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

USA basketball, wearing it with pride

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: July 30, 2012 - 9:08 AM
London
During the flow of the NBA season, some of the league’s stars can seem alternately tone-deaf, selfish, greedy, individualistic and arrogant. During the last two Olympics, as those stars become Team USA, their personalities have changed dramatically.
Sometimes their wardrobes change, too.
After helping guide the US to a 98-71 victory over France on Sunday at the Olympic Park Basketball Arena, US star LeBron James did not display the kind of look-at-me fashion sense he and his peers showed off during the NBA playoffs.
He wore a baseball cap, sweatshirt, backpack and three pins on his chest. All contained the phrase ``USA Basketball.’’
``We understand that every time we take the floor it’s not about the name across our back, it’s about the name across our best,’’ James said. ``We want to represent the US the right way.’’
The US team lacks inside height and depth. It plans to win with pressure defense, fast breaks, and interchangeable parts on offense.
After leading just 22-21 after the first quarter, the US’s defensive intensity and depth wore down the French. James took just six shots and scored nine points, but he was a force on defense and had eight of his team’s 27 assists.
``I thought we did a good job defensively,’’ said US coach Mike Krzyzewski. ``We shared the ball, assisted on 27 of our 31 buckets. This is a good first step for us.’’
Kevin Durant, in his first Olympic game, led all scorers with 22 points, and Kevin Love scored 14 points in just 14 minutes.
Spurs star Tony Parker scored 10 points for France and was able to get into the lane early in the game, but the US’s physical defense caused him to finish 4-for-11 from the field.
`That team is like a Gemini," said France center Ronny Turiaf. "They have two faces, a nightmare-nightmare."
The US forced 18 turnovers but committed 14 itself in a sloppy, foul-plagued game that felt like an exhibition.
``They put pressure on you, and try to get you to take bad shots and make decisions, and they want to get out and run,’’ said France forward Florent Pietrus. ``They run a lot, and they shoot good, and they play 2000 percent.’’
After the game, the US players paraded to the stands to hug First Lady Michelle Obama, then paraded through the interview ``mix zone,’’ wearing their USA gear.
``We don’t want anybody on this team to change,’’ James said. ``We just want them to adapt.’’
 

Rainy day in London

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: July 29, 2012 - 10:10 AM

It's raining in London. This is news only because of an amazing run of uncharacteristically spectacular weather.

Doesn't affect me. I just watched Brazil beat Australia, 75-71, and I'm waiting on US-France and, later, Russia-Great Britain. I'm here to watch three Wolves - Kevin Love, Alexey Schved and Andrei Kirilenko.

London is a great city, and one of my favorite aspects of this trip is the language. A few translations, with the British version first, followed by the American English translation:

1. Mind the gap/Watch your step

2. Rubbish/Trash

3. Spot of bother/annoyance

4. Thundys/Thunderstorms

5. Brolly/Umbrella

6. Black coffee/Espresso without milk or cream (Brewed coffee is not common here. The best coffee shops serve espresso drinks. A few have ``filtered coffee'' listed at the bottom of choices, as an afterthought)

7. Loo/bathroom

8. Lorry/Truck

9. Az-Hume/assume

10. Tube/Subway

11. Good bits/Most attractive portions of the opposite sex

12. Pint/Serving of beer or ale

13. Porridge/oatmeal

In fact, I had porridge just before walking through the rain today, so I'm feeling very Bri'ish.

Also, the English love their adjectives. This is the home of the television series ``Absolutely Fabulous,'' after all.

You hear a lot of ``Brilliant,'' ``Fabulous'', ``Re-Markable,'' ``Absolutely.''

What's really cool is hearing a 3-year-old speaking like Sir John Gielgud. (Google him, youngsters.) This makes the tots sound very mature even when they're screaming for ice cream.

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Love the White Sox's approach on Francisco Liriano: Beat him up, reduce his trade value, scare off other suitors, then trade for him at a reduced price. Brilliant!

