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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Ok, let's call this more of an infant working theory than any kind of proclamation.
Our local teams are not exactly pinning championship banners on top of championship banners, but this year of seemingly perpetual losing feels different. Doesn't it?
There is no David Kahn, hopelessly overmatched and somehow oddly entertaining.
There is no Tim Brewster talking about hot chili or scoring last.
For a bunch of struggling teams, suddenly our towns have a lot of leaders you can believe in.
The Vikings are 4-5. But...
Mike Zimmer has already made players like Anthony Barr, Everson Griffen and Sharrif Floyd better. Harrison Smith is playing better than he was a year ago. Xavier Rhodes has improved. Josh Robinson ,when healthy, has been better.
Norv Turner is missing the two most important pieces of his offense, Adrian Peterson and Kyle Rudolph (who I thought would be the biggest beneficiary of Turner's arrival), yet has squeked out four victories while breaking in a rookie quarterback behind a surprisingly horrid offensive line.
If you can set aside his personal views, you'd have to admit that Mike Priefer is very good at his job. (Although Chris Kluwe is better than Jeff Locke. No contest.)
Rick Spielman has made a dozen shrewd moves the last couple of years, including trading Percy Harvin at the right time for the right value, and, along with Zimmer, identifying Barr as a worthy use of the ninth pick in the draft.
The Wolves are 2-5. But...
I love the enthusiasm Flip Saunders has brought to the job, and the way he has used his young players.
I picked this team to win 25 games this year. Maybe they're better than that. What really matters is that Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine and Anthony Bennett develop into quality NBA players. LaVine has acquitted himself far better in Ricky Rubio's absence than I would have expected, and Saunders seems to have a good working relationship with Rubio. This is a team worth watchng, if only because Wiggins is going to make more and more astounding moves as the season wears on.
The Wild is 7-7. But...
I don't fault Mike Yeo or Chuck Fletcher. I like this roster. Maybe they overestimated Thomas Vanek, but if Zach Parise had stayed healthy, Vanek's struggles might not have been as costly.
When Parise was healthy, I thought this team was continuing the play like it did down the stretch and in the playoffs last season.
The Twins are...never mind.
It's been four terrible years, and I know people are tired of my saying that Terry Ryan is one of the best GMs in the business, but that's what I believe. I also will continue to say that if Byron Buxton, MIguel Sano and Alex Meyer can stay healthy and get to the big leagues, they'll lead a resurgence that will have the Twins contending in short order.
I loved the hiring of Paul Molitor, the smartest player I ever covered. So far, I like the staff - Tom Brunansky did good work last year, Gene Glynn has always been one of my favorites, and Rudy Hernandez, born in Venezuela, could provide an important language link to Sano and other young players from Latin America.
I'd love to see Eddie Guardado hired as the bullpen coach.
The Gopher football team lost to Illinois, and Richard Pitino didn't make it to the NCAA tourney his first season, but...
Both were well down the original list of candidates. The Gophers chose wisely/lucked out with both. Kill has put the football team in position to play big games in November two years in a row. Pitino has brought energy and an entertaining style to the Gopher hoops program.
I don't know how successful any of the current cadre of coaches and managers is going to be. But there is a wealth of intelligence and expertise around town these days. That's a start.
I'll be doing my first podcast for @aliveandsocial network today at 3:30 from O'Gara's in St. Paul. Molitor will be my first guest, and I"ll also speak with local author Ross Bernstein about the ways we researched stories about Randy Moss in the past. We have different stories to tell than ESPN.
Planning on doing the second podcast at The Devil's Advocate on Friday night at 7. May even break out the guitars after that one.
You can follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
Last night in Miami, in a nationally-televised game that had to be a prime ticket on South Beach, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich didn't even bring along three of his best players.
He put Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli and Tony Parker on a flight home to San Antonio instead of having them dress for the game against the Heat.
He was wrong, and I'm amazed at how many of my peers are either defending Popovich or ripping commissioner David Stern for threatening sanctions.
It would be one thing to play his stars limited minutes. How he uses his stars in the course of a game is beyond the reach of the commissioner or anyone else. When he doesn't bring them to the arena, he is begging to be punished.
As for those ripping Stern for threatening sanctions, well, just because he's made mistakes during his career doesn't disqualify him from trying to make good decisions moving forward.
The NBA is an entertainment entity. It is dependent upon television ratings and attendance. Sending the signal that you don't care about winning regular-season games, that you don't care about even competing in certain regular-season games, is wrong. It's bad for business. It's bad for the league's image. That puts this in Stern's court.
Popovich is a great coach, but his arrogance leads him to forget why he's making millions of dollars. He's making millions of dollars because his league is popular. When he damages the reputation of his team and his league, he is begging to be fined or suspended.
