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 training camp

Quite a point-guard duel

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: January 10, 2012 - 10:49 PM

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.

 

How did the Wolves pass the Vikings?

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: December 18, 2011 - 4:43 PM

Remember 23 months ago when the Timberwolves were the funniest joke in town and the Vikings had maybe the best team in football?

This weekend, the franchises passed each other, the Wolves heading up, the Vikings landing with a splat.

Throw out whatever qualifiers you want about the Wolves' exhibition opener - facing a bad team, exhibitions are meaningless, etc. - but that was entertaining basketball we were treated to on Saturday night. Rick Adelman, Derrick Wililams, Ricky Rubio, J.J.Barea and a slimmed-down Kevin Love give us five good reasons to care about the Wolves.

And that's not all. You could see Michael Beasley having an excellent year offensively in this system, and at least paying attention on defense. I think this team's biggest challenges will be figuring out what to do at center and shooting guard. Darko and Wes Johnson haven't proved themselves yet.

At center, Love playing inside might often be the answer. The problem for Johnson is that if he can't shine in this system, he's probably not an NBA player. He's got to prove himself quickly.

While the Wolves looked more promising than they have for years, the Vikings embarrassed themselves. This is becoming a trend. They got Brad Childress fired last year with a pathetic performance against Green Bay at the Dome. Now they've turned in three stinkers this season, at Chicago, at Green Bay and now at home on Sunday against the Saints.

I came to Minnesota in 1990 to cover the Vikings. This is easily the worst Vikings team I've ever seen in person. W'hich is amazing, considering this team has three stars in their prime in Adrian Peterson, Jared Allen and Percy Harvin.

I'm about to start working on my column for the Monday paper, and I believe this is the question that needs to be answered: Should anybody's job be safe right now? Leslie Frazier's? Christian Ponder's? Any coach's?

This was a pathetic display. Frazier said after the game that he took responsibility for his team not being prepare. He also said he wants to see how Ponder performs the last two weeks so he can judge him on a larger body of work.

I think Frazier and Ponder both will be trying to save their jobs the last two weeks, even if noone wants to admit that.

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Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 on Monday and every weekday with Reusse and Mackey. Thanks to Terry Ryan for his bluntness when we had him on Sunday Sports Talk this morning.

 

Tebow is the devil, and this week's LPR, with lots of thoughts on Cuddyer, Ryan and Twins

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: December 16, 2011 - 1:07 PM

OK, as usual, the headline is a little strong. What I meant to say is that Tim Tebow isn't the devil. I just think he made a deal with the devil. All this religious stuff is just cover.

Tebow obviously has sold his soul for a few NFL victories. There is no other rational explanation for him going 7-1 while throwing like a drunk Tarvaris Jackson.

On to today's highly irrelevant Local Power Rankings, which are really just a vehicle that allows me to comment on the seven major revenue sports in town:

1. Minnesota Wild.

Duh. Still the No. 1 team in the NHL. I wrote in today's paper how everything is looking up for the franchise, whether you're looking at the standings or young talent or realignment.

I asked Mike Yeo on Wednesday night if he looked forward to playing more games against teams like the Jets and Blackhawks. Yeo said, yes, ``we already dislike the Jets. And we already dislike the Blackhawks.''

The Wild could be quite entertaining for years to come, and I hope they find a way to land Zach Parise, who owns a home in Minnesota and would the front-line scorer this team needs.

2. Gopher hockey

We're seeing slippage. I love the talent on this team but have to be shown that they can gut through the long season and be at their best in the postseason. So far they've been impressive, but I still don't think they're quite playing to their talent level.

3. Minnesota Timberwolves

Yes, the Gopher basketball team has a gaudy record. But just holding intrasquad scrimmages means the Timberwolves have faced tougher competition.

I'll be at Target Center on Saturday night to see the debut of Rubio, Adelman, et al. And I'm as intrigued and optimistic about this franchise as I've been since Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell staged their mutiny.

4. Gopher basketball

Can we please get to the point where the Gophers stop getting praised for playing and beating lousy teams?

The Gophers' nonconference schedule is an embarrassment for the program and an affront to ticket-buyers. I'm not going to take this team seriously until it plays, and wins, a few conference games.

