a trade if I recall the rule correctly. This can delay physicals. Sessions should be available by Sunday.

  9. lil Pau,
    From what is being reported both players will be available but playing time is up to the coach.

  10. I expect Pau to have a big game knowing he’s here the rest of the season. Have to keep the ball movement going and off ball action.

  11. I expect Fish, if he decides to continue playing this season after the buyout, will end up in San Antonio. Their backup PG, TJ Ford, just retired.

  12. Dude,
    Their young back up is paying well. I just don’t see a team where Fisher could be a back up guard for. BUt we will see. I can see a contending team signing him not to ever play… But to sort of be a coach on the bench in warmups.

  13. If Dwyer seriously thinks that Sessions is picking up his PO for next year, he either a) doesn’t know Sessions’ value or b) underestimates the market worth for a PG with his skill set. Ramon wouldn’t do that considering it would make him the lowest paid starting PG in the NBA on a non-rookie deal. He’s got value, and he’s gonna cash in this summer.

  14. Aaron, I don’t think the Spurs want to go into the postseason with Cory Joseph as their primary backup PG, with Gary Neal playing out of position at PG for a few minutes as well.

  15. darius and aaron: thanks

  16. The Rockets will cut 37 year old Fish, and will sign 37 year old Anthony Carter instead.

  17. Aaron, can you post a link to the information that both players will be available. Everything I can find online says the opposite (not expected to be available until Sunday).

  18. Avidon,

    Depends on the here on out a heckuva lot more than on anything else.

    I hope he does raise his stock because that will mean he was part of great run this spring and summer.

    But for Sessions resume right now? He’s just a journeyman backup point guard that could be had for a low first round draft pick and a couple of players on bad contracts with one foot each out of the league.

    That’s the reality of the moment.

    It’s up to Sessions to embrace the opportunity if he’s got the chops for it.

    He’ll have nobody to blame but himself if he doesn’t.

  19. Will be very interested to see what Popovich does with Stephen Jackson in this 2nd go-around.

    I’d rather see Fish sign with SA than Miami. Miami showed interest last time he was a FA, but they also didn’t have Cole at that point. Who knows what they’ll do this time.

  20. Lil Pau,
    Here is Brown on how much he will play Session’s tonight (assuming he doesmt fail physical)on ESPN LA…

    “I wouldn’t have a problem (playing Sessions and Hill if they were medically cleared),” said Brown, even though neither player has gone through a practice with their new teammates. “Will I do it? I don’t know.”

  21. Dude,
    You have seen Fisher play this year yes? Neal at PG is an infinatley better option than Fisher. I just can’t see another team signing Fisher… Let alone playing him. You need to rememeber Fisher is even worse coming off the bench without superstars to hide his deficiencies.

  22. Snoopy,

    I’m not so sure if Miami wanted to sign Fish. Its very possible that it was a rumor from Fish’s camp to pressure the Lakers for a contract.

    The Spurs seem like the only possible destination for Fish, and even that seems highly unlikely. There are enough veteran leaders on that team.

  23. How about Washington or Cleveland sign Fisher to tutor their PG-prospects and steady the locker room? …or maybe the Clippers sign him to fill Billups’ shoes :)

  24. I could see the Magic, Grizzles signing Fisher. It’s only a handful out there those other mentioned SA. I would say Indiana but no way Bird can sign a Laker.

  25. Dave,
    By all accounts Ramone is really gonna shine in a starting role playing a true PG PnR offense for this squad in LA with Bynum, Kobe, and Gasol around him. He is gonna look very very good. I can’t see a scenerio where he doesn’t opt out, eventually signing a big deal with the Lakers this off season.

  26. Heard Ramon Sessions will wear no. 7. Well hope he has the same charcter inside the locker room similar to the last guy that wore that number (Lamar Odom)

  27. Miami could use Fish…

    To be exact…Lebron could use Fish…to bail him out of clutch situations ;)

  28. Will b interested to see the dynamics between Kobe and Sessions. Besides the (possible) initial frustration of having his career running mate shipped out due to the addition of Ramon, its been a while since he’s been paired with a ‘True PG’ who will, n effect, take the ball out of his hands.

