Despite talk of contraction, the Minnesota Timberwolves expect to remain part of the NBA for years to come.
That includes Friday night, when they look to bounce back from a season-opening loss and avoid a third consecutive defeat to the Milwaukee Bucks.
Looking for a way to solve the NBA's current financial woes, commissioner David Stern brought up the idea of eliminating a team or teams last week. Despite five straight losing seasons and no playoff appearances since 2004, the Timberwolves are unlikely to be a candidate for removal if the league went that route while negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement.
"I can say that Minnesota is not one of the teams that would be contracted, nor do we expect that in the future," said owner Glen Taylor, the chairman of the NBA's board of governors.
That leaves the Timberwolves to focus on attaining their first win after falling 117-116 to Sacramento at home Wednesday. Former Buck Luke Ridnour had 20 points and six assists as Minnesota remained competitive despite the Kings making 45.9 percent of their shots and going 35 of 47 from the free-throw line.
"In this league, you've got to play defense," said Ridnour, a starter in Minnesota after averaging 10.4 points and 4.0 assists backing up Brandon Jennings in Milwaukee last season.
Minnesota forward Kevin Love hopes to see more time after recording 11 points and 10 rebounds in 23 minutes. He played less than 9 minutes in the second half because coach Kurt Rambis preferred reserve Anthony Tolliver's energy and defense.
Love said after practice Thursday that he and Rambis are fine, and Rambis said he spoke to Love in the morning to make clear he had no "hidden agenda" or "loss of faith" in Love.
Tolliver had 14 points and seven rebounds in 28 minutes.
"(Rambis has) made it obvious to everybody that if you play hard, you're going to play and if you play defense, you're going to play," Tolliver said.
Love, who averaged career highs of 14.0 points and 11.0 rebounds last season, had 17 and 12 in a 127-94 loss at Milwaukee in the teams' last meeting Jan. 23.
The Bucks are also looking for their first win after falling 95-91 at New Orleans on Wednesday.
Filled with high expectations after its playoff season since 2005-06, Milwaukee led by five late in the third quarter before the Hornets closed the period with an 11-0 run.
Back after wrist and elbow injuries limited him to 69 games last season, Andrew Bogut had 15 points and 15 rebounds but went 3 for 10 from the free-throw line.
"We can't turn on the switch when we're down and we have to scramble to win," said Drew Gooden, who had 15 points and 11 boards in his Bucks debut.
Coach Scott Skiles' club now gets to face a Minnesota team that averaged 83.0 points while losing both meetings last season.
Bogut had 17 points and 10 rebounds in Milwaukee's second victory in 11 trips to Minnesota, 87-72 on Nov. 6. The 7-footer has averaged 18.3 points and 10.7 boards in his last three road games against the Timberwolves.
Carlos Delfino, who had 24 points on 9-of-11 shooting against the Timberwolves in January, scored 19 on Wednesday.