Kurt Rambis believes the Timberwolves still can contend for the Western Conference playoffs if they get healthy.

Flip Saunders calls Russian rookie Alexey Shved the Wolves' "life saver" during the team's injury-plagued season.

The two former Wolves head coaches have been following the team primarily as NBA analysts for ESPN. Both have been hired by the network to serve as studio analysts, and both watch the Wolves with added interest.

Rambis, who was replaced by Rick Adelman in 2011 after winning only 32 games in two seasons, admires the job Adelman has done considering the team's overwhelming injury situation.

"The biggest single disruptive factor in any team's season is when you have injuries of significance," Rambis biggest obstacle, but Rick's a veteran coach, and he's got some veteran players who know how to get through the ups and downs. At the beginning of the season, I thought they would be fighting for a playoff, and yes, I think it can still happen."

The Wolves (17-25) play the Los Angeles Lakers (20-26) on Friday night at Target Center in a matchup of teams desperate to get back on track. Neither team is among the top eight in the playoff race; the Lakers are 10th, the Wolves 12th.

The Wolves are only three games behind No. 9 Portland (23-22) in the loss column, a surprising position that Saunders credits in part to Shved.