  29. I was wondering if Fisher might end up back at GS, if only to be player/coach and veteran leadership for a young team (and young PG in Curry) — as discussed above for other teams.

    I would not like to see him in SA, as a Laker fan. I’m already afraid of that team and their record in lockout-shortened seasons.

    (Dave M — thanks a million for your thoughtful reply in the last thread.)

  30. Sessions might play tonight but Blake will be in the starting 5.

  31. repost from previous thread;
    I, for one, am still puzzled by the whole Fish trade:

    1. Was it a salary dump? I don’t think so, because, by all accounts, we were close to getting Beasley, which is adding to the payroll.

    2. Was it because of chemistry issues associated with demoting Fish? Mitch said that he thought Fish would have accepted it. Then why trade him away?

    3. The logical conclusion is that they really liked Hill. But if that was the case, I haven’t heard/read much about that from our FO’s perspective.

    Mitch did refer to making Mike’s job easier, but given that Fish’s minutes were being reduced anyways (didn’t Blake play most of the OT in one of the recent games?), I don’t know if it was that big a deal.

    Yes, there was a logjam at PG, but now there is a log jam at PF/C.

    Whatever be the case, I don’t think this was just a salary dump. After all, we could have given McRoberts away and shaved nearly the same amount of salary.

    My (totally uninformed) guess – there is a tug of war going on between coach Brown and the players (Kobe, Pau, Fish) about the offense. Given Fish’s catchet with the rest of the team, the FO prolly thought it best to address the problem by removing the “malcontents”.

    Thoughts?

  32. Great point by Zac Lowe at Sports Ilkustrated…

    • Kobe Bryant: Bryant is a career 33.6 percent shooter from three-point range. In other words: Bryant is a below-average three-point shooter.

    In related news, the Lakers acquired an actual pick-and-roll point guard on Thursday in Ramon Sessions, a career 18 percent three-point shooter before suddenly going 26-of-62 (42 percent) so far this season. There is little point in acquiring Sessions, a shaky defender, if he can only work his pick-and-roll skills when Bryant is resting — especially since Bryant won’t rest as much in the playoffs. Having Sessions float around the perimeter is a waste.

    Kobe is a really skilled off-the-ball worker. He’s a smart cutter who varies up his cuts, knows how to get to his spots on the floor and can set some mean cross-screens under the hoop. But all that movement usually ends with him catching the ball, holding it and either shooting or passing out of a double-team. Can he dial things back a bit and give Sessions a chance to boost a so-so offense?

  33. On the way to the game. Im pretty exited. The Wolves tv nba analyst said lakers fans have no idea how good Sessions is. He said he is gonna make Bynum, Gasol, and Kobe a lot better. Wow.

  34. From a Mcten Tweet:
    Fisher’s and Walton’s lockers were left empty. Sessions got Kapono’s locker. Hill got Caracter’s vacated locker. No name plate for Eyenga

  35. any_one_mouse,
    Mitch was pretty clear that the two trades could be treated as a single trade.

    1) They traded for Sessions to take over the PG role on the Lakers.
    2) Due to Kobe’s position and the newness of Mike Brown, it was going to be difficult to sit Fish behind both Sessions and Blake.
    3) It was much better for the ownership & FO to take all the heat for getting rid of Fish and for Mike Brown to concentrate on the best starting 5 and best backup rotation.

    NOTE: They had the Fish for Beasley trade all set, when the Timberwolves owner called off the trade at 11:53. The Lakers were able to contact Houston and reactivate an option they had previously discussed to send Fish there by 11:59, one minute before the deadline.

  36. any one mouse @ 31 – not sure there’s a logjam at C/PF. There’s Bynum and Pau, before adding Hill, right?

    And we all know about ‘Drew’s injury history …

    Nope, not a salary dump, but a way to remove a frankly ineffective player, add a player w potential, AND save several million U$D.

