A Complete Lack of Effort
Lakers 116, Timberwolves 95
Season Record: 2-14
Here’s the thing: We understand that the Timberwolves, especially without Randy Foye, Theo Ratliff, and now Marko Jaric, who’s sidelined with a bum ankle, are operating with a significant talent deficit relative to pretty much every team they play. We don’t expect them to win. We don’t even expect them to be particularly competitive for the first three quarters (although it’s nice when they are). But we do expect them to try.
And against the Lakers on Tuesday, it was pretty plain that many of the players on the Wolves phoned in the game. It was almost as if Kobe Bryant, doing his playing-in-slow-motion-at-full-speed thing, came out in the first quarter and cast a spell over the home team. Bryant was awesome in the first quarter, by the way, scoring 13 points on six shots, hitting threes, going glass, and being, no matter what you think of his erstwhile sponsorships (oh wait. that was actually awesome.), or his alleged anal rape of a teenage hotel worker (um, less so), a precious gift to basketball fans everywhere.
But let’s talk Timberwolves.
Rashad McCants’ petulance is getting old. Like, for instance, midway through the second quarter, when Craig Smith took the ball strong to the hole, got fouled, and McCants stood behind the three-point line, looking annoyed and mimicking catching a pass from Smith and hoisting a three.
The thing about scorers is this: They need to score. But it goes both ways. Because when they miss such a high percentage of their shots (McCants was 5-12 last night, but three of those baskets came in garbage time late in the fourth quarter), they're not really scorers anymore. They're dudes that wind up included in trades to other subpar teams desperately in search of upside. All we're really saying is this: When you have a teammate with the ball and position close to the basket, please don’t act annoyed when he doesn’t pass it to you.
But the problems were far from limited to McCants. Al Jefferson had a slow start to the game, missing a few point-blankers en route to a 1-6 first quarter. He responded by relying on his mid-range jumpshot, which was pretty much always contested, for much of the rest of the game. Now don’t get us wrong. Jefferson has a nice jumper. Even with a man in his face, it’s still a higher-percentage shot than McCants firing away from deep. But Al needs to take his man to the hole. He has such a nice spin move, such a nice pump fake, and such great footwork that it's really disheartening to see him settling for shooting over dudes 12 feet from the basket with a hand in his face.
Trumping all this, though, was the team's sad display of defense. There was really no one interested in playing it. And that, more than anything, is what made this game so frustrating to watch.