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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I can't believe it was only a few weeks ago I feared there would be nothing interesting to write about this summer.
Then the Twins got hot, David Kahn started scheming and by midday Thursday we had the news that Kahn plans to fire Kurt Rambis shortly, and Joe Mauer is out again today, this time because of a stiff back.
I've heard some of my radio colleagues suggesting that the Twins should cover for Mauer, saying he was given the day off. But there's no winning here. If Ron Gardenhire says he's just resting Mauer, then he gets hammered for failing to put his best hitter into a weak lineup. If it becomes known that Mauer is complaining about a stiff back shortly after returning from the disabled list, then he looks bad.
Well, he looks bad. Again. Maybe his back is really killing him, but don't you want your franchise player to fight to get into the lineup?
Then Kahn allows word to leak that he's about to fire Rambis, interrupting one of the best public-relations weeks in recent Wolves history. They hold a Ricky Rubio press conference and start selling his jersey and ticket packages tied to his jersey number, and they're about to make the highest draft pick in franchise history, and now the firing of Rambis looms over their draft party.
This is management malpractice.
Now we can only hope that the rumors aren't true, that Kahn isn't about to hire a 67-year-old coach whose last winning season as a head coach came in 1998 and whose peak season came in 1989.
Bernie Bickerstaff is considered a good guy, and a smart guy. But the idea of hiring him to shepherd the team until Wolves assistant J.B. Bickerstaff is ready is lunacy, and would occur only so Kahn, nearing the end of his contract, would not feel threatened by the man on the bench. He would know that Bernie would have no grand designs on taking over the primary decision-making role in the organization, and that Bernie would do everything he could to get along with management so that J.B. would remain his successor.
J.B., similarly, would be very much under Kahn's control.
We don't know whether this rumor is true or not. But it smells like something Kahn would do to maintain his power within the organization after his teams utterly failed on the court during his first two seasons.
Let's go pro-con on Kahn.
He blew the hiring of his first coach. He blew the assembling of the first coaching staff, too, since I'm told Bill Laimbeer and Reggie Theus are not quality assistants.
He blew his first draft pick, Jonny Flynn, and we're still a ways away from finding out whether he blew his second first-round draft pick, Ricky Rubio. He drafted Ty Lawson for the Nuggets, and, of course, it turned out that Lawson is the best of the three players, at least at this point in their careers.
We can debate how he did in his second draft. I preferred DeMarcus Cousins, and still do, because I believe his talent overwhelms his problematic personalty. Wes Johnson is less talented but far more reliable. We can wait another year or two before forming a final opinion.
Dark Mlicic? I say that's a swing and a miss. Martell Webster? Not as good as Kahn thought he was. Trading Al Jefferson? Not a thrilling deal from either end. Keeping Kevin Love? My sources tell me Kahn considered trading Love, so I don't know how much credit to give him for keeping Love. But you can mark that down in Kahn's win column, regardless, because he did indeed keep Love.
Dealing with the firing of McHale? Kahn gets an F, for waiting until after the draft to hire McHale's replacement. Firing Rambis? Kahn gets an F for playing it out so long and allowing it to ruin this week.
What Kahn's supporters will point to is the dramatic upgrading of talent on the roster. Remember, McHale gets the credit for acquiring Love in a fantastic deal. So Kahn doesn't get credit for the best player on the roster. He's also acquired two talented enigmas, in Michael Beasley and Anthony Randolph, whom other teams gave up on.
Do the Wolves have more talent today than they did two years ago? Yes. But what we don't know, especially after watching Kahn make so many mistakes in this job, whether he can choose a coach who will meld that talent into a winner, and whether the talented players he has assembled can play team basketball, or a lick of defense.
If raw talent was all that mattered in the NBA, the Mavericks not only would have failed to win the championship this year, they may not have made it out of the first round.
Kahn has acquired long, lean athletes. But if he can't hire a good coach, that won't matter at all. If he can't find real basketball players, this group will peak as a poor version of the exciting-but-unaccomplished Golden State Warriors.
