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Nets-Timberwolves Preview 2009-10-27 News New Jersey Nets

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News » Nets-Timberwolves Preview 2009-10-27

Nets-Timberwolves Preview 2009-10-27

Nets-Timberwolves Preview 2009-10-27Not much is expected of the Minnesota Timberwolves or New Jersey Nets in 2009-10, especially after both teams turned in rocky preseasons.

Kurt Rambis will make his Timberwolves coaching debut Wednesday night against the Nets, and it is questionable whether he will have star forward Al Jefferson available.

Rambis opted to leave his job with the Los Angeles Lakers as an assistant under Phil Jackson to take over in Minnesota (24-58 in 2008-09), which has endured four straight losing seasons. Rambis gave up the chance to possibly become Jackson's successor with the NBA champions, choosing instead to guide one of the league's youngest teams.

"I feel like I had great fundamental teaching as a player growing up, feel like I had good basketball instincts," said Rambis, who posted a 24-13 record and won a playoff series in a stint coaching the Lakers in 1999. "But learning how to be a coach, and the responsibilities it takes to be a good coach, and formulating a style of play that I want to coach, I've learned all of that over the years. So I feel like I'm definitely ready."

His team won't be ready to operate at full strength. Second-year forward Kevin Love will miss six to eight weeks with a broken left hand suffered in the preseason, and Jefferson did not play in the final three exhibition games because of illness.

Minnesota went 3-5 in the preseason and would love to begin this campaign with Jefferson, who missed 32 games in 2008-09 due to surgery to repair a torn ACL in his right knee. Jefferson had 30 double-doubles and averaged 23.1 points and 11.0 rebounds last season.

Rambis is expected to start a newcomer at point guard - either rookie Jonny Flynn or former Milwaukee guard Ramon Sessions.

The Timberwolves have been in rebuilding mode since trading Kevin Garnett to Boston two years ago, and the same could be said of the Nets. New Jersey last reached the playoffs three years ago with the "Big Three" of Jason Kidd, Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson, but those players are all gone.

Carter was the last to depart, as the Nets (34-48) dealt their leading scorer to Orlando in the offseason. New Jersey got shooting guard Courtney Lee, center Tony Battie and journeyman point guard Rafer Alston in return.

In addition, Nets owner Bruce Ratner made a deal with Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov. Prokhorov became majority owner in order to facilitate Ratner's desire to move the team to a yet-to-be-built new arena in Brooklyn.

"Oh no, that's not a distraction at all," Nets coach Lawrence Frank said."We just focus on what we can control and we have a great practice facility. We have a great arena. We are happy for what we have."

The Nets lost their first six preseason games before beating Philadelphia in their finale, and Frank didn't sound as if the exhibition slate provided much preparation.

"Ready or not, here it comes but we're looking forward to it," Frank said of the regular season. "It's an exciting part."

Frank is the longest-tenured coach in the Eastern Conference as he enters his seventh season. He took over after the franchise made back-to-back NBA finals appearances, and still holds the job despite the fact he hasn't had a winning season since New Jersey's last Atlantic division title in 2005-06.

He'll be counting on All-Star guard Devin Harris, promising second-year forward Brook Lopez and rookie guard Terrence Williams to provide a nucleus for the future.

Harris logged only 58 minutes in the preseason because of a strained right groin, shooting 37.5 percent. He's expected to start the season opener.

The Nets have lost 13 of their last 15 visits to the Target Center. Minnesota placed five players in double figures in a 108-99 win March 29, but Ryan Gomes (21 points) is the only one of those five who will see action Wednesday.

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Added: October 27, 2009


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