Jim Souhan analyzes the local sports scene and advises you to never take his betting advice. He likes old guitars and old music, never eats press box hot dogs, and can be heard on 1500ESPN at 2:05 p.m. weekdays, and Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon.
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Last night in Miami, in a nationally-televised game that had to be a prime ticket on South Beach, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich didn't even bring along three of his best players.
He put Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli and Tony Parker on a flight home to San Antonio instead of having them dress for the game against the Heat.
He was wrong, and I'm amazed at how many of my peers are either defending Popovich or ripping commissioner David Stern for threatening sanctions.
It would be one thing to play his stars limited minutes. How he uses his stars in the course of a game is beyond the reach of the commissioner or anyone else. When he doesn't bring them to the arena, he is begging to be punished.
As for those ripping Stern for threatening sanctions, well, just because he's made mistakes during his career doesn't disqualify him from trying to make good decisions moving forward.
The NBA is an entertainment entity. It is dependent upon television ratings and attendance. Sending the signal that you don't care about winning regular-season games, that you don't care about even competing in certain regular-season games, is wrong. It's bad for business. It's bad for the league's image. That puts this in Stern's court.
Popovich is a great coach, but his arrogance leads him to forget why he's making millions of dollars. He's making millions of dollars because his league is popular. When he damages the reputation of his team and his league, he is begging to be fined or suspended.
The fact that some teams tank at the end of seasons doesn't make what Popovich did on Thursday night right. Tanking needs to be addressed, as well.
Stern isn't overstepping in addressing this. He's doing his job.
-I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 today with Reusse and Mackey. My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
For a variety of reasons - a slow summer, local teams stinking it up, my Olympic excursion - I took a break from the all-important Local Power Rankings. Now, with the NFL returning to action, they're back.
If only Ricky Rubio were healthy, this could team might be the fastest-rising team in the NBA. As it is, the offseason roster improvements, along with Rubio's expected return from knee surgery, will make this easily the best and most fun-to-watch team in town. It's not really close.
What will be most interesting, to me, is to see how Kevin Love, who performed so well at the Olympics, plays this season. He's been able to improve in some way every year of his pro career, and he had to pick up some nuances, or confidence, playing with the world's best.
2. Gopher hockey
This should be a powerhouse team, which means I"ll be fascinated to see how Don Lucia handles the pressure of coaching a team with high expectations.
3. Gopher basketball
Tubby Smith should have his best team. I'm praying that none of his best players get hurt, partly because I'd love to have a fun winter in the Barn watching a good team, and partly because I don't want Smith to be able to cite any easy excuses. Other than his players having to walk outside in the cold to go to practice.
They'll be much better, but how much better? I say they're a playoff team, but as my hockey-minded buddies point out, the LA Kings barely made the playoffs last year, and they won the whole thing. Are the Wild better today than the Kings were last spring?
Maybe I'm crazy, but I see some hope for this franchise. I like Diamond. I like Deduno. I'm tremendously impressed by Cole De Vries' ability to get people out with average-at-best stuff. I think the Twins will re-sign Scott Baker, and Kyle Gibson could give them 100 good innings next year. Liam Hendricks has been awful, but there has to be something there - you can't dominate in the minors as much as he has without being able to eventually function in the majors.
Yes, they lack an ace, but this team went to the ALCS with a rotation of Brad Radke, Eric Milton, Joe Mays and Rick Reed. They don't need Hall of Famers, they need functional big-league starters.
The Twins need to sign one innings-eater and hope Baker can become a staff leader.
A lot has to go right for the Twins to contend next year, but are they really that far away?
You can make the case that this is an improving team with a bright future. You can't make the case that this is a good team now.
7. Gopher football
UNLV stinks, and the Gophers almost found a way to lose to the Rebels. They are lucky to be playing New Hampshire this week.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire admitted he didn't want to use Glen Perkins on Tuesday. Perkins had pitched in three of the four previous games, and owns one of the most valuable arms in the organization. He's signed to a three-year contract and will probably be the team's closer by the end of July and perhaps for the two years following this one.
The Twins are likely to try to trade closer Matt Capps in July, and Perkins would take that role.
Maybe being a closer would allow him to get some rest. He's pitched in 22 of the Twins 49 games and four of the last five.
Gardenhire is desperate to win every possible game, so he threw Perkins into a game his team was trailing 2-0. That's a scary trend. Perkins should be saved for games when the Twins are tied or ahead. This franchise can't afford to have a pitcher of Perkins' caliber burned out.
Baseball is one of the stranger games. The Twins bore everyone to death with a 3 1/2-hour game in which they manage no runs until...with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Josh Willingham hits a game-winning three-run homer.
Willingham's average has leveled out, nearing his career norm. He's still a great signing. He's hit nine home runs, tied for the team lead, and has shown no qualms about hitting in Target Field.
Wrote a column ripping the 10 things I hate about baseball (a game I otherwise love). I left out a lot of good candidates, like using one closer, throwing waste pitches when up 0-and-2 in the count, and failing to use instant replay to overturn obvious umpiring mistakes.
But, in one night, the Twins demonstrated a handful of my pet peeves, including: Bunting (it was a particularly bad night for bunting, in idea and execution); jumping on home plate, risking a broken leg, after hitting a walk-off homer; the dreaded Marriage Cam; attacking a teammate who is doing a postgame interview on TV; and smacking a teammate in the head after he hits a walk-off.
My Wednesday column is about how we should view Joe Mauer. Call it sportswriter's luck: On a day I try to ease fans' feelings about Mauer, he goes 0-for-5. That doesn't change the larger point: He's playing every day this season, and he's really not a power hitter, so accept him for what he is.
I don't know how anybody can call San Antonio boring. The Spurs are the most entertaining team in the league, and I can't wait for their finals matchup with the Heat.
Think about Popovich devising defenses to frustrate the best player in the game (LeBron James) and the best sidekick (Dwyane Wade), who are playing beautifully together.
I'll be hosting Tom Pelissero's show from 6-8 p.m. on Wednesday on 1500espn. The last segment of the shiow will feature Ask Jim Anything. Tweet questions to the hashtag #AskJimAnything and I'll answer on air.
My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
OK, about to watch Thunder-Spurs, here are my NHL and NBA picks, along with an admission that I never would have picked LA or Jersey to make it to the finals in the NHL, had I bothered to pick at the beginning of the Stanley Cup playoffs:
Eastern Conference NBA Finals, otherwise known as the Slumber Games:
Miami over Boston in 5. Rondo will be brilliant enough to win at least one game, but Wade and James are playing together beautifully right now.
Western Conference Finals:
San Antonio over OKC in six. I'm tempted to pick San Antonio in five, because I think they match up so well with the Thunder, but it's hard not to envision a couple of game-winning shots from Westbrook and/or Durant.
The Spurs have the better coach and the deeper roster, and while I don't usually consider ``experience'' a key factor, I think the Spurs' combination of experience and rest will play to their favor.
Stanley Cup Finals
I like the way Jersey is playing, and I love the way Parise is playing, and Brodeur is on the doorstep of history. But I'd never bet a dollar on hockey. Too many funny bounces.
The Twins are on historically-bad paces for losses and ERA, and you know what? It could be worse.
Where would this team be if P.J. Walters and Scott Diamond hadn't materialized out of thin air?
On the TNT pregame show tonight, Charles Barkley ripped ``all the talking heads'' who ripped Shaquille O'Neal as a potential NBA general manager. Chuck made a great point, saying: ``I've been in the NBA, and there are a lot of dumb GMs.''
The man has a way with words.
I'll be on 1500espn with Reusse and Mackey at 2:05 on Monday.
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