-Upcoming: I'll be in Milwaukee this weekend to cover the Twins and Brewers. I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 p.m. Friday. I'll be in the Brewers' press box for Sunday Morning Sports Talk, from 10-noon on 1500espn, and for the Gardenhire Show, from 9:30-10.
My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib, and I'll be tweeting from the Wolves' draft tonight.
Initial impressions from Ricky Rubio's introductory press conference:
-Would we think of him differently if his name were ``Rick'' and his voice was an octave deeper?
-David Kahn said Rubio would go 1 or 2 in this year's draft if he were draft-eligible this year. I doubt it. If someone's going to take a project in this draft, it's going to be Enes Kanter. And after the way he played in Spain, I think Rubio would be lucky to be a top-10 pick.
-Kahn wouldn't elaborate on Kurt Rambis' status. I kept waiting for Rambis to show up, dressed like the Unabomber (like most media members), hide in the middle of the pack and ask Kahn what he was going to do for a coach.
-Rubio handled himself very well during the presser. He was composed and funny. I have no idea if that matters in terms of his NBA career. I remember everyone liking Jonny Flynn a lot, too, until he took the court.
-Kahn said that if the Cavs take Derrick Williams No. 1, the Wolves will take Kyrie Irving No. 2. That's the right approach. Take the best player available. Your team isn't good enough to worry about having too many players at a particular position, even if the national media will make Kahn-point guard jokes the rest of the summer.
-I've never seen a team bad be this intriguing.
-Kahn ruled out trading Rubio or Kevin Love. I believe him this far: I don't think other NBA teams will make a worthwhile offer for either, so keeping them will be an easy decision.
-Rubio defended his poor statistics by saying that he often made the pass that led to the pass that led to the basket. That's probably true to an extent, because running an offense is Rubio's strength.
But you don't build around the guy who makes the first pass, you build around guys who can make the direct pass, or who can make a shot. Rubio has so much to prove in a league stocked with physical, athletic point guards. I think at best he's going to be a project, not matter how charming or polished he may seem.
-I'm writing more about Rubio for the morning paper, and will be covering the NBA draft on Thursday. I imagine Mr. Kahn will do something intriguing.
-I'll be on 1500ESPN at 2:40 today to talk Rubio Fever and Twins Plague.
Thursday night, I watched the Twins and Rangers from the press box, while watching the A's and White Sox on my Ipad, while tracking the NBA game on espn.com, and then got to the Twins' clubhouse in time to ignore Michael Cuddyer's post-game interview while watching the NBA finals on one of the big-screen TVs that hang over the players' lockers.
So, for a moment, Alexi Casilla trumped LeBron James.
Even if this stretch of competent baseball winds up meaning nothing, you had to sense, if you were at Target Field last night, that seeing Alexi Casilla drive in the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth, then run to first with his right fist in the air, brought back a lot of memories.
As horrid as this team has played for most of the season, this is the same manager, coaching staff and system that has produced three of the greatest comebacks in franchise history in the last eight years. The Twins were buried at the All-Star break in 2003, in early June in 2006 and by a few games in the waning days of the 2009 season, and won the division all three times.
If you care about math at all, you'd have to write this team off. They're 11 games out of first in mid-June, and 10 games behind a loaded Detroit team, and most of their quality players remain on the disabled list, and their bullpen, whatever its recent results, remains a tire fire.
If you looked at any other team this far out this far into the season, you'd write them off. Nobody would take Houston or the Cubs seriously in this situation.
And yet, the Twins are making themselves compelling once again, even though they have the second-worst record in baseball.
If you want to spend the summer watching meaningful baseball, this is wonderful news. If you think the Twins' farm system needs help, this is dicey. The worst-case scenario here is that the Twins play well enough to prevent them from trading for prospects in July, and yet not well enough to truly contend for a playoff spot.
Let's not overlook the business of baseball, though. The Twins will be much more willing to carry a hefty payroll next spring if they sell a lot of tickets this summer. You'd like to see the Target Field honeymoon last for more than a year and a couple of months. With Ben Revere and Casilla playing like latter-day piranhas, at least the Twins are making us watch right now.
