LOS ANGELES – The Timberwolves on Friday faced the Lakers in Los Angeles for the second time already in the season’s opening seven weeks and once again met an opponent missing its superstar, Kobe Bryant.
Bryant was still recovering from a torn Achilles’ tendon that ended his season prematurely last spring when the Wolves came to Staples Center in early November and scored a franchise-record 47 points in the first quarter.
On Thursday, the Lakers announced Bryant will miss the next six weeks after he fractured a bone in his left knee during Tuesday’s victory at Memphis.
Bryant entered the NBA in 1996, when Wolves point guard Ricky Rubio was 6 and forward Kevin Love was 8. He has played 222 career playoff games, or nearly three more full seasons.
Might just time be the competitor that Bryant can no longer beat?
“Father Time is undefeated,” Love said before the Lakers beat the Wolves 104-91. “The game of basketball is better with Kobe. I’ve been around him ever since I came into the league. I hope he has a speedy recovery, but we’re still going to have to beat them whether he’s in or out of the lineup.”
Bryant tweeted #brokennotbeaten on Thursday when news of his latest injury made headlines.
Love was asked if he believes Bryant still has good years left in him, enough to justify the huge contract extension he accepted from the Lakers this season.
“I know he’s going to work as hard as he can to get to that point and he’s not going to take no for an answer,” Love said. “I don’t think he’s going to stop until he does everything he can to get back to where he was. But you just never know in a case like Derrick Rose or Kobe. You just never know if they’re coming back too early or overcompensating for something.
“But maybe this rest will be good for him to get his Achilles’ really right and hopefully get his knee right as well.”
Rubio misses shoot, plays on
Rubio started Friday even though he missed the team’s morning shootaround because he was ill, apparently from something he ate.
Rubio warmed up before the game and returned about 45 minutes before opening tip to sit in front of his locker, where two pieces of dry toast waited for him while teammates ordered fried foods with sweet-and-sour sauce from locker-room attendants who fetch their food.
Rubio ended up playing 31 minutes, finishing with six points, seven assists and six rebounds. He played only 5 minutes, 37 seconds in the fourth quarter, as coach Rick Adelman said, “I thought he got really tired in the second half.”
“I thought Ricky gave it the best he could tonight,” shooting guard Kevin Martin said. “He was good for us. We applaud him for playing under these circumstances.”
The Lakers started shooting guard Xavier Henry at point guard because they are down not one, not two, but three point guards themselves: Steve Nash, Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar all are out injured.
• Martin (knee) and forward Dante Cunningham (sprained ankle) declared themselves fine before Friday’s game. Martin missed Monday’s game at Boston and Cunningham left that game in the final four minutes after getting hurt. • The last time the Wolves played the Lakers at Staples Center, they scored a franchise-record 47 points in the first quarter during a runaway victory there last month. “We don’t score 47 points in a quarter very often,” Adelman said. “I don’t think it will happen again. I wish it could, I don’t think we can do that, but we’ll find out.”
• The Wolves’ buses got stuck in holiday traffic before Friday’s game. The second bus carrying Adelman didn’t arrive until a little more than an hour before opening tip, delaying Adelman’s pregame media session by nearly 25 minutes. “I had some last-minute shopping to do, so I’m a little late,” he quipped.