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News » Rambis enters looking fresh, as others did

Rambis enters looking fresh, as others did

Rambis enters looking fresh, as others did Ninety minutes before his Timberwolves coaching debut, coach Kurt Rambis looked as if he didn't have a care in the world. He was calm and smiling and fresh as a daisy.

I considered discreetly taking a picture of him with my cell phone. In a couple of months, I could show it to him and we could marvel at life in a simpler time. Of course, by then I'll have to talk him off the ledge to show him the photo.

Oh, I've seen that serene look before on opening nights. Dwane Casey, Randy Wittman, even Kevin McHale looked all powdered and unsullied before the first game. They were convinced they had a perfect grasp on the situation. Then reality set in. Game by game, little pieces of their heart got ripped away. By January or so they all qualified for starring roles in "Night of the Living Dead."

"I like challenges," Rambis noted.

He has come to the right place.

On Wednesday, the Wolves put Rambis through the wringer. Against one of the few teams they probably should beat, the New Jersey Nets, the locals spent most of the second half trailing by double digits. It felt right, like a comfortable pair of jeans. Their defense was awful. They had a mere five assists at the half. And as for their new team slogan, "United We Run!" perhaps they were referring to their noses during flu season. Their alleged up-tempo style looked a lot like the hockey Wild's alleged up-tempo style.

But the Nets came unglued in the fourth quarter as the Wolves finally picked up the pace. Minnesota overcame a 16-point, fourth-quarter deficit to win at the buzzer. During their final run the Wolves didn't have to worry about Jersey's Brook Lopez, who had killed them for the first 36 minutes. Lopez wilted like a week-old chrysanthemum, scoring no points over the final 12 minutes.

Afterward, Rambis remained physically and emotionally intact. A couple of things stood out. He isn't one to slather on the praise just because his guys won. In fact, he actually had something mildly critical to say about Al Jefferson, who apparently misread the defense and set a pick on the wrong side as the Wolves set up their final shot. Obviously, he had nice things to say about him, too. But the previous regime wouldn't think of saying anything that might make Big Al scowl.

And with the team down by 16 in the fourth quarter, Rambis refused to concede.

"I wasn't going to let them off the hook and say, 'OK, forget it, it's over,' " he said. "If I wasn't going to quit, they weren't going to quit."

So we're off on another rebuilding job. This one is different in that it could be rather interesting. New team President David Kahn wheels and deals as if he were a mayfly and scheduled to drop to the floor dead within 24 hours of birth. Over the summer, his roster changed at such an alarming pace that it was nearly impossible to keep track. Several guys proudly wore Timberwolves blue for mere hours before getting waived, released or misplaced.

The Wolves have been very upfront about their intentions for the 2009-10 season. They want to play hard and to improve. Playing well, or well enough to win, is not really part of the equation. In fact, the bar is set so low that people were tripping over it as they walked into Target Center on Wednesday night. Needless to say, those who showed up for the game left happy.

Rambis noted before tip-off that he was looking for consistency.

"Everybody can have a good ballgame once in a while," Rambis said.

Clearly he didn't see some of our former Timberwolves . William Avery comes to mind.

"We'd like the city to be proud of our guys and how they're playing," he added.

This morning, the city is proud. Actually, the city is on a roll. On Wednesday, Forbes Magazine declared Minneapolis the safest city in America. Just thinking about that made me feel much better walking to my car after the game.

These first few games probably won't be a true indication of how the team will play. And that's either way -- good or bad. In a week or so, routine will set in. The team has a long way to go. It is especially difficult to get there with a roster that has been revamped. But maybe they'll eventually reach their goal with Kahn and Rambis. Maybe their plan is the right plan. However, both fellows will start to look weary and rumpled in a couple of months.

But if they can take it, so can we. Heck, we're used to it.

Tom Powers can be reached at .

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Author: Fox Sports
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Added: October 30, 2009


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