  37. Basketball Reasons: If you want to win, and you are rich (Buss, Cuban ,Allen, Prokorov), you spend as much as you legally can. The Lakers have not done that. It is simply a fact. If you want to re-build + look to the future, you get yourself positioned to be under the cap. We will not be able to do that until 2014 (Cuban is doing that now). So from the end of last year until now, the only reason to cut salary is Buss profits. Not saying it is necessarily wrong – it is just a “basketball” fact.

  38. @29 I think he’s headed towards a contender. OKC sounds about right, but it’s not like there’s a huge market for him. I love Fish as much as anyone, but he’s realistically a team’s 3rd pg.

  39. Craig W, R,

    The point I was trying to make that if reducing Fish’s role was an issue, Mitch would have said that. He said the opposite – that he didn’t think Fish was a problem.

    Also, if salary was the issue, and they really valued Fish’s role on the team, couldn’t they have sent McBob instead?

  40. Fish Discussion: He was our starter + then all of a sudden – 3rd string + expendable. So why was he the starter? Is MB not very intelligient? Is MB incapable of telling a veteran bad news (KB or DF)? If so, are these two items still true today? Please enlighten me.

  41. Robert @ 37 – “If you want to win, and you are rich (Buss, Cuban,Allen, Prokorov), you spend as much as you legally can.”

    Well, it doesn’t necessarily follow that spending a great deal automatically leads to success on the court. The Knicks have proven that ad naseum.

    Also, while it’s true that Buss is fabulously wealthy by the standards of a poor slob like me, Allen, Cuban, and the Nets owner mentioned above are ALL far, far weathier than Jerry Buss. (For that matter, the bumbling Clips owner Don Sterling is richer than Buss.) I don’t remember for sure, but I think Buss’s net worth is about mid pack or lower among NBA owners.

    But what Jerry Buss “lacks” in shear wealth he sure makes up for it in B-Ball savvy, doesn’t he? Let’s hope Jimmy Buss has learned something from the master.

  42. If this is the Pau we’re going to see for the rest of the season, I’ll be pretty happy.

  43. Oh yea Kobes

  44. If they did a pre game tribute to Fish I would have cried. Sad fact of the night.

  45. missed a ton of easy shots so far

  46. Sessions is in the game and scores on his first Lakers FG attempt.

  47. sessions- was that scripted? comes into game, instantly goes to the hole for two…

  48. Welcome to the Lakers Ramon! good defense on Ridnour and Barea

  49. any_one_mouse,
    You expected Mitch to say Fish was a problem? That wasn’t going to happen.

    I listened to Mitch and he clearly intimated that the Fish situation presented the coaches with a difficult situation. I think that is about as honest and open a statement on the issue as we are ever going to get. Read between the lines and you will get that the Lakers didn’t want to deal with Kobe lining up behind Fish and insisting on his getting playing minutes. Then the coaches would have effectively been neutered.

  50. Wow! We just had a point guard get to the hoop and score a layup.

  51. any one mouse @ 39 – dunno if McBob would’ve worked in place of Fish. I doubt the two contracts are the same, for example.

    Also, more percieved upside for McBob perhaps? Not a lot of upside for Fisher as a player, needless to say.

  52. KenOak — are PGs allowed to drive to the hoop?

  53. A Laker PG blowing by people off the dribble and finishing at the rim? Is this really happening?

  54. that Sessions fastbreak was so unlike the Lakers I couldnt believe my eyes!

  55. You immediately see the impact of Sessions on this team. He is a threat to score on the penetration and the defense is aware of that so now our shooters are getting great looks coz Sessions sucks the defense so deep they don’t have time to recover. With Blake and Fish before, the defense knew they couldn’t get deep into the paint so they just stayed home on the shooters. the only way our shooters get open is on the double team and missed rotations which is usually deep into the shotclock. Now our team has a whole new dimension, and shooters get open early on the penetration. gives the team a lot more options if nothing happens on the early drive and kick out. Like it very much!

  56. But Sessions isn’t a top 10 PG…. :)

  57. Like what I see from Sessions. Very nice PG

  58. Sessions may be just what the doctor ordered for this team.

  59. DID YOU GUYS SEE THAT? THE WHOLE TEAM TOUCHED THE BALL AND MADE EXTRA PASSES!!!!!!! wtf?!

  60. Sessions has given the Lakers something they have not had in awhile, a PG that can get into the lane.

  61. More fast break points in the first half of this game than the entire first half of the season.

  62. i love pekovic’s game.

