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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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.
Wrapping up tonight from Target Center. My column for the Wednesday paper centers on Ricky Rubio, who had a brilliant game in the Wolves' 111-100 loss on Tuesday, so I'll touch on other subjects here:
1. It was a pleasure to watch Rick Adelman and Tom Thibodeau, two of the best in the business, run their teams. One of the best things about being a sportswriter is sitting courtside at a good NBA game, and Adelman and Thibodeau are both pros. Both work the refs without embarrassing themselves or trying to show up the refs the way so many coaches do.
I've never understood how coaches can think that showing up refs can be good for them in the long run.
2. Derrick Rose was the NBA's MVP last year, and he's better this year. He looks to distribute more early in games and it's almost unfair for someone with his ability to drive to also be able to rise straight up and hit three-pointers the way he does. I don't know how you defend him.
3. Asked Thibodeau before the game about his stint as a Timberwolves' assistant coach and he raved about Bill Musselman, calling him ``one of the all-time greats.''
4. Rubio is remarkably mature for his age. He knows how to handle himself on the court and with the media. Yes, that can matter.
5. Everyone will be clamoring for Rubio to start, and that makes sense. The problem here, folks, is that the Wolves only have so many good players, and they can play only so many minutes. This is not a deep or talented team. As I note in the column, almost all of their worthwhile players are point guards or power forwards. Love's production and Rubio's ability to run an offense are all that separate the Wolves from an 0-10 start.
6. Yes, give David Kahn credit for trading Mike Miller and Randy Foye for the pick that turned into Rubio. And I'm not even going to mention the Jonny Flynn pick this time.
7. Congratulations to colleague Michael Russo for winning Minnesota sportswriter of the year. Nobody works harder or knows their beat better.
8. Wes Johnson, Wayne Ellington and Darko Milicic just don't look like NBA players. Johnson can't handle the ball or defend (sound like any other Syracuse players who played for the Wolves?), Elllington is a smart player who just isn't dynamic athletically, and Darko is just Darko.
The Wolves play their best with some combination of Rubio, Love, Anthony Randolph, Derrick Williams, J.J. Barea, Luke Ridnour and Michael Beasley on the court, with Anthony Tolliver a necessary evil at center because Darko drags the team down.
I know Beasley is a flawed, goofy, player, but the Wolves need him. They need a guy who can score on his own or with the shot clock winding down, even if the offense stagnates when he's in the game. I can't say I hold out hope that Beasley will become a better all-around offensive player, but given the limitations of the roster, the Wolves owe it to themselves to give him a chance.
I'd like to see a small-ball rotation that allows Love, Williams, Beasley and Randolph to play most of the minutes in the frontcourt, and Barea, Ridnour and Rubio to take most of the backcourt minutes. It's not conventional, but the Wolves' conventional lineup stinks.
Upcoming: Again, my column on the game will be in the Wednesday paper. Wednesday, I"ll be on 1500espn at 2:05 with Reusse and Mackey. Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
Covering a coaching search is one of the greatest challenges in my business, especially in an era when so many web sites have hired so many well-sourced reporters.
Congratulations to our Jerry Zgoda for staying right on top of this process throughout, even while covering an uncommunicative general manager and an organization in which it's always hard to tell who has good information and who's on the outs with the owner or GM.
In my column today, http://tinyurl.com/6bw2ubf
I praise the Wolves for hiring the best coach on the market, Rick Adelman. I think Adelman will turn the Wolves into a professional organization with a chance to win in the future. I gave a nod to GM David Kahn for playing whatever role he played in luring Adelman. But I'm always hesitant to give David too much credit, but I think he lacks credibility and basketball knowledge. I've always believed he's making it up on the fly.
While I usually don't link to other organizations, Yahoo! basketball writer Adrian Wojnarowski is the best basketball writer and reporter in the business. He has impeccable and diverse sources throughout the game and a relationship with Adelman. So I recommend reading him here: http://tinyurl.com/6bd8w23.