5. Minnesota Twins

While the average ranting fan demands that the Twins make a blockbuster trade or sign a top free agent, realistic observers of the team should be able to recognize that Terry Ryan is having a very good offseason so far.

Bringing Matt Capps back doesn't impress anyone, but Ryan has always believed that competent relievers fluctuate year-to-year, so it's probably a worthwhile gamble. He got rid of Kevin Slowey, which could have the same positive effect on the Twins that the Wild trading Martin Havlat has had. Jamey Carroll is the kind of short-term, inexpensive stopgap that could help the 2012 Twins without busting the payroll or blocking any worthwhile infield prospects. Ryan Doumit is a perfect fit for a team that doesn't know how many games its catcher will catch.

And even for someone who has known Michael Cuddyer since 1997 and thinks very highly of him as a player and a human, the Josh Willingham signing is a winner. Willingham is a similar player to Cuddyer and is less expensive, and Cuddyer's departure brings two draft picks to a Twins franchise desperate to rebuild its farm system.

Ryan has also signed a number of minor-league players who are more talented than their struggles indicate. And remember, Ryan's strength was always finding hidding gems, like Lew Ford, Alexi Casilla, Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano and Johan Santana.

Also: Bringing back Bill Smith is a winning move for the organization. I don't think he was a natural general manager, but he does good work in Latin America and in Lee County, where he's always had a great working relationship with the stewards of the Twins' spring training ballpark.

Smith is a valuable employee, and it speaks volumes about his selflessness and his relationship with Ryan that he would come back to an organization that just fired him.

A couple of months ago, the Twins' front office looked overmatched. Now the Twins' front office features Ryan as the boss, former Reds GM Wayne Krivsky as a valued adviser, and Smith. Those moves, with the addition of Gene Glynn as the Triple-A manager, should pay dividends. If not this year, then in the future.

6. Gopher football

Jerry Kill hasn't lost a game in a long time.

7. Minnesota Vikings

They need to keep losing and draft Matt Kalil, then land either a speed receiver or quality defensive back at the top of the second round.

The Vikings have a dozen problems to address, but as Jacques Lemaire always said, ``Solve one problem, and two more disappear.''

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Upcoming: I'll be at Target Center to watch the new Wolves on Saturday, then at the future site of Zygiopolis on Sunday to watch the Saints and Vikings.

Today, I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05, and sometime tonight (between 6 and 8) with Tom Pelissero. Tom and I will run Sunday Sports Talk from 10-noon on Sunday before the Vikings game (also on 1500espn). My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.

 

Goodbye Cuddyer? Or is it hello again? And other stuff

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: December 15, 2011 - 2:50 PM

I know we tend to react strongly when a winning team doesn't draw well, and the empty seats at the X have been troubling, given the outstanding performance of this year's Wild team.

My take: Don't sweat it. If this continues to be a good team, and I think it will, the fans will arrive. Probably after football season and the holidays pass, and the NHL standings become more meaningful.

Wrote about the Wild for the Friday paper. A quick preview: This team is overachieving right now, given the injuries and difficult recent schedule, but I think this organization is set up to win for a long time. GM Chuck Fletcher has done a masterful job of giving this year's team a chance to win while also acquiring young talent.

The Wild is four good goalies deep, meaning Fletcher may be able to trade one for value. About all the Wild seems to lack moving forward is a signature scorer, a 40-goal guy. If Fletcher could somehow land Parise, this team could become a championship contender.

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One thing I've heard from a lot of people around the Wild is that Martin Havlat's departure was a key for this team. He was quite disliked in the lockerroom, and he was not an end-to-end player. If he had played for the Wild this year, Mike Yeo would have had to make an example of him. Chuck Fletcher spared Yeo the trouble.

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I think the signing of Josh Willingham rules out the Twins' re-signing Michael Cuddyer, and here's the catch for those who want to see Cuddyer brought back at any price:

If the Twins are willing to pay Cuddyer what he wants, about $10 million a year, that could be a sign that they don't think Justin Morneau is going to be healthy.

If Morneau is healthy, the Twins don't have a huge need for Cuddyer. If Morneau isn't healthy, then Cuddyer could be the starting first baseman.