  63. Hate to say it but Kobe appears to be the new Fisher.

    Can’t pass or shoot tonight.

  64. Kobe with the slam dunk, NICE

  65. Ken – Kobe is 4-8, 2-2 from 3 and 1-1 from the line ?????

  66. I’d sure like to see Sessions start the 3rd quarter, but I don’t think that will happen. What MB should do at the very least is bring him in at the six-minute mark. It’s clear that he has already made the team better in his one half of play.

  67. 1/2 and 1/2 @ 63 — “Wow I think kobes career just got extended 2 more years”

    Hadn’t thought of that! Good point, me thinks.

  68. Two PG layups is a season high. Not sure McRoberts should be guarding Love.

    Not loving that.

    2nd unit is now really fast. 23 points is 2 more then they averaged this year.

    Wonder if Fish watching this game.

    Good guy. I wish him well.

  69. Sessions looks very good for this team. Not only the physical tools to penetrate and set people up, but the willingness to do it. He passed up a couple shots himself and got great looks for others. There’s just a generally better all-around basketball flow.

    Also cutting off Barea and Ridnour nicely.

    Very exciting!

  70. I know Robert. As soon as I pressed the button he made 2 shots. I guess it was a weak attempt at humor.

  71. Beware Western Conference, here comes the Lakers AGAIN!!!

  72. @ the Dude

    Of course, one half is an extremely small sample size, but I liked the energy Sessions brought to the bench. Barnes, Murphy, and Goudelock were getting wide open looks, and Sessions was able to be a one-man fast break a couple of times. How about start Blake each half, and then play Sessions last half of the first and first 5-7 of the second…..of course then there is the issue of who gets the endgame time….

  73. Ken: No issues; I know the team is better + I know that 1 of your favs – Derek is gone. However can you say something about MWP in the second half just for old times sake? : )

  74. Can’t lie I’m excited about this team now. Sessions came in the game and instantly had an impact.

  75. I’m only watching Gamecast – can someone tell me why Pau was subbed out at the end of the half?

  76. @78 – Two fouls.
    @75 – It’s a nice dilemma to have, isn’t it? :D

  77. @78

    Because Pau had 2 fouls so MB dont want to have that 3rd foul so McBob subbed.

  78. Loving what I’m seeing from RS7. Even Stevie Wonder can see how much he’ll improve this team .. If not for Drew missing some bunnies, we would b up by much more.

  79. pau needs to get more agressive with Love, get in his face and trust the help

  80. I’d like to see more post-ups.

    Notice Drew has been late on help D because he’s not involved in the game on offense.

  81. He is not waiting for the 4th Q. 5-7 from 3

  82. There are 3 new cubs in the lion pack and Kobe must show them who eats first !

  83. one observation- kobe moving w.o ball- not a bad spot up shooter, esp. on threes today. it can’t all be sessions- blake also is playing well as facilitator as a starter.

  84. Kobe is supposed to have a high basketball IQ, right? So, why does the assumption that Kobe would boycott if Fisher weren’t the starting pg? Not once has Kobe complained about MWP and his his early misses, and not once did he complain about Fisher being ineffective. That’s Loyalty!

    Yes, Kobe is hurt that his friend was traded, but I’m sure he’s smart enough to recognize that the Laker’s chances for a championship improved exponentially.

    On another note, how many times was MB clowned for not playing G-lock and McHops? Players were being played or not being played for purposes of the trade deadline.

  85. Kobe’s dunk over Pekovic from tonight’s game.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDmq9cZoAfQ

  86. that may have been the worst outlet in history

  87. We flat out fell asleep on some of Minny’s possessions. But we’re up 13 and haven’t allowed our patented run when we get a big lead, so… meh.

