Timberwolves at Los Angeles Lakers
Wednesday, October 28, at 9:30 p.m. CT
Projected Starting Lineups
Lakers – PG: D’Angelo Russell, SG: Jordan Clarkson, SF: Kobe Bryant, PF: Julius Randle, C: Roy Hibbert
Timberwolves: PG: Ricky Rubio, SG: Andrew Wiggins, SF: Tayshaun Prince, PF: Kevin Garnett, C: Karl-Anthony Towns
The Wolves and Lakers, two teams with a few funny and unique parallels, are set to open their seasons tonight at the Staples Center. While neither team made the playoffs a year ago, there are enough interesting storylines that warranted this game a spot on ESPN.
Both teams struggled a year ago, yet both teams have lots to look forward to over the next several years, in part because of their lack of success last season. The Wolves, of course, landed the first pick and drafted highly-touted Karl-Anthony Towns. The Lakers drafted big the year before (the highly regarded Julius Randle), and instead went with D’Angelo Russell, whom many media members touted as perhaps the highest ceiling offensive player in the draft.
The other similarity that sticks out involves a big and a guard with much more mileage. Of course, I’m talking about Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant, who were drafted 20 and 19 years ago out of high school, respectively. At this stage of their careers, both are question marks in the scoring column, and have developed a history of injuries. In other words, both are acting their age. But they’re also both champions and first ballot Hall of Famers. If this is the last opener we’ll see from both of them, it’s been two decades of great late October basketball. The hoops community has gotten their fill.
No storyline, of course, will come close to the tragedy that happened earlier this week, when Flip Saunders tragically passed away at the age of 60 after a battle with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. It’s impossible to look into the mind of another human being, so I won’t try to guess what the Wolves are thinking collectively, or how they’ll react on the floor to the news. If they seem to be off, it would be hard to blame them.
But on paper, the Wolves have pieces to compete with the Lakers. Ricky Rubio is a tough first matchup for Russell, especially if he gets lazy with his passes early on, and doesn’t respect Rubio’s ability to enter passing lanes. Andrew Wiggins’ youth, springy legs, and obvious talent may be tough for Kobe Bryant to work against, especially if he’s rusty. Kobe missed the final preseason game with a lower leg contusion, but is expected to start tonight.
The matchup I’m most interested in tonight will be Karl-Anthony Towns vs Roy Hibbert. Hibbert has taken a few steps back since the brief reign of dominance he helped build in Indiana, but he’s still a big body with some skills around the basket. Towns hasn’t dealt with too many players Hibbert’s size who know how to play in the post. If Towns can take Hibbert on the perimeter, and work his way back inside, it could be a nice debut for the top overall pick.
But basketball aside, tonight will be a night to remember Flip Saunders. The Wolves will wear a commemorative patch all season to honor Flip, and coaches will wear a pin for the same purpose. While the home opener isn’t until next Tuesday, some members of the media are working on a tribute of their own. Click here to see what’s happening.
But on a positive note, Wolves basketball is back!