Lakers have mixed reviews of Wolves' progress
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|Artest on Wolves: "They should be doing better."|
Two-time defending NBA champ L.A. was in town Tuesday night, dispatching the T-Wolves for the 14th consecutive time after a competitive three quarters devolved into a 90-79 defeat for the local kids. The win was the 43rd on the season for the Lakers; the Wolves have 53 wins . . . since 2008.
More than 17,000 were on hand to observe the loss. A sound portion of those in attendance seemed to forget to applaud for the team still residing in Minnesota.
After the game, many of the Lakers took time to share impressions of whether the Wolves (14-47) have evidenced any progress since the teams last met way back on November the 19th. That date served as the last game before Kevin Love's active, 47-game streak of consecutive double-doubles. The All-Star forward extended the mark last night with a muted 13 points and 11 boards.
Coach Phil Jackson made what most believe to be his final appearance at Target Center; little Zen reflection will be spent on the moment, although Jackson offered postgame that he feels the Wolves still "need another player; another key player. They need a contributor."
And what of the Laker players? Do they see anything sanguine in the Wolves future?
All-Star Pau Gasol was genial in his assessment of any progress offered by the team with the worst record in the West.
"It's hard to say in one particular game. You can tell they're a young team; talented. They're gonna be a little inconsistent," the Spaniard offered after a 12 point, 17 rebound night. "The coach wants to develop the players as much as he can. And hopefully he can get them to a point where they'll be competitive. Sometimes, it's a very thin line form being a competitive team that wins 40, 40-pus games to a team that wins 20, 30 games. So the mindset is something the players have to believe in and buy into it."
And while it would be convenient to readily dismiss a bunch on the inverse rung of the conference totem, Gasol was equally descriptive in his personal hopes for the Wolves:
"I wish them well," Gasol continued. "Because, Darko, I played with him a year-and-a-half [in Memphis]. I think Ricky Rubio's gonna come, probably next year. And Kurt was a coach I had as an assistant for a couple of years. So, obviously I wish them well and want them to do well. We'll see what happens. They looked really good in the preseason when they beat us in London."
Kobe Bryant was judicious in speaking toward Rambis, offering his belief in the longtime
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"It's coming, it's coming," the future Hall of Famer said. "This is a team that, if they still have young pieces, looking back years from now, they have Wesley Johnson and Kevin Love and you have Beasley - all on the same team. And you look up and they're playing for somebody else - it's a crew that they've got to keep together and they've got to grow together."
Bryant was also effusive in praising rook Wesley Johnson, who guarded him with some success and would lead the Wolves with 20 points. The two trained together briefly in the off-season and share the same agent.
"He's improved his game a lot, since even the start of the season," Bryant observed. "He's worked on his jumper, he trusts it and the next step for him is ball-handling. When he can start handling the ball, creating his own shot and getting around guys, the sky's the limit for him. Athletically, he has all the tools."
And Ron Artest? Well, the mercurial forward was at his blunt best"
"They got a pretty good team. I don't understand why they're not doing better."
But does Artest see much progress from the Wolves after not facing them for three-plus months?
"Not necessarily; not necessarily. They got some good guys on their team. They should be doing better. They got a great tradition here in Minnesota. You know Minnesota is waiting for a good team. They got some of the pieces to do it. I don't know why it's not happening."
Oh, Ron. That would take so much more than a postgame chat to explain.