  88. one of those games where Drew is not interested in help defense

  89. Bynum needs to be ok with immediate kickouts on post up when the double comes. Esp to creators like sessions and Kobe. He just turns away and gets trapped

  90. Drew and Gasol are playing like crap tonight. Offensively and defensively.

    What’s keeping us ahead is something we are not used to get on most nights:

    - Good 3-pt shooting
    - Good PG-play

    Hope that’s enough to get us the win because our big men are laying an egg so far.

  91. Pek is taking Pau’s soul. AGAIN

  92. Kobe’s shot should do it.

  93. Nice foul, Blake.

  94. i am forever convinced that any shot MWP makes is a complete fluke

  95. After the 1st half Lakers coasted. Confidence is high they know they’ve gotten better. Good Win!

  96. decaf,

    Not you–have heard that about 10 times. Looks just like that guy.

  97. Nice win – Utah Sunday

  98. I hardly know what to do without Fisher out there!

    I have nothing to complain about.

    Oh well.

  99. 7pts 4rebs 5asts not too shabby for a PG playing with 1 day with his new team. 3TO’s is forgivable. I hope you guys noticed that Barnes had a great game coz of the looks (drive and kick, assist on the dive cut) given by Sessions. Now that’s a PG… someone who makes his teammates better!

    So what if he’s not a top-10 PG?! you think our salary cap or makeup of the team can afford one? What if Westbrook were on this team? Yikes!

  100. This is just scratching the surface of how much better this team can be with the addition of Sessions.

  101. Kobe on radio:

    “(Sessions) is a guy they’re gonna have to game plan for. He can get into the lane with the best of them.”

    “I spoke to Derek several times yesterday. We’re close and we’re gonna stay close.”

  102. First win of the Ram Sessions era.

    Lovin’ it.

    The Lakers are dangerous now.

  103. I think it was good for Sessions that the team won the first post-Fish game.

    Kobe’s first words about Sessions:

    “He’s fast.”

  104. despite some sloppy play this is one of those games that i just knew LA would win…i havent felt that way since artest was #37…cant wait til sessions gets some practices under his belt

  105. Craig W,

    Yet, MB has been steadily cutting Fish’s minutes, hasn’t he? Blake has been playing more and more, and I didn’t hear/read anything about Fish complaining.

    I do know that Mitch said it was because we had too many PGs, but he also said he didn’t expect Fish to be a problem. Which was the disconnect I was talking about.

  106. Will someone please tell Bill MacDonald how to pronounce our new point guard’s first name before the next game?

    Ramon is not pronounced roh-mon.

  107. R,

    If my research is right, Fish is due 3.4M next year, while McBob is due 3M. Both contracts are the same length too.

    Again, I don’t think it was plain and simple as a salary dump – because we were trying to get Beasley, which would only add to the payroll.

    Also, as Dave M pointed out on the other thread, Jeanie Buss’ tweet yesterday (‘basketball reasons’) seemed to insinuate something else behind the scenes.

  108. Beasley trade invoked the LO 8.9 mil exception.

    Guys, get out of the past, the future is suddenly a WHOLE lot brighter

  109. “Guys, get out of the past, the future is suddenly a WHOLE lot brighter”

    OK :0)

  110. Anybody else feel like we our title favorites now lol. Loved kobes attitue with sessions he let him run the Offense few times and we looked good.. Chris paul who?

  111. I think this might have the potential to be a better team than one with CP3 but without Pau.

  112. 15 offensive rebounds for Minny.
    Pek & Love 47 pts 27 rebs beasts

    Lakers made 10 threes mostly off dribble penetration. Barnes energy was great.
    Smooth transition for Sessions offense didn’t skip a beat.

  113. Westbrook completely ruined what would have been an huge comeback win for OKC. At one point late in the game he goes 1 on 4 charging to the rim and loses the ball out of bounds. The surprising thing was none of his teammates came over to help him up. They all walked away as he was on the floor out of bounds. I wanted them to beat the Spurs so the Lakers could get a little closer to the second spot. Didn’t happen, though.

  114. @ 122 T. Rogers:

    Is there a video for that? I’d love to see it!

  115. CF,

    I’m sure there are highlights for the game. But I doubt that would be part of it. It was an excellent game. And the Spurs look very scary.