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News » Old-school reunion


Old-school reunion


Old-school reunion EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- How do we know Kurt Rambis' first game against his old team, the Los Angeles Lakers, is a special one? Because tonight's tipoff will be delayed one minute so the Timberwolves' coach can receive his 2008-09 NBA championship ring.

"A whole minute?" Rambis deadpanned. "I'll have to shorten my speech."

Rambis earned the ring as a member of Phil Jackson's coaching staff last season, and it's a special one, he said, because the title came one year after the Lakers had lost to old nemesis Boston in the 2008 Finals -- and because before the season, Jackson had made him responsible for the team's defense.

It was a symbolic moment for the first-year Timberwolves coach.

"Phil allowed me to put in a defense that I had been talking to him about for a few years," Rambis said. "He has been my mentor. He has taught me a lot."

Teacher and student go head-to-head for the first time tonight, and Rambis acknowledged it might get emotional.

"For me, maybe," he said. "I don't know about the rest of the guys on my team. For the Lakers, it's just another day at the office. But it's going to be fun to coach against them and see what we can do to take them out of some of the things they like to do."

Rambis has been to Staples Center twice this season when the Wolves played the Los Angeles Clippers, but this will be entirely different. Rambis played nine seasons with the Lakers, helping L.A. win championships in 1982, 1985, 1987 and 1988 as muscle off the bench, averaging 4.9 points and 5.5 rebounds a game.

Most of the Timberwolves weren't even born when Rambis was mixing it up down low with players such as Kevin McHale, Robert Parish and current assistant Bill Laimbeer, and know him primarily as an assistant to Jackson. But Kevin Love, who plays the same position as his coach, has seen Rambis play -- on VHS tapes.

"I watched those old-school, 'Showtime' Lakers vs. the Boston Celtics, all the time," said Love, born the year Rambis won his last title as a player. "I've seen him play a couple times. I had to watch the reruns."

Though Rambis' professional identity has been painted in purple and gold, he said moving to the Timberwolves was not a difficult move, and never felt strange. In fact, he said, it's what he had been working for.

"This is what I was learning and teaching myself, and Phil was helping me get to this point -- so I could take over a team and be involved in another organization," he said. "So it was an easy decision for me to make the change and move to Minneapolis with the Timberwolves . To me, it feels very natural."

Rambis said he and Jackson still connect via phone and text messages, and that the Lakers coach has offered encouragement, and ideas, regarding the Wolves' difficult start. Through 22 games, Minnesota is 3-19 and tied a franchise record with a 15-game losing streak.

"Some of the ideas have worked, some haven't," said a smiling Rambis. "It's always heartening in a situation like this, losing as many games as we've had, to get his input. He has been very positive."

Rambis would like to see the Wolves play well in front of his mentor, although the Lakers (17-3) are rolling with a 10-game winning streak and seem to be using some of Rambis' defense. The Lakers had a 20-0 spurt in the fourth quarter of their victory over Utah on Wednesday night.

"I just want Phil to see that our guys play together and can play in a system that involves everybody," Rambis said. "I hope he sees that we play hard and that we're organized."

Getting organized hasn't always been easy for the Timberwolves , a young team being led by point guards in their first (Jonny Flynn) and second (Ramon Sessions) seasons. But Rambis said teaching is the aspect of coaching he enjoys the most, and the team's current 2-4 stretch seems to point toward improvement, however meager.

The team's past four losses have been by an average of 4.5 points.

"You kind of readjust your priorities," he said. "Instead of the Lakers basically assuming they're going to be in the NBA Finals, and hopefully winning a championship, we're trying to improve and develop the young players on our ballclub and help them understand how to play Basketball the right way.

"You shift your priorities and you work from there. ... They're a lot better now than when we were in training camp. That's the way I'm looking at it."

Ray Richardson contributed to this report.


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Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 12, 2009

 

 
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