With the NBA season just over a month away, it’s time to start putting some of the Minnesota Timberwolves’ must-watch matchups on your calendar. The Wolves have an incredibly talented roster and are in the hunt for a top-four seed in a stacked Western Conference. Therefore, every game will be important in the race towards earning a trip to the playoffs and home-court advantage. However, Minnesota’s Oct. 28 home matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers promises to be entertaining, whether you’re there for competitive basketball or the potential of on-court drama.
The Lakers have been steadily declining since they won the title in 2020. Their fates hang in the balance as their two best players battle against their bodies. While LeBron James, 37, and Anthony Davis, 29, are eight years apart in age, they have come face to face with Father Time in the past two years. Therefore, LA’s record is somewhat dependent on their health.
However, you simply can’t count out King James until he has retired. And given how well he takes care of his body, we could see him have another incredible year. Despite the Lakers’ 33-49 record last season, LeBron was on pace to win the scoring title through mid-March. LeBron is still fully capable of putting a team on his back in clutch minutes, even if he can’t lift the superhuman load that he used to when he was younger. Anytime LeBron comes to town, it’s worth watching, regardless of his age. Still, the most exciting part about the game is seeing how the Lakers will perform in the wake of a tumultuous offseason.
Last year, LeBron was rumored to have played shadow GM by pushing full-time GM Rob Pelinka to trade for Russell Westbrook. When the trade worked out in less-than-stellar fashion, and the Lakers ended the season in the 11th seed in the West, LeBron made some passive-aggressive jabs at Pelinka’s expense. He was even rumored to have called for the Lakers to fire Pelinka. Later, LeBron was rumored to be pushing the Lakers to trade Westbrook for Kyrie Irving, which almost certainly would have required them to move their last two future draft picks. Finally, LeBron and Westbrook were both present during Summer League, but they didn’t interact at all, even though LeBron seemingly greeted everyone else on the team and in the front office. It’s truly some of the most legendary media manipulation and pot-stirring by one of the most legendary players in the history of the NBA.
Despite all of this drama, it seems like the Lakers got better this offseason. They traded for Timberwolves fan favorite Patrick Beverley, who will provide them with much-needed defensive help and toughness in the locker room. Beverley also nearly guarantees them a playoff appearance as long as he stays healthy because (as we all know) Bev never misses the playoffs.
Many questions have been posed about how Bev and Westbrook will get along, given their extensive history of disagreements. But I don’t see Bev letting this get in the way of trying to win or his next contract. For whatever their reputations are around the NBA, he and Westbrook are incredibly fierce competitors and, above all else, professionals. Bev has shown he knows how to settle issues when he feels misrepresented and not just start them when it’s advantageous for his team.
For example, one of Beverley’s followers said that the Wolves did Pat Bev wrong by trading him the year after he helped them make the playoffs. However, Bev took to Instagram live to squash these hard feelings. He said he understands that the NBA is a business and that he actually appreciates the Wolves for helping him make $14 million in five months. Bev then made what was probably a Jay-Z reference saying, “this is a business, man, and I’m a businessman.” Let him handle his business, damn.
The Lakers could still add more players this offseason too. There have been rumors that they have been exploring trades for Myles Turner and Buddy Hield, but the Lakers and Indianapolis Pacers have yet to agree on a price. Their roster will improve immediately if they pull off a trade like this. They’d add more players with shooting ability around LeBron, and as history has taught us, that’s all LeBron really needs to contend for a championship.
Last year the Wolves won three out of their four games against the Lakers. In their final matchup, the Wolves poured quite a bit of salt on LA’s wounds. When Westbrook air-balled a shot late in the game, KAT put his hand up to his forehead and looked around the arena as if wondering where’d that shot go? Pat Bev called Westbrook “trash.”
I generally don’t support the rampant Westbrook slander in the NBA media. I also don’t support fans piling on a former MVP by calling him such heinous names as Westb***k when it begins to reach his family. It’s one thing when professional players talk in the heat of the moment. However, it’s another thing entirely when people on Twitter who will never be good enough to play in the NBA feel compelled to wantonly disrespect the triple-double GOAT’s name. They should probably heed Russ’s words from this PSA press conference and settle down a bit.
However, the Wolves and Karl-Anthony Towns were punching bags for the NBA media and Twitter pundits for a long time. Therefore, I don’t blame them for being a little brash now that they’re on the rise. Stephen A. Smith called the Wolves “classless” for taunting the Lakers. KAT pointed out, though, that’s incredibly hypocritical given that people like Smith regularly rip teams like the Wolves, the Sacramento Kings, or the New York Knicks for being largely unsuccessful franchises for a long time.
The most common rebuttal when the Wolves get feisty is that they haven’t achieved enough to talk this much. That’s also confusing, given that people praise the Memphis Grizzlies for their cavalier attitude even though they similarly have not achieved much. Given that Westbrook himself added to the “what have they done” narrative in response to Minnesota’s taunting, it’s likely that both teams will come into this game with a chip on their shoulders.
If Westbrook is still on the Lakers when the two teams have their first matchup, he will almost certainly be out to prove something against the young upstart Timberwolves and pretty much all of the rest of the NBA. Similarly, KAT and the rest of the Wolves will be playing to prove that they aren’t upstarts. Rather, they see themselves as a talented playoff team on the rise to becoming championship contenders. It could lead to several spicy matchups between the Wolves and the Lakers and reignite a rivalry that has seemingly disappeared since the Kevin Garnett era when the two teams faced off in the Western Conference Finals in 2004.