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Hearing that the Wolves were the only team willing to give Brandon Roy two years of guaranteed money. I love the addition of Roy to a team desperate for a quality shooting guard, but that's scary, that no other NBA team would give him a second year. Wolves fans have to hope this wasn't another example of David Kahn overreacting to the chance to be associated with a big NBA name.

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I'll be calling in to 1500espn this morning between basketball games, probably at 11:35 or so. Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.

 

Winter sports getting after it

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: July 27, 2012 - 12:40 PM

Who would have imagined a few months ago that our most prominent winter sports teams would add Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Brandon Roy and Andrei Kirilenko?

The Wild, one of the most boring teams in the NHL the past two seasons, should now be entertaining, and should make the playoffs.

The Wolves now feature a starting lineup that, when the knees of Roy and Ricky Rubio are willing, will look something like this: Rubio, Roy, Kirilenko, Love, Pekovic. With a bench of Budinger, Ridnour, Barea, Stiemsma and Derrick Williams.

In short, the Wolves have added depth and talent without sacrificing Williams or trading away first-round draft picks. Kirilenko will add length to the Wolves' defense, and can score and get to the line without hogging the ball. He should mesh well in Adelman's offense.

The Wolves could have made a bigger splash, by trading for Pau Gasol or Nic Batum. But they would have had to sacrifice valuable assets to get those players. They may be better off, long-term, by adding Kirilenko as a free-agent and helping Williams develop into either a starter or a more valuable trade chip.

The Wolves will also be improved because they won't be relying on Wes Johnson, Mike Beasley, Anthony Randolph and Darko to play important minutes. This is the definition of addition by subtraction.

Could we see the Wolves and the Wild in the playoffs? I think so. Especially if Rubio recovers well and Roy can play valuable minutes.

I hope to watch the Russian team with Kirilenko and Alexey Schved on Sunday, and get Kirilenko's thoughts on playing for the Wolves.

 

Not a Bloody Sunday

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: February 19, 2012 - 8:52 PM

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Wolves reach a milestone

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: February 7, 2012 - 10:54 PM
The Wolves' victory Tuesday night improved their record to 13-12, marking the first time they've been over .500 this late in the season since 2007 and the first time they've been 13-12 through 25 games since 2005-2006.
To me, there were two keys to the game: Ricky Rubio's passing and defense, and Nik Pekovic's dominant inside play.
My column for the Wednesday paper focussed on Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, and how talented the Wolves would be if they had drafted him instead of Wes Johnson. But on this night, Pekovic's physical play and defense hassled Cousins into a 3-for-13 shooting performance.
Before the game, Wolves coach Rick Adelman said that Pekovic is his starting center. It will be interesting to see whether Darko Milicic pouts, or, if he does, whether anybody will be able to tell.
What's fascinating is watching the way Wolves coach Rick Adelman uses his roster. Tuesday night, with Kevin Love suspended, Adelman started Derrick Williams (14 points, 8 rebounds) and used Anthony Tolliver for 22 minutes for defensive purposes.
Adelman didnt' play Anthony Randolph, Martell Webster or Wayne Elllington. Ellington is a better player than Wes Johnson, but Adelman is obviously giving Johnson every opportunity to prove he deserves to be in the NBA.
With Love out, Pekovic became a big part of the offense, shooting 12 times and producing 23 points. Predictably, Michael Beasley took 21 shots in 31 minutes to produce 17 points. Now, 17 points and 14 looks impressive, but he went 7-for-21 from the field. He's maddening.
More stuff, courtesy of the Timberwolves' PR staff:
-Rubio finished with 14 assists, tying a season high. He had eight in the first quarter. He was plus-11 on the night and is a team-leading plus-95 on the season. He also finished with five steals, the 14th time this season he's had three or more.
-Pekovic has had four double-doubles in the last two weeks. The Wolves are 4-1 with him in the starting lineup and 6-2 when he plays more than 20 minutes.
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I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 p.m. Wednesday and every weekday. Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
 

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