With a London setting and several players still getting used to new uniforms -- and teammates -- there was a surreal feel to the Wolves-Celtics game.
LONDON - Near the end of one of your more eccentric NBA nights, a Lithuanian journalist took the microphone in the interview room, informed everyone of his nationality and posed a real stumper to the two Timberwolves seated at the dais.
As helpless as the Wolves had looked in their 92-81 exhibition loss to the Boston Celtics at the O2 Arena, he explained, they certainly could not beat good European teams from, say, Moscow and Tel Aviv.
"No, I'm serious," he said as laughter gathered.
And if they could not beat good European teams from, say, Moscow and Tel Aviv, how did they expect to compete in the NBA?
Nine-year NBA guard Ricky Davis, whose dazzling early shooting kept things competitive until that, too, fizzled, gave the global question a gentlemanly whirl.
"Yeah, we played bad," said Davis, the Wolves' scoring leader with 18 points. "Take it for granted that it's the second game of the preseason. Scoring 75, 78 points, it's hard to beat anybody. Hopefully by November 1st, we'll be jelled together and moving like a machine."
So begins a new phase of franchise history since the departure of a certain human skyscraper named Kevin Garnett, and so begins the grind with the young in a league that eats those.
"Defensively, we played a good game, but offensively we still have a lot of work to do," said Juwan Howard, who at 34 -- on a Wolves roster with eight players under 25 -- seems like his birth certificate might have come in hieroglyphics.
Howard does spot hope, however.
"I see a very talented ballclub," he said. "This team has a lot of potential, young guys playing with a lot of spirit."
Good attitude, then.
"I see that in the locker room, yes."
If it's tricky to market good attitude, it's not such a chore to market Garnett, as shown on a night filled with unusual Garnett-related trappings that went beyond even the odd Lithuanian censure.
Seeing stars, on and off the court
Boston warmed up to the sounds of British fans yelling for "Mr. Gahh-nett." Howard and the Celtics' Ray Allen, the former child resident of England who starred with 28 points, walked to the center -- sorry, centre -- of the court before the game to take microphones and welcome the sellout crowd of 18,689. At one point the two mascots frolicked with a rugby ball.
A big roar went up because the large video screens showed ... rookie British Formula One-leading driver Lewis Hamilton, seated courtside. Another time, the screens showed one of the planet's foremost sports stars, the Ivory Coast soccer forward Didier Drogba of the London club Chelsea, and Garnett noticed excitedly. At one point in the second quarter, the NBA introduced, in sequence, former players B.J. Armstrong, Rick Barry and Bill Russell, with Russell getting the greatest ovation in a show of British NBA knowledge.
People came to see Garnett and sighed when traveling calls killed his scoring chances, as happened three times in the third quarter (among six turnovers), except that nobody noticed the third because everybody was doing The Wave.
|Philadelphia - LP: K. Kendrick||2||FINAL|
|Washington - WP: J. Zimmermann||5|
|Baltimore - WP: C. Tillman||10||FINAL|
|Toronto - LP: S. Nolin||6|
|Minnesota - LP: S. Deduno||0||FINAL|
|Detroit - WP: A. Sanchez||6|
|Chicago Cubs - LP: S. Feldman||4||FINAL|
|Cincinnati - WP: B. Arroyo||7|
|Cleveland - LP: J. Masterson||1||FINAL|
|Boston - WP: J. Lackey||8|
|NY Yankees - WP: D. Phelps||9||FINAL|
|Tampa Bay - LP: R. Hernandez||4|
|Pittsburgh - LP: A. Burnett||1||FINAL|
|Milwaukee - WP: M. Estrada||2|
|Miami||3||Bottom 11th Inning|
|LA Angels - WP: J. Vargas||5||FINAL|
|Kansas City - LP: L. Hochevar||2|
|Oakland||6||Bottom 9th Inning|
|San Diego||1||Bottom 7th Inning|
|St. Louis||3||Bottom 4th Inning|
|Texas||6||Top 4th Inning|
|Colorado||3||Top 5th Inning|
|Indiana||97||4th Qtr 0:02|