I concur, and I believe Wojnarowski has this nailed. Now what's going to be interesting to see is whether Adelman, now the most important and powerful member of the organization other than Glen Taylor, will coexist with Kahn, or allow him to stick around.
As an NBA fan who wants to spend more of his nights each winter at Target Center, I'm thrilled by the Adelman hiring. As someone who writes about drama in the guise of sports, I'm fascinated by the possibilities of the Kahn-Adelman relationship.
I'll be on 1500espn at 2 p.m. today and all week. My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
I'm hearing that Sam Mitchell has emerged as the frontrunner for the Timberwolves' head coaching position.
To me, this is a sign that Glen Taylor has exerted his influence on the hiring process. Mitchell is an old favorite of Taylor's, and in the absence of a sure-thing candidate like Rick Adelman (who appears to be ready to sit out next season), Mitchell, with his local ties and tough-guy persona, makes a lot of sense.
-It's been a brutal year for the Twins and their medical staff, so let me point out something nice:
Ryan Hedwall, the athletic trainer for the Elizabethton (rookie-league) Twins, has been named as the minor-league athletic trainer of the year for the Appalachian League. Hurry to the bigs, buddy: This team needs lots of healing.
-Baseball is so often wonderfully strange. The Twins had drawn just one walk in their previous 182 plate appearances before Tuesday's game. They drew four walks in the first inning against Red Sox starter Erik Bedard. Including a bases-loaded walk by Delmon Young. I'm not making this up.
Ball four to Young looked like a strike. Young's reputation for patience must have won over home-plate umpire Tim McClelland.
-It was a blast catching up with former Twin Gene Larkin on the radio on Sunday. Gene was always one of my favorite players, a pro who never complained about anything and took great pride in preparing himself to play.
-I believe this trivia question originated with ESPN's Jayson Stark, and the Red Sox beat writers were kicking it around before the game: Name the five active big-leaguers who have hit 20 or more home runs with four different teams. The answer is at the end of this post...
-What are the Twins going to do with Tsuyoshi Nishioka? He struck out in his first two at-bats on Tuesday, looking helpless each time. He's hitting .213 as I write this. If I were the Twins, I would offer to buy out part of his $6 million-plus in remaining salary, and let both parties off the hook. This has to be tremendously embarrassing for a guy so revered in his home country.
-This from Twins' PR wizard Dustin Morse: Jim Thome now ranks eighth all-time in homers and walks. He has 10,003 career plate appearances (through four innings on Tuesday night), with 1,708 walks and 598 homers. That means he has homered or walked in 23 percent of his big-league plate appearances.
-Believe it or not, I agree with the Twins' decision to call up Kevin Slowey, my old pal, and stick him in the rotation, now that Scott Baker is headed to the disabled list.
Slowey won't or can't pitch out of the bullpen. If this were a contending team, I wouldn't want a guy with his attitude around. Now that this team is no longer in contention, allowing Slowey to reestablish his trade value by pitching in the big leagues makes sense.
If he can pitch decently, Slowey should be able to bring a reasonable price in a trade this winter. A lot of teams are looking for affordable bottom-of-the-rotation help in the winter.
-Beautiful night at Target Field, whatever the outcome. There is something relaxing about going to the ballpark and knowing the game doesn't mean anything. It's like spring training in August.
-Trivia answer: Jim Thome, Alfonso Soriano, Mike Cameron, Adrian Beltre and J.D. Drew. (I didn't do very well on this one.)
-I'm really hoping Jim Thome hits his 600th home run at Target Field. A lot of fans are paying a lot of money to watch bad baseball this year; seeing Thome reach that milestone would be a nice reward to them.
But if he can't hit it at Target Field, I'd like to see him hit it in Cleveland, where he started as a rawboned third baseman who heard Charlie Manuel, then the Indians' hitting coach, barking in his ear.
Even in this awful season, Thome remains the nicest man in baseball.
-Upcoming: I have columns on the Vikings, Gopher football and Lynx in the works, and I'll be in the studio on Sunday for the Gardenhire Show and Sunday Morning Sports Talk, while Tom Pelissero checks in from the road.
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