The Los Angeles Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves are poised to square off Friday in the midst of vastly disappointing seasons. Neither team has even come close to meeting expectations due to injuries and a lack of team chemistry. However, it’s fair to say that the Lakers have some distinct advantages over the T-Wolves despite similar struggles.
As it stands, neither the Lakers nor Timberwolves are currently in playoff position. The Lakers are 10th in the Western Conference with a 20-26 record, coming off a loss to the lowly Phoenix Suns. A defeat that Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times called the worst loss of the season via Twitter.
Meanwhile, the Timberwolves have struggled to stay relevant due to key injuries to Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio. Minnesota has a 17-25 record and a league-worst 1-9 record in their past 10 contests.
Again, neither team has many positives to draw on. Nevertheless, the Lakers are in a better position to succeed moving forward for a handful of reasons.
Note: All statistics/records in this article are accurate as of Jan. 31, 2013.
No matter how you slice it, the appeal of playing in a big market and on a big stage (often in front of A-list celebrities) is an advantage that few NBA teams can offer. The Los Angeles Lakers can offer that luxury to their players.
The Lakers are a storied franchise with championship history and pedigree. The city is a marketing gold mine for NBA stars, and the weather is difficult to beat no matter where you are in the country.
Unfortunately for the Timberwolves, they simply don’t have the same appeal. Granted, Minnesota’s front office was able to land some of Russia’s most talented hoopsters in Andrei Kirilenko and Alexey Shved… but they’re probably fond of the similar weather conditions.
If we use ESPN.com’s NBA player ranking as a reference, the only teams in the league other than the Lakers with two top-10 talents are the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder (the two championship finalists from a season ago).
While Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves checks in at No. 7 on the list, he simply doesn’t have the level of talent around him to compete in a loaded Western Conference. That's of course evidenced by the fact that the Timberwolves have yet to make the playoffs with Love leading the way.
The Lakers season has been a disaster thus far, but they have more than enough talent on paper to turn their fortunes around.
In what has become a recurring theme in today’s NBA, both the Lakers and Timberwolves have players voicing their frustrations with the franchise.
Pau Gasol is clearly not happy with Mike D’Antoni’s choice to use him off the bench. Although the Spaniard would rather be starting, he tolerated the coaching decision to an extent.
What he refuses to tolerate (for good reason) is the fact that D’Antoni rarely plays Gasol in the fourth quarter and crunch time. Via Mark Medina from the Los Angeles Daily News: “It’s something I don’t like and don’t appreciate,” Gasol said. “I’m challenged every day to keep my calm and keep my peace and not let my emotions take over my words.”
In an ideal situation, the Lakers would like to be able to use all four of their stars (Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Gasol) on the court simultaneously, working in harmony. That hasn’t happened.
Instead, coach D’Antoni’s stubborn stance to stick with his up-tempo offensive system by starting swingman Earl Clark has become the norm.
Gasol’s evident frustrations could lead to a trade, but the Lakers may have enough talent to compensate.
A team that would not be able to compensate for a disgruntled star leaving (either by forcing his way out or waiting until his contract expires) is the Minnesota Timberwolves with Kevin Love.
Despite the fact that the T-Wolves have failed to make the postseason with Love, he’s the face of the franchise and the star of their basketball future.
According to Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports, Love said in July of last year, “My patience is not high (with the organization).” If you’re a Timberwolves fan, that’s the last thing you want to hear.
Neither franchise has a band of happy campers at the moment. With that said, the Lakers’ frustrated star is aging and in the midst of his worst career season. Love, on the other hand, is in the prime of his career and the franchise’s only hope at salvation.
Give the edge to the Lakers.
While the Minnesota Timberwolves are playing their worst basketball of the 2012-13 season (1-9 in their past 10 games) and hurting badly with K-Love injured, the Los Angeles Lakers are still fighting and showing signs of turning things around.
Prior to a demoralizing loss to the Phoenix Suns, the Lakers rattled off a nice three-game win streak (including a big win against the Oklahoma City Thunder). In those three wins, Kobe Bryant recorded 14 assists twice and 11 assists once.
Bryant’s changing mentality to pass the ball, involve his teammates and attempt less field goals has been the Lakers’ key to success.
In fact, according to NBA blogger Nathan Walker via Twitter, Bryant’s assist totals have an eye-popping connection to Laker wins.
Kobe is averaging 7.1 assist in Wins, 3.8 in losses.— Nathan Walker (@bbstats) January 30, 2013
The Lakers are competing with the Utah Jazz, Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers at the bottom of the Western Conference playoff picture. L.A. has more experience than all three of those teams, so don’t be surprised if they still manage to vault into the playoffs.
No matter how pathetic the Lakers have looked at times this season, they still have the talent and pedigree to compete for a championship.
Granted, the Lakers will have to make the playoffs and get a sinking ship sailing again before that’s close to being a reality. Whether it happens this season with an injured Dwight Howard, disgruntled Pau Gasol and Mike D’Antoni at the helm remains to be seen.
Nevertheless, when compared to the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Lakers have to at least feel okay with what the second half of the season can hold.
The T-Wolves, meanwhile, are still trying to make the playoffs in the Kevin Love era. Even though Love is seen by many as the best power forward in the league, he has yet to lead Minnesota to an eighth seed, let alone a championship.
The Lakers have been dreadful compared to their expectations, but Bryant has five rings, Gasol has two rings, Nash has two MVP trophies and Howard has three Defensive Player of the Year awards.
At some point, the Lakers’ talent on paper should be able to come together in a positive manner. If they fail to do so for the remainder of the year, the 2012-13 Lakers season may be the most disappointing in NBA history.