The fact that some teams tank at the end of seasons doesn't make what Popovich did on Thursday night right. Tanking needs to be addressed, as well.
Stern isn't overstepping in addressing this. He's doing his job.
-I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 today with Reusse and Mackey. My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
For a variety of reasons - a slow summer, local teams stinking it up, my Olympic excursion - I took a break from the all-important Local Power Rankings. Now, with the NFL returning to action, they're back.
If only Ricky Rubio were healthy, this could team might be the fastest-rising team in the NBA. As it is, the offseason roster improvements, along with Rubio's expected return from knee surgery, will make this easily the best and most fun-to-watch team in town. It's not really close.
What will be most interesting, to me, is to see how Kevin Love, who performed so well at the Olympics, plays this season. He's been able to improve in some way every year of his pro career, and he had to pick up some nuances, or confidence, playing with the world's best.
2. Gopher hockey
This should be a powerhouse team, which means I"ll be fascinated to see how Don Lucia handles the pressure of coaching a team with high expectations.
3. Gopher basketball
Tubby Smith should have his best team. I'm praying that none of his best players get hurt, partly because I'd love to have a fun winter in the Barn watching a good team, and partly because I don't want Smith to be able to cite any easy excuses. Other than his players having to walk outside in the cold to go to practice.
They'll be much better, but how much better? I say they're a playoff team, but as my hockey-minded buddies point out, the LA Kings barely made the playoffs last year, and they won the whole thing. Are the Wild better today than the Kings were last spring?
Maybe I'm crazy, but I see some hope for this franchise. I like Diamond. I like Deduno. I'm tremendously impressed by Cole De Vries' ability to get people out with average-at-best stuff. I think the Twins will re-sign Scott Baker, and Kyle Gibson could give them 100 good innings next year. Liam Hendricks has been awful, but there has to be something there - you can't dominate in the minors as much as he has without being able to eventually function in the majors.
Yes, they lack an ace, but this team went to the ALCS with a rotation of Brad Radke, Eric Milton, Joe Mays and Rick Reed. They don't need Hall of Famers, they need functional big-league starters.
The Twins need to sign one innings-eater and hope Baker can become a staff leader.
A lot has to go right for the Twins to contend next year, but are they really that far away?
You can make the case that this is an improving team with a bright future. You can't make the case that this is a good team now.
7. Gopher football
UNLV stinks, and the Gophers almost found a way to lose to the Rebels. They are lucky to be playing New Hampshire this week.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire admitted he didn't want to use Glen Perkins on Tuesday. Perkins had pitched in three of the four previous games, and owns one of the most valuable arms in the organization. He's signed to a three-year contract and will probably be the team's closer by the end of July and perhaps for the two years following this one.
The Twins are likely to try to trade closer Matt Capps in July, and Perkins would take that role.
Maybe being a closer would allow him to get some rest. He's pitched in 22 of the Twins 49 games and four of the last five.
Gardenhire is desperate to win every possible game, so he threw Perkins into a game his team was trailing 2-0. That's a scary trend. Perkins should be saved for games when the Twins are tied or ahead. This franchise can't afford to have a pitcher of Perkins' caliber burned out.
Baseball is one of the stranger games. The Twins bore everyone to death with a 3 1/2-hour game in which they manage no runs until...with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Josh Willingham hits a game-winning three-run homer.
Willingham's average has leveled out, nearing his career norm. He's still a great signing. He's hit nine home runs, tied for the team lead, and has shown no qualms about hitting in Target Field.
Wrote a column ripping the 10 things I hate about baseball (a game I otherwise love). I left out a lot of good candidates, like using one closer, throwing waste pitches when up 0-and-2 in the count, and failing to use instant replay to overturn obvious umpiring mistakes.
But, in one night, the Twins demonstrated a handful of my pet peeves, including: Bunting (it was a particularly bad night for bunting, in idea and execution); jumping on home plate, risking a broken leg, after hitting a walk-off homer; the dreaded Marriage Cam; attacking a teammate who is doing a postgame interview on TV; and smacking a teammate in the head after he hits a walk-off.
My Wednesday column is about how we should view Joe Mauer. Call it sportswriter's luck: On a day I try to ease fans' feelings about Mauer, he goes 0-for-5. That doesn't change the larger point: He's playing every day this season, and he's really not a power hitter, so accept him for what he is.
I don't know how anybody can call San Antonio boring. The Spurs are the most entertaining team in the league, and I can't wait for their finals matchup with the Heat.
Think about Popovich devising defenses to frustrate the best player in the game (LeBron James) and the best sidekick (Dwyane Wade), who are playing beautifully together.
I'll be hosting Tom Pelissero's show from 6-8 p.m. on Wednesday on 1500espn. The last segment of the shiow will feature Ask Jim Anything. Tweet questions to the hashtag #AskJimAnything and I'll answer on air.
My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
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