Welcome to the Monday edition of The Cooler, where sometimes you have to be the bad guy. Let’s get to it:
*Sunday was interesting, and slightly less chaotic for the Timberwolves, than the days that had preceded it.
Jimmy Butler practiced for the second time since requesting a trade before training camp, and for the first time since his shout-filled return to the court on Wednesday.
The Timberwolves have done their best to make it seem like Butler’s first practice was not unusual, which is nonsense. I don’t doubt that he’s a trash-talker who commands attention and leads with tough love. But yelling obscenities at the general manager, then heading straight for an ESPN interview? There was very little that was normal Wednesday.
Sunday, though, was at least an attempt to present an air of normalcy. Butler practiced and talked to the local media. He met with owner Glen Taylor to essentially call a temporary truce, with Butler vowing to play hard until he’s traded and Taylor vowing to continue to facilitate that deal.
As is the case in many areas of life right now, though, we should not confuse two sides temporarily acting civil for a problem actually being solved. That’s not to say Sunday wasn’t a step in the right direction — one that maybe should have happened weeks ago — but it doesn’t come close to erasing the recent past or calming the impending storm.
For the latter, we only need to look to a key quote from Butler on Sunday, when he was asked what sort of fan reaction he anticipates Friday at Target Center for the home opener against Cleveland.
“Sure, boo me,” he said. “Ain’t going to change the way I play. Probably going to make me smile more. Please, come with it.”
That might make for good theater and might sell a few extra tickets in the short-term. But a star player embracing the role of villain in his own home arena? That’s nowhere near normal.
*The total number of shots on goal an NHL team takes or allows can be a misleading statistic since not all shots are created equal. But it’s still troubling that through four games, the Wild is getting outshot 169-120 and at 42.3 per game is allowing the most shots (by far, since the next-closest team is at 38) in the NHL.
A big source of the problem? Wild opponents have had 20 power plays this season, while Minnesota has had just 12. In 5-on-5 play, the Wild is actually a little on the plus-side in terms of expected goals scored vs. goals allowed.
*What a difference two weeks make. The Vikings, after wins over Philadelphia and Arizona — combined with Green Bay’s loss last week and Chicago’s loss Sunday — have re-established themselves as NFC North favorites.
Chicago technically still leads the division with a .600 winning percentage at 3-2, while the Vikings are at .583 and 3-2-1. But FiveThirtyEight’s projections give the Vikings a 58 percent chance to make the playoffs and a 44 percent chance to win the division — better than Chicago (29 percent), Detroit (17) or Green Bay (11).
*Kirk Cousins’ touchdown celebration dance was the talk of Twitter on Sunday, but say this for the Vikings QB: He’s fully owning it. Cousins tweeted a GIF of his very casual celebration.