-I want to believe that Ricky Rubio will be a decent NBA player, but he's stinking it up in Spain right now, and while he stinks it up, the Wolves continue to fail to make a decision on Kurt Rambis.
I want to believe that this group has some chance of making the Wolves competent, but I just don't think there's anybody in a decision-making position in the organization who can make a good decision. How can the status of their coach remain undecided this close to the draft? How can Rambis have a chance to keep his job after the way he coached the last two years?
-I love that Billy Beane fired manager Bob Geren today. Here's a guy who pretends that managers don't matter, and yet he fires his manager before the movie ``Moneyball'' can make it into theaters. Will the release of the movie be delayed until the A's are out of last place? Will theaters even exist then?
-Only caught a bit of the NBA game, but saw enough to catch LeBron doing what he so often does: Putting up an impressive stat line without making big shots down the stretch.
I picked Miami in seven games, and I'm sticking with that. My guess is that these tremendous playoffs, this tremendous Finals, will culminate with James taking the game-winning shot. Despite lots of evidence suggesting otherwise, I'm guessing he makes it.
Of course, I wrote that before I saw this statistic from ESPNStatsInfo on Twitter: ``Dirk Nowitzki has now outscored LeBron James 52-11'' in the fourth quarter this series, including 8-2 on Thursdahy night.
-Wrote about Joe Mauer for the Friday paper. I'm not sure I've ever heard so much criticism of a popular local athlete of great accomplishment who hasn't broken any laws or called out any teammates. Mauer simply has given people reason to believe that he's putting his own personal comfort over the needs of his team. In the sports world, that's a bigger crime than a DUI.
-Had a chance to speak with Leslie Frazier this morning while working on an upcoming story. I've had the opportunity to have a couple of lengthy talks with him, and I can see why he'd be so good with players and fellow coaches. He's one of those guys who has ``It,'' that combination of confidence, charisma and friendliness that compels people to follow.
-I'm passing on a note I received from Harmon Killebrew's longtime PR rep Molly Mulvehill Steinke:
``Although the Kwik Trip Harmon Killebrew Classic is sold out, there is still a chance for the public to honor Harmon on his 75th Birthday.
You can bash David Kahn for any number of reasons, but bashing him for trying to joke about the draft lottery being fixed is to take yourselves - and his comments - way too seriously.
We tend to overanalyze everything in sports, but we shouldn't parse every public comment made by every public figure. We need to allow these people to make an attempt at humor - successfully or not - and extemporaneous speech. The alternative is living in the worst that is fast-approaching - a world of canned, processed quotes issued in press releases.
Get off Kahn's back.
Unless you want to pick on him for the way he does his job. Then, fire away.
-If the NBA draft lottery were fixed, the Cleveland Cavaliers would not have gotten the first and fourth picks in this draft. If the NBA draft lotterhy were fixed, the Los Angeles Clippers would be a marquee team. If the NBA draft lottery were fixed, Shaquille O'Neal and Dwight Howard wouldn't have wound up in Orlando, and David Robinson and Tim Duncan wouldn't have wound up in San Antonio and the Knicks wouldn't have been so bad for so long.
-What's scary about Kahn landing the No. 2 draft, is it creates an opportunity for him to get creative. If he would have landed the first pick, he might have been obligated to take Kyrie Irving. If he had landed the third pick, he might have been obligated to take the best big man available, or trade the pick.
At No. 2, he should take Derrick Williams, adhering to the philosophy that a team this bad should always take the best availabel player. At No. 2, with Williams playing the same position as Kevin Love and Michael Beasley, Kahn could try to swing some 16-team trade that lands him Ralph Sampson, Hosea Crittenden, 12 second-round draft picks and lots of ``cap space'' he can use to not sign star free agents.
Be afraid. Be very afraid.
-I was so happy to see that Sandy Stephens will be inducted into the college football hall of fame. This is a well-deserved honor.
-After watching the Twins this season, I will no longer be able to make fun of soccer for its lack of scoring and long periods of uninteresting play. In fact, now that I'm conditioned to watching the Twins, I'm not sure my heart would be able to bear the excitement of watching soccer.
-Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 on Thursday and Friday. Sunday morning, Tom Pelissero and I will return to the studio at 9:30 for the Ron Gardenhire Show (we'll take more calls this week; please ask a short question and withhold your stories) followed by Sunday Morning Sports Talk. We hope to have a former Twin and an NBA analyst on.
-Belated congratulations to St. Thomas basketball coach Steve Fritz, who is retiring from the sideline to concentrate on his duties as athletic director.
I've done some homework on the possibility of the Twins trading ace Francisco Liriano, or signing him to a long-term deal.
After talking to a few people, I believe that the Twins have no intention of trading Liriano - or signing him to a long-term deal.
Liriano will start the season with the Twins. The only way they'd trade him this season is if they fall out of contention and a contender makes a great offer for him.
The fact that they had trouble even agreeing on a one-year deal for Liriano this year is one of the many indications that the Twins aren't going to give him big money long-term, at least not right now.
The Twins are over budget, so if Kyle Gibson continues to impress and the other starters stay healthy this spring, they could deal one of their righthanders - Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn or Kevin Slowey - before the end of spring. My guess would be Slowey going to a National League team.
-If Twins manager Ron Gardenhire hadn't casually mentioned that Joe Mauer was getting a shot to lubricate his surgically-repaired knee, we may not have ever found out about it.
Mauer hates talking about his injuries, and has been remarkably successful, in an era when most sports news breaks with minutes, at downplaying his ailments.
But Gardenhire did mention that Mauer received a shot in his knee and on Wednesday morning Mauer confirmed that he will receive a series of four shots.
I don't think there is any reason to be alarmed in terms of this season. Remember, the year Mauer missed all of April because of a back injury, he went on to win the MVP. I think keeping him from behind the plate in spring training is a good idea.
Long-term, this is the latest sign that a 6-5, 230-pound catcher may not last forever at the position. While he needs to play catcher to help justify his $23-million a year salary, I highly doubt that his knees will last too many years at the position.
Michael Cuddyer is likely in his last season as a Twin. Jim Thome could be gone after this season. (He told me the other morning, ``I know this doesn't go on forever.'' The Twins will have to make a decision on Jason Kubel after this season. And Delmon Young is a volatile stock - he could become an All-Star...or relegate himself to DH duties if he has another poor season in the field. And none of this even considers the possibility of further problems for Justin Morneau.
So there will be openings for Mauer to play in the field if he has to shift from catcher in the next few years. I don't see it happening in the next two seasons, but at some point, those knees are going to get tired of squatting beneath all that weight.
-Gotta love David Kahn. After trading for Anthony Randolph, he explains that the Wolves need Randolph to match up with Western Conference power forwards like Pau Gasol and Blake Griffin.
Because, you know, when it's the seventh game of the Western Conference finals, that Randolph-Gasol matchup could be vital.
My god. Kahn's brain may be headed to the Western Conference finals, but the team he put together is putting together the most embarrassing season in the history of a frequently-embarrassed franchise.
Pau Gasol will be long gone by the time the Wolves have to worry about matching up with the Lakers in a big game. And by gone, I mean he may have perished due to natural causes.
-Another stunningly beautiful morning here at Hammond Stadium. The weather in Fort Myers has been incredible. Not trying to make you jealous, just expressing my appreciation for spring training. This is quite a gig.
-As I tweeted last night, Sunday Sports Talk generated huge ratings the last couple of books. Thanks to everyone who listens. This Sunday, partner Tom Pelissero will be in Indy at the NFL combine and I'll be in the press box at Hammond Stadium. The show is 10-noon, and we'll have at least one Twins guest, and probably an NFL figure or expert.
-Because we couldn't get the games on TV last night at the Star Tribune rental house in Fort Myers, I was following them on GameCast with La Velle. Late in each game, here was my best guess:
-The Gophers would blow the lead.
-The Wild would gut out a victory.
-The Wolves would play a lousy fourth quarter and lose.
Now, I'm wrong a lot. Anyone who makes predictions and frequently states opinions is going to be wrong a lot. But these were pretty easy.
-My twitter name is Souhanstrib. I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 today with Phil Mackey and Patrick Reusse.
Again, thanks for listening, and reading.
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