This Lakers win isn’t particularly pretty

Good thing they got this one in before contraction.

If NBA Commissioner David Stern was really going to fold a team or two, this might have been the Minnesota Timberwolves’ farewell tour.

Of course, even if losses of $20 million a year would bankrupt Glen Taylor, who’s No. 164 on the Forbes 400 at $2.2 billion ... in 110 years ... the Minnesota owner joined Memphis’ Michael Heisley and Sacramento’s Joe and Gavin Maloof in assuring fans that Stern didn’t really mean it and wasn’t talking about their team.

Or as Stern himself put it, when asked whether “contraction” should be a chilling word in Memphis: “It’s a good word to use, especially in collective bargaining.”

So, happily or not for Lakers fans, the Timberwolves will be back!

The Lakers turned this one into a test by messing around long enough. They didn’t go ahead to stay until the 5:50 mark of the third quarter of an underwhelming 99-94 win.


That made it the 1-8 Timberwolves’ highlight of the season, with Coach Kurt Rambis calling it “our best game of the year, as far as executing what we wanted to get done.”

Not that Rambis was bracing for the worst, although he said before the game, when asked what his young players need: “Probably right now we’d need a time machine and move ‘em forward four or five years.... It’s a process. There’s just no other way to get around it.

“We, as coaches, have to be patient with ‘em. The front office has to be patient with ‘em. The fans have to be patient with ‘em.”

The Lakers fired Rambis in 1999 to make way for Phil Jackson. With Phil bringing his old staff from Chicago, Kurt, a long-time member of the Lakers family whose wife, Linda, works for the team and is close to Jeanie Buss, stayed on as an advance scout.

Over the years, Jackson added Rambis to his staff. At the end, Rambis was the assistant closest to Jackson.

So Rambis saw all the turmoil the Lakers went through to get to this point, from the Shaquille O’Neal- Kobe Bryant teams to the hard years after O’Neal left, to their climb back into the winner’s circle in Orlando in 2008.

And, at least until Tuesday night, it never ran better than this.

“It’s really nice to see them really grow and blossom as a team like this,” said Rambis before the game.

" Pau [Gasol] is playing at an incredible level and, it’s fairly scary to say, Kobe’s not in synch yet, he’s not in rhythm yet — but he really isn’t.

" Lamar [Odom], he’s just clicking on all cylinders. Their bench is providing such a huge punch for them.... The units right now, the starting unit and the bench, they’re just playing really pretty team basketball. It’s fun to watch them play.”

Laughing, Rambis added, as “long as you don’t have to play them, it’s fun to watch them play.”

Of course, we’ve seen hot Lakers starts before, followed by long periods of ennui, also known as December, January, February and March.

The ennui set in early Tuesday night.

“Well,” said Coach Phil Jackson afterward, “that wasn’t very pretty....

“I didn’t think we handled our offense very well. We made some passes out there that were astounding — remarkable for their idea, let alone their execution.”

Oh, that was an offense? Bryant looked as if he thought shooting was good for getting back in synch, launching 28 attempts.

So much for comparisons with great Lakers teams of the past for one night.

With a roster loaded with young players, the Timberwolves were impressive in the exhibition season, when they went 6-2.

Ask Rambis what that’s worth.

“I’ve always said, the preseason has nothing to do with the regular season,” he said before the game, “and the regular season has nothing to do with the playoffs.”

And Tuesday night had nothing to do with the Lakers’ season up to that point.

Now, to see which one is the real them.