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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Posts about Wild off-season news

Minnesota basketball, the good and bad, and a new LPR

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: February 29, 2012 - 8:38 AM

Rick Adelman has been to the Timberwolves what Tubby Smith should have been for the University of Minnesota. He makes a difference in such obvious ways.

Last night, the Gophers held Wisconsin to 16 first-half points and still found a way to lose, because finding a way to lose is what Tubby's teams have done the last two years.

Last night, the Timberwolves beat a good team on the road, whipping the Clippers in LA with a powerhouse fourth-quarter performance, in part because Adelman has a feel for when to play his players, and because he has tremendously upgraded the Wolves' offensive intelligence and defensive tenaciousness.

Darko is not a good player, yet Adelman has used him to good effect twice against the Clippers, particularly in keeping Blake Griffin from the basket. I know Adelman won't win the coach of the year award, but I'd consider him.

In light of last night's developments, here's my latest high-irrelevant, transparently self-serving Local Power Rankings:

1. Timberwolves

I left the No. 1 slot vacant in my last rankings because I couldn't reward the Wolves when they were playing poorly, and no other local teams had earned this spot. The Wolves, having won five of six, easily reclaim this spot. This is a likeable and surging team.

 

2. Gopher hockey

Four straight victories: That's impressive, but we all know we're going to judge this team by the way it performs in the postseason.

3. Minnesota Vikings

The last two seasons were abysmal, but I'm seeing signs of hope. The farther I get from last season the more willing I am to give Christian Ponder the benefit of the doubt as a rookie quarterback playing with a limited supporting cast. Add Matt Kalil, then find a starting cornerback and a speed receiver either in free agency or the draft, and this team could quickly make strides, especially if Ponder learns from last season.

4. Minnesota Twins

I don't think this is a good team, but there's no way it can suffer as many injuries as it did last season, and the infield defense is guaranteed to be better.

5. Minnesota Wild

Other than the Nick Leddy trade, I like all of Chuck Fletcher's moves. He's aggressive and forward-thinking and I do believe he's building a winner. I just think the young scorers he's drafted and acquired are going to have to make it to the X before the record will support that assertion.

6. Gopher football

Nothing new here, although I continue to hear from Minnesotans about how much they like Jerry Kill. If that vibe works on recruits, we may have something here.

7. Gopher basketball

And your new last-place team in the LPR: I give you the Minnesota Golden Basketball Gophers.

Tubby Smith loses games he should have won, then blames the administration, or his players, or nightlife in Minneapolis. He did take the blame for one mistake: Moving Blake Hoffarber to the point last year. Otherwise, he's a finger-pointer of the first degree.

He must go. But does the new president and his 98-person advisory committee think he should go?

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Upcoming:

I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 from Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers with Reusse and Mackey. I'll also be on from the stadium for Sunday Sports Talk, 10-noon on 1500espn on Sunday morning.

Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.

Twins win, Wild hires coach, Wolves make sense...

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: June 16, 2011 - 5:42 PM

Amazing how our quiet, borderline-depressing sports scene continues to make news. A month ago, I feared a summer in which the Twins were irrelevant and the NFL was dormant.

Now I expect the Twins to play meaningful games all season, the NFL to start on time, and the Wolves to be much more interesting by this fall.

The Wild?

I'm not sure what they're thinking.

They pushed Jacques Lemaire out. Lemaire's message may have gotten old, but he's a hockey genius. They replaced him with Todd Richards. Fine, you went with a young coach and planned to be patient while he developed. But then you fired him after two years, probably just as he was adapting fully to the job.

And then you went looking for a veteran coach. Craig MacTavish? Sounds good. Ken Hitchcock? Love it.

Mike Yeo?

Really?

Now, I'm not predicting that Yeo will fail. Maybe he'll be a great coach, and Chuck Fletcher has made a brilliant, insightful, move. That wouldn't be shocking.

But this is a strange progression, from veteran brilliant coach to long shot to...long shot.

Because what Fletcher doesn't know about Yeo is exactly what he didn't know about Richards - how he would react to the pressure, the speed, and the players of the NHL.

This smells like a money-saving move. Yeo is thrilled to have the job. MacTavish and Hitchcock would have wanted money and influence. For a franchise needing credibility and a way to keep fans interested, this is a puzzling move.

Whatever the Wolves' problems, they may be close to passing the Wild in terms of intrigue and watchability.

-Wolves' exec Tony Ronzone told our Jerry Zgoda and other reporters today that the Wolves plan to hold onto the No. 2 pick and take the best player available. That is exactly the right approach. Derrick Williams is the right choice at No. 2. He might be talented enough to make Ricky Rubio look good.

