Minnesota Coach Kurt Rambis speaks to Kevin Love, left, and the rest of his… (Craig Lassig / EPA )
Reporting from Minneapolis — From afar, Minnesota Coach Kurt Rambis has kept an eye on the Lakers, watching the team he was an assistant coach for muddle through this season.
When asked to evaluate the Lakers, Rambis acknowledged how difficult it probably is for them to "focus" and be as "driven" through an 82-game regular-season schedule.
He was a member of Lakers Coach Phil Jackson's staff for six total years, including championship seasons of 2002 and 2009.
Rambis mentioned how Matt Barnes' absence because of a right knee injury, Shannon Brown's up-and-down play that's "back on track now" and Steve Blake's recent improved play have been things the Lakers have had to deal with this season.
"Also, in some respects, they may not be as focused as they were a couple of years ago and being driven," Rambis said. "They've got to get that back. But I think they understand that — in terms of their execution and being very precise and doing things not to be sloppy."
The Lakers seem to have turned things around since the All-Star break, winning five consecutive games, including a 90-79 victory Tuesday night over Rambis' Timberwolves.
"It's really hard mentally and physically to drive yourself to play all the way into June and to gear it up again and have that target on your back and everybody gunning for you in every single ballgame," Rambis said. "[You have] to be able to match the energy and intensity it takes to grind through the season.
"Sometimes it wears on you after a while, but they know what to do. It's a veteran team. They'll get themselves on track."
Artest grasps offense
When told that someone in the media had read one of Ron Artest's tweets Monday night in which he said he understands the triangle offense now after spending two seasons in the system, Jackson couldn't help himself.
"Wasted time," Jackson said, laughing.
Perhaps, but Artest said Jackson was right that it takes about two years to learn how to fit into the triangle.
"He's pretty good with it," Jackson said. "He's probably a little better than Kobe [Bryant] is at it because Kobe ignores the offense."
Artest wasn't so good against the Timberwolves, scoring six points on two-for-10 shooting.
But he maintained that he was making progress.
"It's still a lot of things I haven't learned yet," Artest said. "But I know the basics. In Chicago, I ran the triangle for 2½ years and I kind of forgot a couple of things. When I got here, it kind of came back. I recall [Jackson] saying something like that. Maybe there's some truth to it."