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.
Find him on Twitter
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.
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.
Catching up on the day in sports while I wait for the three healthy Timberwolves to play Charlotte tonight at Target Center:
-I'm happy for Torii Hunter, and happy that he'll be visiting Target Field more often next season.
Hunter signed a two-year deal for $26 million with the Tigers. I think the Tigers were right to over-pay Hunter, who isn't the dynamo he once was but remains a valuable corner outfielder who will improve the Tigers' lineup and team personality.
He's still an excellent fielder with a strong arm, and he is driven to win a World Series before he retires. I don't know how to place a dollar figure on personality, but Hunter will be a positive influence in the Tigers' clubhouse.
When you're the Tigers and your goal is to win the World Series, it's reasonable to overpay for an older player who suits your needs.
-When will NFL players learn? The NFL fined Texans linebacker Tim Dobbins $30,000 for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Jay Cutler, one of the most vicious plays of ths season.
Cutler had run toward the line of scrimmage and dumped off a short pass. As he relaxed while looking left, Dobbins smashed his helmet into Cutler's chin, leaving Cutler injured.
I don't think $30,000 is enough. So much money and prestige is at stake in the NFL that the penalty for illegally brutalizing the opposing quarterback should be far greater.
Dobbins excused his hit by saying that Cutler was running with the ball and that Cutler actually ran into him.
In other words, Dobbins, like so many NFL players, hasn't adapted to the concussion era. That's why the NFL should be as vicious with their punishments as Dobbins was with his hit.
-Speaking before the game, Rick Adelman sounded almost bemused by his team's injuries. He said he's never seen anything like this. He's down to nine healthy players and hopes to get J.J. Barea, Nikola Pekovic and Brandon Roy back soon.
He raved about Andrei Kirilenko's defense and hustle, saying he appreciates it even more after he watches game tape.
He also lamented the loss of Chase Budinger for months to a knee injury, saying, ``He was big for us.''
-Charlotte guard and former Wolf Ramon Sessions is scoring 16 points per game off the bench for Charlotte. Rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is averaging 12.7 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.3 assists.
-Some readers of today's column on the Vikings' stadium deal asked why I wasn't hard on the Twins for selling personal seat licenses. Simple. The Pohlads invested lots of their own money in Target Field, more than they were required to, and they limited the PSLs to elite seats. The Wilfs are exploring PSLs for a large number of seats. I continue to be against that.
-I'll be on 1500ESPN at 2:05 p.m. tomorrow.
|Professional baseball (162)||Vikings (258)|
|Gopher coaches (54)||Gopher quarterbacks (14)|
|Gopher recruiting (3)||Gopher road games (4)|
|Gophers disciplinary action (3)||Gophers injuries (1)|
|Gophers recruiting (3)||Gophers spring football (4)|
|TCF Bank Stadium (24)||The Big 10 (26)|
|NCAA: football (17)||Gophers coaches (64)|
|Gophers players (44)||Tubby Smith (39)|
|Williams Arena (17)||Gophers post season (8)|
|Gophers roster moves (5)||Golf (38)|
|Soccer (4)||Twins news (39)|
|WNBA (8)||Wild news (59)|
|AFC (14)||Bears (35)|
|Ex-Vikings (29)||Football on TV (118)|
|Lions (31)||NFC (96)|
|NFL draft (47)||NFL post-season (54)|
|Packers (65)||Super Bowl (67)|
|Vikings coaches (137)||Vikings defense (68)|
|Vikings fans (49)||Vikings injury report (19)|
|Vikings management (91)||Vikings off the field (36)|
|Vikings offense (77)||Vikings quarterbacks (46)|
|Vikings road games (16)||Vikings rookies (4)|
|Vikings roster moves (3)||Vikings special teams (2)|
|Vikings training camp (6)||Off the field (6)|
|On the road (26)||Quarterbacks (44)|
|Rookies (7)||Roster moves (1)|
|Vikings draft (42)||Ron Gardenhire (122)|
|Target Field (159)||Twins fans (167)|
|Twins management (218)||Twins offense (117)|
|Twins transactions (98)||NBA playoffs (42)|
|Wolves coaches (77)||Wolves draft news (34)|
|Wolves guards (42)||Wolves injury report (10)|
|Wolves management (84)||Wolves players (65)|
|Wolves trade talk (16)||Wolves training camp (13)|
|All-Stars and honors (95)||Fighting (2)|
|Wild coaching (48)||Wild management (60)|
|Wild off-season news (12)||Wild player moves (9)|
|Adrian Peterson (84)||Anthony Herrera (2)|
|Antoine Winfield (16)||Ben Leber (1)|
|Bernard Berrian (7)||Brad Childress (30)|
|Brett Favre (58)||Brian Robison (3)|
|Bryant McKinnie (3)||Cedric Griffin (5)|
|Chad Greenway (18)||Chester Taylor (5)|
|Chris Kluwe (3)||Darrell Bevell (8)|
|E.J. Henderson (4)||Jared Allen (29)|
|John Sullivan (6)||Kevin Williams (6)|
|Leslie Frazier (55)||Madieu Williams (2)|
|Pat Williams (3)||Percy Harvin (29)|
|Phil Loadholt (3)||Ray Edwards (1)|
|Ryan Longwell (9)||Sage Rosenfels (1)|
|Sidney Rice (10)||Steve Hutchinson (7)|
|Tarvaris Jackson (12)||Tyrell Johnson (2)|
|Visanthe Shiancoe (5)||Brad Childress (30)|
|Darrell Bevell (8)||Leslie Frazier (55)|
|NHL news (11)||2010 Winter Games (13)|
|Olympic curling (1)||Olympic hockey (8)|
|Olympic skiing (5)||Olympic speedskating (1)|
|Olympic village (11)|