Wittman to have back surgery, miss game vs. Lakers

MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Timberwolves coach Randy Wittman
will have surgery on Wednesday to repair his aching back and will
be out indefinitely.

Wittman missed practice on Monday and also Tuesday night's game
against the Los Angeles Lakers to prepare for the surgery. The team
said it's unclear when he will resume his duties. Assistant coach
Jerry Sichting will coach the Wolves in Wittman's absence.

"This is a situation that has been progressively getting
worse," Wittman said in a statement issued by the team before the
game against the Lakers. "The doctors said that in order to coach
the remainder of the year, that it would be in my best interest to
have the back surgery as soon as possible. I wish I could be out
there tonight, but I know Jerry and the coaching staff will do a
great job."

Sichting said Tuesday night before the game that he had heard
plenty from Wittman during the day and even joked about
communicating with him during the game.

"He wants to be here so bad," Sichting said. "I told him I
could bring my phone and, with the technology we have today, he
could just text message me during the game if he wanted to. But
that probably won't work out too well."

Lakers coach Phil Jackson knows what Wittman is going through.
He had hip replacement surgery before last season and missed the
preseason while in recovery.

"My sympathies go out to Randy for this situation," Jackson
said. "It's obviously very serious because you can kind of patch
it together, and I'm sure he has been for a while."

In self-deprecating fashion, Jackson said he thought his time
away from the Lakers last season was a benefit to the team. With
Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom and Chris Mihm also out at the time with
injuries, Jackson said the role players got quality time with
assistants Brian Shaw, Frank Hamblen, Kurt Rambis and Jim Cleamons.

"They all participated in really drilling the guys and I
thought we started out the season great," Jackson said. "Until my
coaching took effect, and then we kind of fell apart."