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Streaking Wolves play a Pacers team that can't get one going either way

The Wolves are about to tip off in Indiana against a Pacers team that hasn't won consecutive games since before the All-Star break and is a coming off Sunday's home victory over Philadelphia.

In fact, the Pacers had alternated victories and losses since the break  -- 6-6 in that stretch -- until they lost games to Boston and Denver last week.

"We know how important that is," Pacers coach Nate McMillan said tonight about stringing together some victories for a team that's jockeying for one of the East's final playoff spots.

The Pacers will try to do so without backup center Al Jefferson, third-year forward Glenn Robinson and veteran guard Rodney Stuckey. A former Wolves big man, Jefferson was on crutches in the Pacers' locker room and is hoping he can be recovered from a sprained ankle by playoff time. Same thing with Robinson, who has a calf strain, while Stuckey has a patella tendon strain and is expected to miss the next four to six weeks.

The Wolves, meanwhile, tonight end an odd three-game strip that started with games in Los Angeles against the Lakers and at Portland.  They're also looking to end a six-game losing streak.

They had two days in between Saturday's Portland game and flew to Indiana on Sunday, in time for Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau to attend the Pacers win over Philly.

"I don't know what else you would do," he said wryly about scouting the opponent in person on an off night.

Shaq gets his statue prior to Lakers vs. Wolves in L.A.

It feels like the Lakers have Friday's two acts switched around, with tonight's anticlimatic game against the Wolves following the emotional unveiling late this afternoon of a Shaquille O'Neal statue outside Staples Center.

It's the fifth such one commemorating a Laker -- if you count legendary play-by-play guy Chick Hearn -- and the 1,500-pound hanging statue depicting Shaq hanging two-fisted from the rim goes out on the plaza alongside statues of hockey's Wayne Gretzky and Luc Robitaille as well as boxer Oscar De La Hoya.

I'll have to admit, it made me feel old.

I remember watching O'Neal announce on a San Antonio military base in 1992 that he was turning pro and today watched the Laker family honor him seven years after he played his last game.

Why such a site?: His father was a military man.

I was covering the Wolves my first time around on their beat and the team was playing in Dallas while the 1992 Final Four was being held at the Metrodome. The Wolves were headed toward the NBA's worst record that season, and thus O'Neal's decision to leave LSU was big news back home.

I remember flying to San Antonio for the afternoon announcement and flying back to Dallas for that night's Wolves-Mavs game.

What I remember more is how O'Neal wrinkled up like face, like he smelled some bad cheese, when I asked him what he thought about the prospect of playing in Minnesota.

Of course, Orlando won the lottery that year, Charlotte finished second and the Wolves third.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Or infamy...

The Magic ended up with O'Neal, for four seasons anyway, before he bolted as a free agent for L.A.'s big stage and bright lights. Charlotte took Georgetown's Alonzo Mourning and the Wolves drafted Duke's Christian Laettner.

Mourning, by the way, was among the many dignitaries who attended this afternoon's ceremony. Kobe Bryant, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Jerry West all spoke from the stage and Magic Johnson appeared by recorded video message because as the Lakers' new basketball boss he is out scouring tonight's UCLA-Kentucky game in Memphis.

Among former teammates, coaches and others who attended: Former Wolves forward Mark Madsen, former Wolves shooting coach Mike Penberthy, Augsburg's own Devean George, Derek Fisher, Rick Fox, Robert Horry, A.C. Green, Gary Payton, Lakers coach Luke Walton, Elgin Baylor, Elden Campbell, James Worthy and O'Neal's coach at LSU, Dale Brown.

It's probably no coincidence tonight's media-room meal is barbecue chicken, O'Neal's favorite phrase for an opponent about to be exploited.

TV Listings

Local Schedule

< >
  • Twins at Boston (spring training)

    12:05 pm on 96.3-FM

  • Twins at Tampa Bay (spring training)

    12:05 pm

  • L.A. Lakers at Timberwolves

    7 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Ottawa at Wild

    7 pm on FSN PLUS, 100.3-FM

  • Rochester at Twins (exhibition)

    11:05 am

  • Wild at Nashville

    1 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Real Salt Lake at Minnesota United FC

    7 pm on Ch. 29, 1500-AM

  • Sacramento at Timberwolves

    7 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Colorado at Wild

    5 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Kansas City at Twins

    3:10 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Portland at Timberwolves

    6 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Carolina at Wild

    7 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Timberwolves at Golden State

    9:30 pm on FSN PLUS, 830-AM

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