After speaking with a few people around the NBA, I believe that if the Wolves take Williams, they'll need to trade Michael Beasley. Beasley is a nice enough guy, and he can score, but he doesn't play defense and doesn't get his points in a structured, reliable, way. You don't want Williams having to share shots with him. Williams could become a star.

-I'm rooting for Rory McIlroy. Golf needs a magnetic, charismatic, brilliantly-talented star to capture the imagination. Martin Kaymer doesn't cut it. And Phil Mickelson looks like he'll never win another major.

-Joe Mauer spoke today. He looked lean and tanned, and he handled the tougher questions very well.

He was asked about people who have criticized him for an unwillingness to play hurt. He called the critics, ``Misinformed.'' That's a logical response, but what he should know is that his slow recovery created critics not just in the media, but throughout his organization and in his clubhouse and among former players.

The percentage of Twins' employees rolling their eyes about Mauer's timetable was about the same as the percentage of fans screaming about him.

-Wrote my Friday column on the Twins' latest improbable victory, and Ozzie Guillen's latest nickname for their lineup. I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 Friday.

-My prayers go out to E Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons, who is recovering from a stroke. I listened to a bunch of hair bands with my high school buddies until one day we were driving around, and this sax break played over the radio, interrupting a song featuring lyrics about life, and death, and redemption, and I could never listen to Styx again.

Clarence played that sax, and as much as I love Springsteen, the best moments of his glorious concerts always feature Clemons, as soloist or foil. I stopped listening to ``Jungleland'' years ago...except for Clemons' amazing, emotive, expressive solo, during which, in concert, Springsteen always walks around the stage, pumping his fist, leading cheers for the Big Man. As it should be, and I hope someday will be again.

 

LeBron and my sad life

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: June 13, 2011 - 10:52 AM

After all of his fourth-quarter failures, after LeBron James choked in the same building where he celebrated like a champion before ever playing a game with the Miami Heat, here is what James had to say late last night:

According to the Associated Press, James said this of fans who ridicule him:

``All the people that were rooting on me to fail, at the end of the day they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today. They have the same personal problems they had today. I'm going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want to do with me and my family and be happy with that. So they can get a few days or a few months or whatever the case may be on being happy about not only myself, but the Miami Heat not accomplishing their goal. But they got to get back to the real world at some point."

James is telling everyone who doubts him that they are losers with lousy lives. Once again, he has proved he has no sense of timing on or off the court.

The man celebrates a championship before he wins one. He disses Cleveland with his TV special. He fades in the fourth quarter.

He and the Heat should have the ability to win a handful of NBA championships if they can add talent and depth to the roster that almost won it all this year. But will James ever be a go-to-guy again? While he may be able to improve his game, especially on the low post, will he be able to alter a personality that had him passing up good shots and missing many of those he took in the fourth quarter of a Finals in which Dirk Nowitzki made him look like a chump?

I don't know, but I do know it's time for me to go be happy for a few months before facing the real world again.

-I don't know if I've ever liked a champion athlete as much as I like Dirk. I"ve admired many. I've been awed by a few. I don't know if I ever got to the end of a championship game or series and admire anyone more for so many reasons.

Nowitzki played hurt. He played sick. He made big shots. He overcame difficult shooting nights. He called out his teammates without losing their respect. He led. He excelled. He demonstrated the fruits of his long hours in the gym and dedication to his craft.

-I keep hearing NHL fans and writers say that the NBA celebration pales in comparison to the Stanley Cup handshake line. They're right. Too bad you have to sit through so much boring hockey to get to the handshakes.

I will watch the NHL finals tonight. I would appreciate them keeping me awake with the occasional, legitimate, scoring chance, and I would appreciate seeing a few clean, pretty, goals.

-Our hockey guy Michael Russo writes that Craig MacTavish could be closing in on the Wild head coaching job. I've been pushing for Ken Hitchcock, but MacTavish is a good, accomplished, candidate. He'd bring credibility and a strong personality, and an ability to reach players.

-Derek Jeter has reached 2,993 hits. I used to love baseball milestones. I don't know why, but I don't care much about this one.

I don't know if that's a reaction to baseball's steroid era, which blew up so many meaningful records. I don't know if my loathing for Yankee entitlement has diminished my  enthusiasm for this particular milestone. I don't know if it's Jeter's sense of outrage over the Yankees' unwillingness to pay him $30 million to be a mediocre shortstop.

But I just don't care as much as I used to about players reaching numerical milestones.

-Wrote for today's paper about the Twins' chances of getting back into the race. I don't know if it's possible, but what I always root for, as a daily newspaper columnist, is meaningful games. If the Twins can play meaningful games in September after their lousy start, I'll consider this season less of a failure.

-From my twitter feed (@Souhanstrib): Ricky Rubio has another chance in the Spanish finals to pull off a Rubio double-double: Two points, two assists.

-Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 p.m. today.

 

      

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