LOS ANGELES – It was right that the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Minnesota Timberwolves of all the teams on Wednesday because their wildest period of the season to date – and yes, this is taking into account the punches that were flying against the Houston Rockets – it started only more than a week ago with a loss of road for those Wolves.
This loss was not only disturbing because of the way the Lakers failed to secure another close game along the line, or because they could not perform simple defensive instructions like fighting on screens to challenge Jimmy Butler's 3-points.
What was most problematic was the sense of a fractured spirit that was evident from watching L.A. play by LeBron James.
Yes, it was the quick trigger of Magic president, Magic Johnson, to dress the coach Luke Walton in a match of only seven games of the season, and yes it made him fickle and even worse, hypocritical, after preaching patience during the summer, but Walton received the message: Winning must happen. Now. And apparently management came to see the roster built in a more realistic light. An update was mandatory.
And so Wednesday's 114-110 victory over the Wolves was not only significant because it was the Lakers' third win in four games since that Walton-Johnson summit, and it was not just noteworthy because LA beat Minnesota 28 -22 in the fourth quarter to earn a tight one.
It was monumental because closing the game for the Lakers was their new acquisition at the backup center, Tyson Chandler. The veteran expert with a trophy, an Olympic gold medal and a Defensive Player trophy of the Year in his name was making his Lakers debut one day after he officially signed with the team following an agreement of buyout with the Phoenix Suns.
"We needed help now," Walton said after Chandler had nine rebounds in 23 minutes, no one bigger than his tap out with 12.1 seconds left and L.A. clinging to an advantage of a point. "And I do not know how everything works, but you give it [general manager] rob [Pelinka] and Magic's credit for recognizing it and for doing that work for our team. "
LeBron James misses a 3 at the end of the fourth, but Tyson Chandler puts the ball out for the Lakers to take possession again.
This is a working theory of why the Suns have granted Chandler the buyout now instead of February or March when the traditional buyout wave occurs: GM James Jones interim was a longtime LeBron teammate at Miami and Cleveland.
"James gave LeBron a solid," a league source told ESPN.
When the complaint was filed, LeBron said it was Chandler who really benefited the most.
"It deserves credit," he told Jones ESPN. "He was very instrumental, he did well for Tyson as a veteran."
He then added more praise to Jones, who called him his "all-time favorite player" telling ESPN that every time he owns an NBA team, he is saving a place for Jones in his office.
"I told him he needed an opt-out clause wherever he was," James said with a smile.
Chandler's smile was even bigger at the end of the night. After driving a car full of his "s —" from Phoenix to his native LA Tuesday – "It should be five hours, but it took six because of the traffic," he said – his legs were narrow and his back hurt, but his perspective was exuberant.
"I love this city the way they love me," Chandler said of the ovation he received when he checked in as the first Lakers subtitle. "When you were born from here, you go to high school and all the rest, and you have the same fans who watched [your career] and now you represent the shirt that everyone has cheered for all your life, you've become one.
"I was on the other side and I played the villain, now it's nice to be on this side and actually take them back".
It was the smallest of the sample size, but the last time the Lakers played the Wolves, Minnesota racked up 20 ridiculous offensive boards. Wednesday, L.A. possessed the 47-40 glass while limiting the Wolves to 11 offensive rebounds.
"I think it helps stabilize us," Walton said. "I think it will help us become more consistent with the kind of team we want to be defensive and rebound."
Minnesota fired 4-for-13 (30.8 percent) with Chandler as principal defender, according to a research compiled by ESPN Stats & Information. He was particularly effective against the rising star of the Wolves, Karl-Anthony Towns, who was 0-to-6 against him. In the 23 minutes played, the defense of L.A. gave only 47 points. In the 25 minutes of rest, L.A. he gave up to 63.
In his first game with the Lakers, Tyson Chandler impresses Mark Jackson with his defense on Karl-Anthony Towns.
And the intangibles, so far, were out of scale.
Rajon Rondo has identified the presence of Chandler's veteran.
"It's fun, I was just talking about being able to relax and breathe a little more," he said. "The coach asked what was there was wrong." When Tyson talks, I do not need to talk like that. So having another voice in the locker room is great, especially for me and Bron. "
Brian Windhorst and Andrew Han catalog the events of the day leading to Timberwolves vs. Lakers beginning with shootaround with Taj Gibson and Anthony Tolliver (4:30), Michelle Beadle and Chauncey Billups of NBA Countdown (15:30) and ending the postgame with Rachel Nichols from The Jump (40.00).
Brandon Ingram mentioned Chandler's screens.
"They were solid," he said. "They were extremely solid, we felt free, we felt open when we went downhill, this is another advantage for us".
"I think it's just wonderful because you have all the pressure on you when I'm in the projection of the game and rolling and running the floor, and then I go out and think it will be different and it will be the same thing going back to you," said McGee. "This really makes sense in the way Luke spoke, we want to get into waves."
Those waves have swept the Wolves this night, and the hard surf the Lakers were riding has calmed down for now.