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LAKERS FYI

Kurt Rambis keeps his chin up with Timberwolves

Minnesota continues to lose and continues not to spend, but second-year coach still has his sense of humor.

March 18, 2011|By Mike Bresnahan
  • Minnesota Timberwolves Coach an former Laker Kurt Rambis (left) speaks with Lakers center Andrew Bynum during the Lakers' 106-98 victory Friday at Staples Center.
Minnesota Timberwolves Coach an former Laker Kurt Rambis (left) speaks… (Kirby Lee / U.S. Presswire )

Kurt Rambis was back in town, enduring a season that couldn't get much worse.

Somehow his dry sense of humor remains intact while approaching the end of his second season as coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

He eyed up a small group of reporters when it was time to start his pregame news briefing Friday at Staples Center. There was a slight pause. Nobody asked any questions.

"Is that it?" he said wryly, breaking the brief silence and pretending to head back into the locker room.

Photos: Lakers vs. Timberwolves

There aren't many things to ask the Timberwolves these days. They entered Friday's game against the Lakers with the third-worst record in the NBA.

To put it starkly, the former Lakers assistant coach doesn't have much talent on his team. The Timberwolves traded Al Jefferson for next to nothing before the season. They haven't been able to persuade Ricky Rubio to come over from Spain. They have suffered the effects of drafting Jonny Flynn. And they haven't acquired any big names in trades, other than trading for Michael Beasley from salary-shedding Miami last summer for two second-round draft picks.

Lakers Coach Phil Jackson, a longtime Rambis advocate, said Minnesota needed to increase its spending. He then alluded to Timberwolves TV commercials that aired soon after Rambis was hired away from the Lakers in August 2009.

"The purpose seemed to be right," Jackson said. "Words were said that were like, 'We're going to build a championship.' And then there's nothing spent. They still have a payroll that doesn't reflect going after it."

He's right. The Timberwolves have the third-lowest NBA payroll (approximately $53 million) … and that includes Eddy Curry's expiring $11-million deal.

Rambis has two more years on his contract. There is no opt-out clause. He keeps an optimistic demeanor, complimenting his team on many nights, but the losing adds up. How could it not?

"Eventually it wears at you. It really does," said Jackson, who hasn't experienced a lot of losing in his coaching career other than a 14-game winless streak as an assistant with New Jersey in 1980-81.

Bynum's not bad

Rambis can't exactly admit it because he coaches Minnesota, but he takes a degree of pride in Andrew Bynum's development.

Rambis was a Lakers assistant when Bynum was drafted in 2005. He remembers the potential he saw while working with Bynum in the early years.

And, in the bad news for the rest of the NBA, Rambis thinks the 23-year-old can still improve.

"I envision even more," Rambis said. "I always thought that he's had a nice soft touch from the outside. I thought he'd be able to play facing the basket from that 12-15-foot range and then be able to put the ball down too. He hasn't quite got to that level yet, but I see a lot more coming from him as he continues to grow and develop and gain confidence. I see his game blossoming."

It didn't blossom in the fourth quarter against the Timberwolves, when Bynum was ejected for a hard foul.

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

twitter.com/Mike_Bresnahan

Times staff writer Broderick Turner contributed to this report.

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