Sid Hartman: Wolves gave away too much to Kings

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 20, 2009 - 12:18 AM

The team got rid of the unhappy Rashad McCants, who was going to depart, but gained very little in return.

Sacramento got the best of the deal it made with the Timberwolves on Thursday when it acquired shooting guard Rashad McCants and center Calvin Booth for point guard Bobby Brown and forward Shelden Williams.

The only way the Wolves win that deal is if the 6-9 Williams surprises and helps the Wolves inside, somewhat lessening the loss of injured Wolves star Al Jefferson.

Williams, who reported 25 pounds overweight this year, is playing 10.2 minutes a game and averaging 3.7 points and 2.6 rebounds. The former Duke star is also noteworthy because he is married to Candace Parker, the former Tennessee women's basketball standout who is sitting out the upcoming WNBA season to give birth to the couple's first child.

Brown has seen very little service for the Kings, averaging 14.4 minutes and 5.2 points per game.

My reasoning for giving the Kings the edge is that McCants has great potential; he was the second-leading scorer last year for the Wolves, averaging 14.9 points a game.

He needed a change of scenery, and if he gets a chance to play, he could be one of the top scorers for Kings. The positive thing for the Wolves is that McCants will be a free agent at the end of this season. The Wolves didn't plan to re-sign him, and he wasn't interested even if they wanted him back. Booth hasn't played all year and chances are the Wolves won't keep Brown and Williams.

It's too bad the Wolves couldn't have acquired Brad Miller, who went to Chicago from Sacramento. He would have helped them.

The Wolves aren't going anywhere. They are actually better off not winning many games so maybe they can get lucky and get the top pick in the lottery for once.

Future tough

The Gophers lost to Michigan on Thursday night to drop to 7-7 and a tie for sixth place in the Big Ten with Ohio State. But the one positive thing was they will have three of their final four games at home, and maybe they can revert to their early-season form, when they started 14-1.

They have home games with Northwestern, Wisconsin and Michigan, which are all winnable if they can quit turning the ball over and regain the shooting form they had at one time. The one road game is at Illinois, and I doubt they will win there.

They could finish 10-8, which might be good enough for at least sixth place and a chance to gain a NCAA tournament berth.

There always is a possibility the Gophers could get hot in the Big Ten tournament, but the way they are playing, that doesn't seem likely.

Jottings

Brad James, who is director of golf for the Gophers and coaches both the women's and men's teams, has signed a contract extension through the 2012 season. James was promoted to director of golf in 2007. He coached the Gophers men to the NCAA golf championship in 2002, as the team became the first northern school to win the title in 23 years. He also coached the Gophers to third place in the NCAA in 2006 and a tie for ninth in 2007, and led the team to six consecutive NCAA appearances from 1998 to 2003.

The only Gophers head coach without a multiyear contract is wrestling's J Robinson, who works on a year-to-year deal because he believes he should be paid more than some of the coaches for women's sports.

I wonder if the loss of assistant wrestling coach Marty Morgan and assistant hockey coach Mike Guentzel had something to do with both sports not doing as well this year. Both were great recruiters. Morgan is training ultimate fighter Brock Lesnar, while Guentzel is an assistant coach at Colorado College, where his son plays.

The Gophers and Northwestern are the only two Big Ten teams without players at the NFL combine in Indianapolis. Penn State leads with seven attending, followed by Ohio State, Illinois, Purdue and Iowa with four, Michigan and Michigan State three and Indiana one. ... Two former Hutchinson high school players who attended Nebraska were invited to the combine: receiver Nate Swift, who led the team in receptions his senior year, and offensive lineman Lydon Murtha. Both were recruited hard by the Gophers. In fact, Murtha was set for Minnesota and then changed his mind. He was injured early in his Cornhuskers career and then developed into a fine linemen who could be drafted.

The Wild's Niklas Backstrom is 39-9-9 with a 2.01 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage after the All-Star break for his career, and 44-29-7 with a 2.32 GAA and a .922 save percentage before the break. Since coming into the league in 2006-07, the Finn ranks first in post-All-Star winning percentage (.763), and is tied for first in victories (39), first in GAA (2.01), tied for first in shutouts (seven) and tied for first in save percentage (.928). Backstrom is the lone NHL goalie to be ranked in the top five in all four major statistical categories. Backstrom improved to 4-0 in shootouts this season, making four stops against Edmonton on Feb. 8. Backstrom, who was 4-10 in his first two seasons in shootouts, is a perfect 12-for-12 on shootout this season and is the lone qualifying NHL goaltender to not give up a shootout goal.

Wild center Mikko Koivu has 53 points (16-37-53), just one off his career-high in points (20-34-54), which was set in 2006-07. Koivu has 12 points (4-8) in the past 12 games, and 16 (4-12) in the past 16 games. Koivu leads the team in goals (16), assists (37), points (53), shorthanded goals (two) and is tied for first at plus-4. He set a new career-high with his 35th assist Feb. 4. The Wild is 10-3 this season when Koivu has a goal, and 10-3 when he has two or more points. On Jan. 19, Koivu became the eighth player in Wild history to reach 50 goals. The Wild is 9-1 all-time when Koivu has three or more points. He is just the third player in team history to serve as captain for three months in a single season.

According to the Boston Business Journal, the New York Times Co. could net $150 million for its equity stake (about 18 percent) in the Boston Red Sox.

The Sporting News ranks Matt Birk of the Vikings as the top free-agent center available in the NFL. The magazine predicted that Birk will retire or play elsewhere next year. It also reported that free agent safety Darren Sharper "likes the Saints."

Interest in the 2009 PGA Championship, which will be held Aug. 10-16 at Hazeltine, is strong. More than 70 percent of the corporate chalets have been sold and ticket sales have been strong -- a similar pace to the 2002 event, which was sold out at Hazeltine.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on his Podcast once a week at www.startribune.com/sidcast. shartman@startribune.com

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