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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Keep getting asked why it's such a big deal that the Patriots deflated footballs.
The questions I'm hearing:
-Why does it matter?
-Is it really an advantage?
-Isn't it just because the Patriots win, and nobody likes Belichick?
These questions are irrelevant.
If you cork your bat and strike out, you still corked your bat. If you take steroids and fail to perform, you still took steroids.
And there is a benefit to deflating footballs. It makes them easier to throw and catch. And if the Patriots knew they were going to play with deflated footballs, I'm sure they practiced with them all week.
The Patriots would have beaten the Colts with any form of ball in play. That doesn't mean they didn't cheat, or shouldn't be punished for cheating.
Ricky Rubio is belatedly becoming in danger of being not only a draft bust, but a contract mistake.
He's been out for months with a sprained ankle. He does not appear close to returning. It's time for the young man to act like he cares about playing basketball.
The best thing that could happen to the Wolves at this point would be further tests on his ankle that reveal something more serious is wrong. Otherwise, this is the worst sprained ankle in sports history - or Rubio isn't particularly interested in playing basketball and fulfilling his contract.
After their comebacks fell short against Ohio State and Iowa, Gophers players were crushed. They had played brilliantly late in the game to force dramatic endings.
Today, if they're still talking about being one shot away from a victory, they should be ignored.
They were within a shot of Nebraska last night because Nebraska played horribly all night. The Gophers lost because they played even worse. That wasn't a dramatic loss - it was a horrific loss. Neither team deserved to win.
That might have been the most important game of the season. Had the Gophers won, they would havre moved to 2-5. They would have had a two-game winning streak, with an easy upcoming schedule. They could have made a strong move toward .500.
Now they're just a lousy team in a mediocre league.
Tonight at 5 p.m. at Kieran's Irish Pub, great local rocker G.B. Leighton will be my guest for my podcast at SouhanUnfiltered.com.
Thursday at 3 p.m., Strib hockey writer Michael Russo will be my guest. Friday at 5 p.m. at O'Gara's, USA Today football writer Tom Pelissero will be my guest. Monday at 5 p.m. at The Local, Twins president Dave St. Peter will be my guest.
Thanks in advance to all of these people who have been so generous with their time. You can listen to the podcasts live, or anytime later, at the website.
And thanks for listening.
On Tuesday night, the Gophers fell behind by 17 points before rallying...and losing.
The Wild continued to embarrass itself and its entire effort-based sport with another pathetic performance.
Our bright spot came from the NBA. Actually, from two unanticipated sources in the NBA.
And Kevin Love.
Mo, as you know, scored 52 points to break the Wolves' losing streak. Just as impressive, he scored 52 points without frequenting the paint. He scored 52 points with a 7-3 assist-to-turnover ratio. He was both prolific and efficient, and it's nice to see a Wolves point guard invested in avoiding losing. (You can come back any month now, Ricky.)
While Mo was doing strange things, Kevin Love kept proving he is who we thought he was. In a loss at Phoenix, Cavs coach David Blatt benched Love for the fourth quarter, saying he liked the way his on-court lineup matchup up with Phoenix defensively.
In other words, Love remains a terrible defensive player.
Love finished with nine points and nine rebounds. He was 3-for-11 from the field. He was a team-worst minus-20.
Blatt made headlines the other day by saying Love isn't a maximum-contract player. He tried to spin that after guaging the public reaction, but I believe he was offering an honest assessment of a limited player.
Love is great at putting up big numbers. He's not so great at playing winning basketball.
I'll admit I've been conflicted on Love (great band name) for years. I've praised his productivity. I thought Wolves fans blamed him too much for the struggles of what has been a terrible basketball organization. But I also questioned his effort, defense and attitude at times.
Now he's playing with the best player in the world, on a team that should be near the top of the East, and the Cavs are 19-20, and Love is partly to blame.
I'll give Flip Saunders credit for getting Andrew Wiggins for Love, and I'll also credit the Golden State Warriors for being smart enough to keep Klay Thompson. It's not surprising that the team that decided against trading for Love is playing so well.