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Saw two Wolves practices this week, and was struck by how much better this coaching staff is than its predecessor, and many in Wolves' history.

You've got Adelman, one of the best coaches of his generation, and Jack Sikma coaching big men, and Terry Porter coaching guards. I heard from a lot of people last year that not only was Kurt Rambis challenged as a head coach, but his staff was awful. Bill Laimbeer mailed it in. Reggie Theus was looking for his next job. Dave Wohl was not well-liked.

This staff will get the most out of this roster.

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Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn from 6-8 tonight with a bunch of guests, including Jared Spurgeon, Toby Gerhart and probably someone from the Wolves from Mankato. Also joining me will be Brian Allee-Walsh, an old friend who has covered the Saints for decades.

Also, I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 tomorrow with Reusse and Mackey, and Tom Pelissero and I will run Sunday Sports Talk from 10-noon before the Vikings game on Sunday.

My twitter name is @Souhanstrib.

 

Catching up on rest of sports world

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: November 15, 2011 - 12:32 PM

The Wolves really are cursed. They finally inspire hope with the hiring of Rick Adelman, and now they might not have a season.

My knee-jerk, Twitter-enabled reaction to the NBA players union shunning the owner's latest offer was that the players are being foolish. They're giving up huge money that they'll never make back while fighting over terms many of them don't even understand. (I'm not insulting their intelligence; I don't understand most of these deep financial negotiations, either.)

But I should be more even-handed. The owners are just as much to blame as the players. They were on the verge of a great deal for them, and by trying to wring the last dime and concession out of the players that they could, they did the worst thing they possibly could have done: They pushed the players into shutting down negotiations and lawyering up.

Whether it's divorce or sports negotiations, it's never a good sign when one or both sides invest heavily in power lawyers. Because power lawyers aren't there to get a fair deal. They're there to prove their worth by crushing the opponent. They're there to rack up billable hours.

I could still see a deal getting done in the next three weeks, could see the owners realizing they pushed too far and working to save the season with a reasonable deal. But now it's a long-shot, and David Stern is just as much to blame as the players.

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It's nice that the Gophers basketball team keeps beating overmatched opponents, but the measure of a Tubby Smith Minnesota team is whether they can win a close game against a decent Big Ten team by running a real offense in crunch time. Until I see that, I'm not going to be impressed.

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If you enjoyed watching the Lynx, like women's basketball or just like to watch a talented athlete of any gender or age develop, I recommend watching the Gopher women and freshman point guard Rachel Banham.

She's a dynamnic ballhandler who can shoot, finish and set up here teammates. She's the most talented player the Gophers have had since Lindsay Whalen left.

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With the NBA locked out and the football teams stinking it up, we're pretty close to becoming a hockey town. (Or hockey cities.)

What's encouraging about the local hockey teams is that the Gophers look like they're much tougher physically and mentally than they've been in years. They don't wimp out around the net or in the corners, and they bounced back from a tough loss at Wisconsin with an impressive victory.

And while it's always risky to jump to conclusions at any point of the long NHL season, it appears Mike Yeo has the presence of a winning coach. It's funny, too, that the way they're playing now reminds you a lot of the way Wild played under Lemaire - responsible defensively, and making the most of the few goals they score.

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You are entitled to be underwhelmed by the Twins' signing of shortstop Jamey Carroll, but this is the kind of reasonable, subtle, important move that the Twins need to make.

No matter what their payroll, they're not going to outspend big-market teams for premier talent. They have to use their money wisely, and Carroll, while limited, is a great upgrade over everyone who played shortstop for the Twins last year.

Now the Twins need to sign someone who can either catch 140 games if needed, or can move around the diamond and sub at catcher for Joe Mauer.

If only Trevor Plouffe could catch....

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Aaron Rodgers is so good that, for the first time since I started writing about the NFL in 1989, I'm startled when a pass falls incomplete.

He completed 23 of 30 passes on Monday night. The web site Profootballfocus.com reported that of the 27 passes he tried to complete (wasn't spiking or throwing away), he completed 23, and his receivers dropped three of his four incompletions.

I know a lot of Minnesotans love to hate the Pack, but I like watching greatness no matter what color it wears. This is greatness.

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Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 today with Reusse and Mackey. My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib. 

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