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 Wolves players

Instant overreactions to Wolves' opener

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: October 29, 2014 - 11:01 PM

Memphis _

Wrote about Andrew Wiggins in my column, so I'll use this space to offer instant and egiously presumptuous takeaways from the Wolves' 105-101 loss to Memphis on Wednesday night.

1. Thaddeus Young looks very comfortable being the best player on this team. He can shoot, he can get to the hoop, he can pass, and he plays hard. ``And he's only 25,'' coach Flip Saunders said. ``People don't realize how young he is. There were times out there where our average age was 23.''

2. Young and Mo Williams were ideal pickups for this roster. Williams' flagrant foul late in the game was damaging, but overall he played an exellent game, looking capable of either playing for or alongside Ricky Rubio.

3. Flip was right - this team has depth. The Wolves bench was impressive, outscoring Memphis 46-10.

4. Shabazz Muhammad really does look like a different human. Much leaner than last year after his intense offseason workouts, Muhammad played hard on both ends, scoring 13 points in 23 minutes and grabbing seven rebounds. I was not in favor of the Wolves drafting him, and I didn't like the way he played last year. Wednesday, he was an asset.

5. I did like the pick of Gorgui Dieng late in the first round last year, and he made a big impact on Wednesday, with eight points, four rebounds and a strong defensive presence in 19 minutes. He injured his right hand in the first half but returned with the hand wrapped, just another indication of his competitiveness. ``I was afraid he was going to be out a lot longer than 20 minutes,'' Saunders said.

6. Chase Budinger still looks lost. He went 0-for-4 from the field with no assists. I thought he would fit well into former coach Rick Adelman's system, but injuries kept that from happening, and he still doesn't look right.

7. Corey Brewer was a mess. He kept blowing defensive assignments, then having to explain himself to the bench. He went 2-for-7 from the field and had two turnovers.

8. As he did in the preseason, Anthony Bennett showed signs of getting it, producing nine points and three rebounds in 14 minutes. He attacked the rim aggressively and even hit a long jumper.

9. Zach LaVine did not play, and will probably be saved for garbage time early in the season.

10. Saunders seems energized, and seems to like his team. Through 48 minutes of the season, I can see why. They play hard and unselfishly and they put on a good show against a good team on Wednesday.

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I'll be on WJON at 7:15. Instead of my usual 12;15 appearance, I'll be on 1500ESPN at 9:45 or so tomorrow. Thanks for reading and/or listening.

Saunders on JJ, Wiggins, popcorner

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: October 29, 2014 - 11:43 AM

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.

He’s right.

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.

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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.

New LPR

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: March 17, 2013 - 3:49 PM

Doug Mientkiewicz wanted to add one thing to our conversation that was the basis of today's column: ``My biggest regret in baseball is that we didn't win a World Series when I was with the Twins. We thought we would.''

On to today's Local Power Ranking of the seven local revenue sports, which have shifted since the last time I did them:

1. Gopher men's hockey

This team is skilled enough to win the national title. Is it tough enough?

2. Minnesota Wild

I'm quite impressed with the way Mike Yeo has melded incoming stars, holdover veterans and promising youngsters. He's gone from hot seat to coach of the year candidate in my book. Ryan Suter has played brilliantly ever since his first two, quite nervous, weeks in a Wild uni.

3. Minnesota Vikings

Didn't like seeing a team in a passing league lose its only dynamic receiver and best cornerback, but Rick Spielman has a chance to make his plan work. If he can complement Greg Jennings with another quality receiver or two (I vote for Cal's Keenan Allen and one more free-agent pickup), the offense could be better, and if he can use the draft to land a couple of defensive starters, the defense could be more talented.

His plan will only be as good as his execution.

4. Gopher basketball

I'm rooting for Minnesota facing VCU in the first round. Tubby vs. Shaka Smart. Tubby vs. the man who should replace him. Bring it on, please.

5. Minnesota Twins

I'm encouraged by a handful of individuals in spring camp, but not by the pitching staff, and the pitching staff will determine this team's fate.

6. Minnesota Timberwolves

I love the way Ricky Rubio has played, knowing the season is lost and his teammates aren't good enough.

7. Gopher football

Jerry Kill is 4-12 in the Big Ten. Facts are so annoying.