Tonight's podcast: 5 p.m. at The Local (the great Irish bar on Nicollet), former Viking and current North High AD Leo Lewis will be my guest. Friday at 5 p.m. at O'Gara's, my guest will be Strib hockey writer Michael Russo. You can listen live or later at SouhanUnfiltered.com. Thanks.
According to Bovada of Las Vegas, the two teams favored to win the NBA championship are the Chicago Bulls and the Golden State Warriors. Both are listed at 5-to-1 odds.
What do they have in common?
Both considered trading for Kevin Love, and decided against it.
The Bulls are 25-10, even with Derrick Rose struggling to overcome injuries.
The Warriors are an NBA-best 27-5, and are the most entertaining team in the league as well as the best.
The Cavaliers, who added LeBron James and Love, are 19-16 and currently in the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference.
If there are lessons to be learned here, I think they are these:
1. Love is proving again that he is capable of accumulating numbers without dramatically affecting the outcome of games. He went for 30 points and 18 rebounds last night...and the Cavs lost again.
2. Those who argued against the Wolves trading Love for Klay Thompson said that Thompson was a one-dimensional player, a pure shooter and little else. They ignored the fact that he's a driven young player who was bound to improve, and has.
3. The Wolves probably made the right decision, trading Love for Andrew Wiggins. Despite a remarkably optimistic view from inside the Wolves' organization before this season started - there were key decision-makers who thought this team could make the playoffs - this roster is nowhere ready to win. So Thompson would have been frustrated, even if he had helped the Wolves win a ffew more games.
If you're going to lose big, you might as well do it with young players.
MEMPHIS -- So, before shootaround, Flip Saunders sees me with other reporters, and genuflects. He asks whether his boss and Star Tribune owner Glen Taylor has loosened the paper’s purse strings to send me to Memphis for the Wolves’ opener tonight.
Saunders seemed wired and enthusiastic on Wednesday morning. He also offered large doses of realism when it comes to expectations for his team this year.
Unprompted, he brought up the team’s decision to waive veteran guard J.J. Barea, and segued into an explanation of where his young team is.
``We made a decision on J.J., and there are some people, even on our staff, saying, `Hey, J.J. is going to help us win two or three more games,’ ‘’ Saunders said. ``I had to say, `Listen, when we made the decision to trade Love, that was the direction we chose. If we’re going to try to shortchange that, we’re going to hurt ourselves in the long run. This season is about going through the process. It’s about developing and blending the players together. It’s about finding out what we have in our young guys, what they have to work on in the next year to be where we need to be.
``We’re going to go through some nights where we’re going to play really well, and we’re going to have nights where I’m pulling my hair out.
``I don’t think that we can lose sight of the direction. It’s not just about wins and losses. I know that’s what fans want to hear about, and so do I. Right now, wins are reinforcement for what you’re doing, with young players. I’m being a realist.’’
Asked about Andrew Wiggins’ debut, Saunders used his popcorn analogy _ ``Some players are better when the lights are on and the popcorn is ready.’’ I reminded him that I first heard him use that a long time ago about another talented rookie – Stephon Marbury.
``And he was a popcorn player,’’ Saunders said.
The difference between Marbury and Wiggins is that Marbury wanted the ball in his hands on every possession. Wiggins, despite his gifts, can be passive offensively.
``He’s got a lot of potential,’’ Saunders said. `` The one thing that’s impressed me is he’s a team player. Almost, sometimes, to a fault. We’re trying to get him to be a little more assertive offensively, and to assert himself in the half court. We all know he’s going to be a very good defender, so he’s got the opportunity to be a two-way type player. In this league, if your team wants to be good, you have to have two-way players. And if you want to win a championship, your best player has to be a two-way player.’’
That’s the interesting thing about this team. Saunders is looking to build a champion, but this season is going to represent a traveling classroom. This team might lose 55 games and feel good about its future, if Wiggins develops properly.
I”ll be on 1500ESPN AT 12:15 from Memphis. Jerry Zgoda and I will be covering the opener tonight for the Star Tribune and startribune.com.
