J.J. Barea thinks the Timberwolves would be better off if they all tried to be a little more like Greg Stiemsma.
Seriously. But Barea was talking mainly about the attitude the team's backup center brings to a game. Barea -- who said the team needed to get tougher after Wednesday's loss to the Los Angeles Clippers -- was asked about Stiemsma standing up to three different Clippers during a stretch in the second quarter.
First, Clippers forward Matt Barnes sent a forearm into Stiemsma's throat on a hard pick, which got Barnes ejected. Moments later, Stiemsma was called for a flagrant foul on Grant Hill, and Caron Butler and Ronny Turiaf were whistled for technicals for getting in Stiemsma's face.
After the game the Clippers said they used that moment for motivation to turn around a slow start. Barea, meanwhile, pointed to those moments as proof that the Wolves need to get tougher.
He reiterated that Thursday.
"That's something we, as a team, need to be better at," Barea said. "We have to be a little tougher, and just be a little more like Steamer sometimes."
The guard isn't talking about starting fights or throwing fists. He's talking about a hard-nosed attitude that is as much mental as physical.
The Timberwolves are sinking in the Western Conference. They've lost five in a row and 10 of 11 and at 17-25 are in 12th place. Friday night, in a nationally televised game, the Wolves will take on the 10th-place Los Angeles Lakers (20-26), another team that has dealt with injuries and losing this season.
The Lakers' three-game winning streak ended after a fourth-quarter collapse in Phoenix on Wednesday.
Barea isn't the only one who believes the Wolves need a more physical edge to turn things around.
"I think so," said coach Rick Adelman, who also said he didn't feel Stiemsma deserved be called for a flagrant foul. "I think there's times when we aren't going good at one end of the court, and we drop our heads instead of fighting through. You've got to fight through it. A lot of it might be our younger guys, guys getting caught up in officiating. ... If they're missing shots or things aren't going good at one end, you've got to stay tough at the other end. You've got to have that mental toughness."
The Lakers come to town with their own issues and an eight-game road losing streak. Kobe Bryant has tried to become more of a facilitator of late. But veteran guard Steve Nash has been up and down in his play, center Dwight Howard has a sore shoulder, and Pau Gasol is both injured and frustrated with his role under coach Mike D'Antoni.
The Wolves, meanwhile, have had to deal with a litany of injuries. And while the team has stuck together, Barea said it might be too nice.
"We have to be a little bit not nice," he said. "It all has to do with us being in a tough time right now. It's been draining. We have to like to compete, like to win. Everybody is mad right now. We just have to take that onto the court."
Count Ricky Rubio among the Wolves believing Barea has identified a shortcoming.
"We have to get tougher," Rubio said. "I think we did it [Wednesday], but we have to be even more. Like the Clippers, when the game is not going their way, they try to get tougher. They hit Steamer and tried to get physical against us. We didn't know how to [fight] back. We have to keep calm, but we have to hit, too."
WOLVES VS. L.A. LAKERS
8:30 p.m. today Target Center
TV: Ch. 29/ESPN (830-AM)