 

Rubio,West,Royce, etc

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: March 7, 2013 - 4:17 PM
According to Elias, via Wolves PR, Ricky Rubio's 43 steals over the last 10 games is the most prolific 10-game total by any player since Ron Artest in 2002, and is the fourth-highest total overall in the past 20 NBA seasons.
Here's the chart provided by the Wolves:
 
Most Steals in 10 Consecutive Games, Single Season Since 1992-93

 #  Player, Team         From          To
--  -------------------  ------------  ------------
46  Kendall Gill, N.J.   Mar 30, 1999  Apr 14, 1999
44  Ron Artest, Ind.     Jan 19, 2002  Feb 12, 2002
44  John Stockton, Utah  Feb 24, 1995  Mar 14, 1995
43  Ricky Rubio, Min.    Feb 11, 2013  Mar  6, 2013

Wednesday night against Washington, Rubio had six steals. He has at least three steals in nine of his last 10 games.

Rubio has 79 steals in 33 games this season, an average of 2.39 per game. That would rank him second in the NBA behind Chris Paul if Rubio qualified in terms of games played to be listed among the leaders.
 
I write about Rubio's toughness and hustle in the Friday paper.
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I caught up with Doug West when in South Texas to write about Royce White.
West, the former Timberwolf, is working as an assistant coach for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, the D-League team affiliated with the Houston Rockets.
How'd he wind up just North of the border?
West said he had connections with the Rockets' front office. West was an assistant coach at Villanova. When staff changes loomed, West began looking around.
He took a job with IMG Academy in Florida as an instructor, but then the Rockets called.
I've talked to a lot of former athletes over the years, and many wind up embittered because life after playing a big-league sport is dissatisfying.
West sounded happy to be working on basketball.
``This was a no-brainer,'' he said. ``It’s been very interesting to me. I didn’t know what to expect coming in. I didn’t know the quality of the players, hadn't watched much of it. I came in in the first week and I’ve been nothing but impressed throughout the season.
``They're very good players in this league. The travel and the hotels aren't like the NBA but this is a good steppingstone to the next level for me.
``It’s not easy getting to McAllen or Hidalgo. Most of our trips, it's an eight-hour day, with four of those hours spent in an airport. Besides that, everything here is great.''
I asked him for his fondest memories of Minnesota.
``Wow, it's been awhile,'' he said. ``I thought the best thing was the people. They welcomed me with open arms. People were just friendly. When I first got there, I was taken aback. Coming from Philadelphia, I was used to people yelling at you. It was a great run for me.''
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My piece on Royce White ran in last Sunday's paper. My lasting impression from my long conversation with him, and after watching him play two games:
I think he's a smart, sincere guy, but when I saw him play he was rusty and out of shape. He needs to decide whether he wants to be an excellent NBA player who makes tens of millions and can use his basketball career to publicize and support his good works, or whether he can accomplish his goals without basketball.
If he were my son, I'd tell him to build up his career as well as he can and use the fruits of that career to support his good works. His grandfather, Frank, sounded like he's of the same opinion.
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My new time slot on 1500ESPN is noon weekdays with Judd&Dubay. Still doing the Sunday show 10-noon with Tom Pelissero. I head to spring training this weekend.
My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib. Thanks for reading.

Return of the LPR

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: November 27, 2012 - 2:14 PM
This week’s Local Power Rankings:
1.        Gophers hockey. They have been far from flawless, but they’re talented and entertaining and ranked up where they belong, near the top of the national rankings.
2.        The Wild. Still undefeated.
3.        Gopher basketball. There is no shame in losing to Duke this time of the year. Duke dominates early-season tournaments. Andre Hollins and Trevor Mbakwe both turned in big games last week, two excellent signs for a talented team.
4.        The Vikings. I know, I know, they are sliding down a slippery slope, but pause for a moment and recognize this fact: They are 6-5 and a victory on Sunday at Green Bay would keep them in playoff contention. I know, I know, but let’s not pretend this is a predicable league.
5.        The Timberwolves. Kevin Love’s return, and his inability to shoot to his standards while recovering from his hand injury, have jammed the previously flowing offense. The Wolves will figure it out, but it’s been a rough week.
6.        The Twins. They haven’t done anything to fix their pitching yet. But it’s early. We probably can’t begin to judge their winter until they trade Denard Span and sign at least one veteran starter.
7.        Gopher football. Despite all of the negative things that have happened this season, it’s too early to call for Jerry Kill’s head. It’s not too early to suggest that his continued seizures, and the fact that they seem triggered by stress, are a bigger problem than Woody Teague wants to publicly admit. Yes, the seizures will hurt recruiting. Yes, the seizures are a threat to ticket sales (I wouldn’t want to risk seeing anyone suffering in that way on the sideline.) Yes, the seizures are a threat to Kill’s career. It’s sad. It’s also true.

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