When former Lakers assistant coach and player Kurt Rambis left L.A. to take the head coaching job in Minnesota after winning a championship last June, he knew it was going to be a struggle, at least at first.
The Wolves are among the league’s youngest teams, a franchise in rebuilding mode that was not expecting to win many games in 2009-10, but rather assembling cap space and young assets for the future.
Sure enough, they haven’t won many games in 2009-10, a process not helped by Al Jefferson’s recovery from ACL surgery and last season’s No. 5 overall pick Kevin Love missing 22 games to injury.
Minnesota is just 14-55, and is struggling mightily of late, losing 11 straight and 17-of-18 after the Timberwolves’ lone 4-game winning streak this season, when they beat the Clippers, Knicks, Mavericks and Grizzlies in succession from Jan. 29 to Feb. 6.
Four games is the current length of L.A.’s winning streak, three of which came on the road (Phoenix, Golden State, Sacramento) after a home victory over Toronto, allowing the Lakers to reach 50 wins to just 18 losses.
The numbers are certainly daunting heading into Friday night’s contest between the two teams at STAPLES Center: the Lakers have lost five games at home all year, the Wolves have won five games on the road; Minnesota scores 98.1 points per game and concedes 107.7 points per game, L.A. scores 103.0 and allows 97.0; Minnesota has trouble with big teams in particular, the Lakers are perhaps the biggest. And so on.
Yet the Lakers have declared themselves to be in the business portion of their schedule, worrying less about opponents and more about their own level of play. Kobe Bryant was among other players this week to refuse to begin thinking about L.A.’s upcoming 5-game road trip before dealing first with Minnesota and then Washington on Sunday.
“We’re playing hard and want to continue to get better with execution all across the board and make sure we play with the right energy,” said Bryant. “We just have things that we need to work on and focus on for ourselves. It’s not about our next opponents, it’s about doing what we need to do to be a better team.”
For a detailed video breakdown of the Timberwolves from assistant coach Brian Shaw, scroll back to the top of the page and press play.