Very seldom do members of the media know in advance what player the Vikings plan to take in the draft, but I've been fortunate enough to be tipped off on several occasions.
Denny Green told me the day before the draft in 1998 of the team's great interest in Randy Moss, who had some baggage coming out of Marshall University. Moss lasted until the 21st pick of the first round, but the Vikings had him in their sights all along and were hoping he would drop to them.
Denny also told me the next year that Daunte Culpepper, the quarterback at Central Florida, would be the pick. Most teams weren't certain he had all the abilities of an NFL quarterback, but the Vikings took him with the 11th pick, even though they seemed to be set at quarterback and many people were surprised at the selection.
Former Vikings coach Brad Childress got running back Adrian Peterson with the seventh overall pick in 2007. Other teams were scared off because of a shoulder injury Peterson had at Oklahoma, but the Vikings planned to take him if he was available, and got him.
Percy Harvin in 2009 was another player the Vikings singled out and were hoping would drop to them at No. 22. One of the assistant coaches told me they were exploring every possible reason why not to take him and, after Childress went down to Gainesville to meet with Harvin, the decision was made to definitely draft him if he was available.
Then you have the case this year of the Vikings definitely being set on taking Matt Kalil. Unless they would get a deal similar to the one the Rams got from Washington for the No. 2 pick, people around the team told me there was no way the Vikings were going to give up on Kalil, and only made the trade with the Browns because they knew the USC tackle would be available at No. 4.
Safety Harrison Smith of Notre Dame, who the Vikings scouts rated the equal of any safety available, was another guy the team really wanted, and they moved back into the first round, at No. 29, to get him last night.
Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor has now had two great players on his payroll -- Kevin Garnett for 12 seasons, and Kevin Love, who is in his fourth season.
Love, who won the NBA's Most Improved Player award last year and is headed for it again this season, is breaking all sorts of team records, including some of Garnett's. And he isn't making anywhere near the money that Garnett made, some $200 million during his career here.
At this point Taylor refuses to rate Love as a better player than Garnett.
"Kevin [Garnett] did it for many years. Love is doing well now, but he has a long way to go to catch up with the long successful career that Garnett had," Taylor said.
Garnett, who still has a home in the Twin Cities, doesn't hold any love for this franchise, according to his quotes in the Boston press. This despite all the success he had and all the money he made here.
Garnett said: “It’s always special to come back to true fans and your foundation. But as far as that franchise, I have nothing positive to say. So I’ll just let it be that. I think Kevin Love’s playing at a high level. I think he’s rejuvenated the city as far as basketball goes. Other than that, nothing else.”
It will be interesting to see how much he is booed tomorrow night when the Celtics make their only appearance here.
One hero who doesn't get credit for what he did for this franchise is Kevin McHale. He not only drafted and made Garnett a great player, but he also was responsible for the draft-night trade that brought Love here in 2008. And McHale also drafted Nikola Petrovic, who has a chance to be one of the best big men in the NBA.
Gophers forward Trevor Mbakwe, who got the good news from the NCAA Thursday that he has been awarded a sixth year of eligibility after being injured in the first six games this past season, is going to test the draft but he says there’s a good chance he will return to play for the Gophers.
“I feel great. I’m happy. I was pretty nervous the whole time waiting to find out what was going to happen with the NCAA,” Mbakwe said. “But I’m happy, I’m ecstatic and I’m just waiting to see what my next move is going to be and just continue to keep getting me knee better.”
“I don’t know yet. I still have to work some things out and see what the best option is for me,” said Mbakwe when asked if he will return to the Gophers. “Right now I’m just playing it by ear and taking it day-by-day.”
“Yeah there’s still a possibility [of entering the draft]. It’s my lifelong dream and something I’ve been working hard for,” he said. “It’s going to be a tough decision. I want to play back with all my teammates, I missed them and I’m not happy with the way this last year went. It would be nice to finally take this team to a tournament.”
Mbakwe said he won’t hire an agent any time soon as he tests his viability in the draft market before the NBA draft in June. That will keep him eligible for the Gophers if his chances to be drafted by the NBA aren’t positive.
“I’ll see what the interest is,” Mbakwe said. “I know teams, the biggest question is going to be my knee and showing them that my knee is fine. That’s why I’m continuing to work hard on that.”
Gopher coach Tubby Smith, who was optimistic all the time that the extra year would develop, wants the 6-8 cager to play next season but his comment was “that the decision about playing is all up to Mbakwe”
Mbakwe reported that his “knee is doing really good. It’s getting better. I’m starting to do more things, I’ll be running in a couple of weeks. I’m really happy about it.”
“Yeah I’ll be able to play. I’ll be playing again this summer.”
Mbakwe graduated in December but he’s still in school taking classes.
“I’m taking two lab courses. I have an independent study that I’m taking and a design class that I took and completed.”
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