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MARK HEISLER ON THE NBA

Kurt Rambis has Phil Jackson's demeanor, if not his players

Minnesota's rookie coach has adopted many attributes from his old boss, but his new team is on another plane of existence when compared with the Lakers. The Timberwolves are 1-3 after Monday's loss to Clippers.

November 03, 2009|MARK HEISLER | ON THE NBA

C'mon mama,

Make your move or

I can find someone

Treat me better than you,

'Cause' it's hard livin'

Lovin' you.

-- Justin Townes Earle

"Hard Livin' Lovin' You"

You could ask any of the literally dozens of Clippers fans who are left (owner Donald T. Sterling, Penny Marshall, Jimmy Goldstein plus entourages) . . . they don't make can't-miss young teams the way they used to.

FOR THE RECORD - Gilbert Arenas' high school: An NBA column on an alleged incident involving handguns in the Washington Wizards' locker room that appeared in the Jan. 3 Sports section said the Wizards' Gilbert Arenas went to Woodland Hills Taft High. Arenas attended Van Nuys Grant. —

With this one having missed four times in the first six days of the season, Clipper Nation, however depopulated, was heartened to see its team win a game. Or maybe Kurt Rambis' young Minnesota Timberwolves lost it. In any case, the Clippers have a 1 under W in the standings, where there used to be a 0.

Remember Rambis Youth, his horn rim glasses-wearing fans in the Forum?

These were Rambis' Youths, whom the Clippers were expected to beat soundly but escaped by a score of 93-90 . . . after blowing a 13-point third-quarter lead . . . scoring one basket in the last 4:41, going ahead to stay when the Timberwolves put Rasual Butler on the line to hit four free throws in the last 19 seconds.

Meanwhile, Clippers fans, who have to have a sense of humor to have lasted this long, sardonically chanted "MVP!" for . . . Chris Kaman?

Yes, that Chris Kaman, who came in averaging 22 points and scored 25 more. So, the chant was a tribute either to how well he has played or how far up the creek everyone else has been.

As a No. 1 option, Kaman makes a great No. 3. Baron Davis, who has been a No. 1, came in shooting 36% and went two for 10. Eric Gordon, who isn't a No. 1 option yet, had 17 points, but only five in the second half.

Blake Griffin, their rookie/franchise player, watched in street clothes, as he will for several more weeks.

Monday's game was actually the season's most important test for the Clippers. Their four losses came against four playoff teams, the Lakers, Suns, Jazz and Mavericks, so what was the big surprise?

Monday was the first time they were betting favorites, so if it was a test, they . . .

I don't know what they did. In any case, they're 1-4, not 0-5.

As Rambis can tell you, you have to start somewhere, again.

Kurt could still be sitting next to Phil Jackson, hoping to get another ring. Instead, he's in Minnesota, where the odds against getting a ring are longer than the winters.

"It's always good to be home," Rambis said before the game. "Got a chance to sleep in my own bed. Got a chance to see the sun shine. It was a good experience."

Did he take a picture of it?

"I probably should have. I etched it in my mind, that's for sure."

Rambis is part of the Timberwolves' new Southern California-themed regime, under General Manager David Kahn, a UCLA grad, former Daily Bruin sports editor (and intern at The Times), with former Lakers assistant Dave Wohl and former Bruins players Kevin Love and Ryan Hollins.

Rambis is still running the triangle, or at least parts of it. Unfortunately, the parts he doesn't run are those with Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal, Pau Gasol, et al.

Nevertheless, people in Minnesota think Rambis is Phil Jackson II.

"Definitely," said Love. "I think he learned a lot from Phil, in demeanor. They talk about Phil and the Zen, he's kind of like that in the way he talks to people.

"He'll only raise his voice if he really, really wants someone's attention."

Of course, anyone here who has been around Phil Jackson I knows there is only one of those.

Nevertheless, whimsy in public is new for Rambis, who was defensive and tight-lipped as Lakers coach in his 37-game stint in 1999.

It didn't help that he had Dennis Rodman taking himself out of games and missing practices. Meanwhile, a rift opened between O'Neal and Bryant for the first time, and Rambis, trying to heal it, fell in.

Aside from that, it was a great experience.

Rambis likes his young players, who came from 19 points behind to win his opener in Minnesota.

As Mike Dunleavy, the Clippers' coach and GM, could tell you, there's no win like that first one.

--

mark.heisler@latimes.com

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