Kevin Love is embracing his role, perhaps embracing it better than any Wolves player since Sammy Cassell.
Against a good team, and a good defensive team, Love struggled for three quarters against Philadelphia. Then he won the game. He took over offensively, and he took the ball with a little more than three seconds left and his team down one, drove, drew the foul, hit the free throws and won the game.
As he has improved almost monthly over the last two seasons, Love has erased the reasons for doubting that he can be a superstar.
He's scoring like a superstar. He's rebounding like a superstar. He passes better than most superstars. He's improved defensively. And now he's leading his team.
This was a big victory for the Wolves, who only a handful of days ago looked like they had hit a wall.
Love, Rubio and Pekovich have all exceeded expectations this season. That's quite a compliment to Love, who faced high expectations coming in.
Covered the Wild game today, and wrote about Chad Rau's crazy day and his game-winning goal for the Monday paper.
I was left with this impression: Mike Yeo is not crazy. Sometimes he sounds a little wacky because he's so talkative and during this losing streak he's been so desperate to change his team's fortunes.
But every time I've been around him, I've liked him, and found him to be honest and blunt. Let's face it, no coach sounds good when his team is losing. This was an impressive win today, though, beating the defending Stanley Cup champs a day after looking like dogs in St. Louis.
I don't see this as a playoff team anymore, but I still believe, despite all of the struggles the last two years, that the braintrust of Leipold, Fletcher and Yeo has a chance to produce a winner in St. Paul sometime soon.
The reactions to my Joe Mauer column today were predictable. Many emailed to say they liked it. Some even took it to an extreme and attacked Mauer in ways I never would. Some criticized me for writing it, or for the way in which I wrote it.
I appreciate the feedback, and I'll answer a few FAQ's here:
-I don't write headlines. I didn't call him ``Clueless Joe,'' the headline writer did.
-No, I couldn't get anyone to go on the record criticizing Mauer. So I went through the team media guide, counting all of the people I've spoken with about Mauer since last summer. I counted 18 people who are either in key positions or who know Mauer well. Of those 18 people, 15 were either disgusted or confused by Mauer's demeanor. Three defended him, by saying he didn't know how to deal with his ailments or how to explain his predicament to the public.
But the people I've known the longest and trust the most expressed severe disappointment with Mauer, both because he did not seem in a rush to take the field, and because he didn't see anything wrong with his approach.
I think one possible excuse for Mauer could be that he feels he was misled or given poor advice by medical people employed by or used by the Twins, and was worried that playing with pain would cause reinjury. But he's never said that.
Maybe he can't say that.
But for every person who tried to find a way to defend Mauer, a bunch of other people just thought he didn't understand how important he is or how symbolic he is, now that he's a $184-million player.
-Thanks to all the people who wrote to say ``You'll never get another Joe Mauer interview!''
I don't think newspapers do a good job of explaining the different roles of different writers. Beat writers are employed to cover teams, to provide news and analysis. Sometimes they write opinion, but usually it's their job to simply cover the team.
I'm an opinion columnist. It's my job to write opinion, to write bluntly. Not always: I also write features and soft stories and nice columns. But I feel I owe readers my honest opinion, whether that opinion will please my editors or alienate readers or not. After talking with people about Mauer all winter - and in light of conversations I had myself with Mauer - this is a perspective I thought was important for our coverage of the Twins.
True, Joe probaby won't want to talk to me now. That's OK. If I wrote opinions only to endear myself to athletes and coaches, I wouldn't be doing my job.
-No, I don't hate Joe Mauer. I generally like him. I've been covering him since he was in high school. I like his family and friends a lot, although I'm sure they aren't pleased with me right now.
-How do I think he'll do this year? My guess is he'll bounce back and hit .330 and catch about 110 games. He's very capable of doing that for the next five years.
But that won't change the fact that, in my opinion, he did not fulfill the requirements of being a franchise player last summer.
I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 on Monday. I'm heading to spring training this week and will be in Fort Myers for a while. Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
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