The Back Story:
First meeting of the season. Minnesota won the season series last year 2-1.
The Big Picture:
The Clippers are coming off the worst October in NBA history. Actually, I just made that up, but it's got to be true, right? I mean, it's pretty rare that the season start as early as October 27. And how many teams open with four games in five nights? You can't play five games in five nights - you can't even play five games in six nights. So it's a good bet that four losses in October is an all time record. So we've got that going for us. But November should hopefully be very different - at least it has the potential to be. Starting tonight, the Clippers play
seven straight six of seven against teams that missed the playoffs last season - and most of them missed badly. Five of those are at home. Of the 14 games on the November slate, 11 10 are against non-playoff teams from last year, and three of the 'good' opponents are struggling (New Orleans twice and Detroit). So the good news is that the Clippers could conceivably win a bunch of games this month - if in fact the team is any good at all. The bad news is that if they DON'T win a bunch of games this month, it likely spells disaster for the season. The NBA schedule balances out - and the Clippers will pay for their soft November schedule the four subsequent months. Suffice it to say, after starting 0-4 against four good teams, playing at home against a T-Wolves team was a toss up with the Kings for 'worst team in the Western Conference' going into the season, this is a must-win for LA.
As bad as the Timberwolves look on paper, they have more wins this season than the Clippers, having eked out a two point victory over New Jersey in their opener. But back to that paper - yuck. With their second best player currently hurt (Kevin Love broke his hand in pre-season), the roster consists of Al Jefferson coming off ACL surgery, rookie scoring point Jonny Flynn, and a bunch of guys that seem questionable at best on an NBA roster. Corey Brewer was a lottery pick in 2007 - but had a terrible rookie season, and then blew out his ACL early in his second season. (Come to think of it, the Wolves are the new Clippers what with all the ACL injuries.) Ramon Sessions we know plenty about, and he seems like a real player. Wayne Ellington was the 28th pick in this year's draft. Everyone else on the roster - I'm not exaggerating - either arrived as trade filler, or was a free agent this summer that no one else wanted. Now, that doesn't mean they can't play. Ryan Gomes was trade filler in the Garnett to Boston deal, but he's OK (if a bit of a tweener). And Oleksiy Pecherov looks like Stewie, so that's got to count for something. This team, especially with Love out of the lineup, just doesn't seem to have the horses. The Clippers really need to beat them. Badly. They badly need to beat them badly.
Kurt Rambis returns to Staples Center. Former Laker and former Laker assistant Kurt Rambis took over as the Wolves head coach this summer. He held out for a four year deal - knowing full well that it would take a miracle to get the team to respectability any sooner. It's nice that Rambis got his chance at a head coaching gig (he was an interim head coach for the Lakers over a decade ago, before Phil Jackson first arrived in LA), but this is a tough assignment.
- Telfair and Smith. New Clippers Sebastian Telfair and Craig Smith will be facing their old team tonight, though they won't recognize many of them. The ClipperWolves were instrumental in the Clippers' fourth quarter comeback against Dallas - and then instrumental in the subsequent collapse as well. They figure to get some minutes tonight as well - Bassy's quickness may be need against the lightning fast Flynn while Smith's muscle may be necessary against some of the burly Minnesota bigs.
- Turnover. The Clippers know a little something about roster turnover. From April 2008 to January 2009, only Chris Kaman and Al Thornton remained on the team. The Wolves are in a similar situation this season. Jefferson, Love, Gomes, Brewer and Brian Cardinal are the only holdovers from last season - but of course Jefferson and Brewer are returning from season ending injuries.
- Back to back for the Wolves. The Timberwolves lost to the Suns in Phoenix last night, so they're playing the second game of road back to backs tonight. Yet another reason the Clippers need to win.
- Kaman 3.0. Chris Kaman is averaging 22 points and 10 rebounds so far this season, and shooting 58.5%. He is coming off a career high 27 point effort against Dallas. With Jefferson giving away quite a bit of length, and Pecherov and Hollins giving away bulk, the Wolves don't seem to have anyone who can stop this new and improved Kaman. I expect the Clippers to go to him early and often in this game.
The sheep decided to speak very slowly, for it was a cold fact of nature that wolves were ignorant, and there was nothing that could convince them otherwise.
- Get the Wolves perspective at Canis Hoopus.