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 NBA playoffs

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. 

Make it stop, please

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: September 18, 2011 - 6:01 PM

It's silly to pretend that a city or state's sporting teams are all somehow linked by anything other than geography. The Twins don't affect the Vikings who don't affect the Gophers who don't affect the Wolves, and so on.

But this is getting a little creepy.

The Wolves are on one of the most remarkable five-year runs of ineptitude in NBA history. The Twins are headed toward 100 losses. Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and, I believe, TC Bear are all done for the season. The Wild has fired two coaches since it last made the playoffs. Gopher football lost last week to New Mexico State, which just lost at home to UTEP.

Sunday, the Vikings blew a 17-0 halftime lead to lose, 24-20. They've now been outscored in second halves this season, 41-3.

Since Brett Favre threw that fateful interception, the Vikings are 6-12, including 3-5 under Leslie Frazier.

In an easier division, starting 0-2 might not be such a big problem, but the Vikings probably have the fourth-best team in the NFC North.

I'm not sure I've ever seen two poorer performances from a quarterback who didn't throw an interception than I've seen from Donovan McNabb the last two weeks. He's the anti-Tarvaris: He isn't making killing mistakes, he's just a little off, whether in timing or accuracy.

He threw for 228 yards and no interceptions on Sunday, but made so few positive plays in the second half that the Vikings lost again.

It's hard to lose when you run for 186 yards, throw for 228 yards and commit zero turnovers. But an inability to pick up the occasional first down under pressure is almost the same as committing turnovers.

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Maybe I should be more sensitive, but I have a hard time believing that Joe Mauer couldn't play another game this season.

Let me ask you one question: If Derek Jeter had the same illness as Mauer today, do you think he'd take off the rest of the season?

Me, either.

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I said this on Twitter earlier, and I believe it: The Wolves' hiring of Rick Adelman makes them the biggest winner of any sports team in town this week.

How often, over the last few years, could the Wolves have said that?

Given the state of disrepair of all the other teams in town, I could see Adelman making the Wolves one of the most popular draws in Minnesota. I believe he can immediately improve the Wolves from 17 wins to 30-some wins, and this town will embrace a young, fun, up-tempo team in the heart of our downtown.

I went to see the Gear Daddies at the Fine Line on Friday, and, as someone who doesn't spend a whole lot of weekend nights downtown, I was stunned at how many people were on the street around midnight. (Or later.)

That's the Wolves' demographic. I've gotten the feeling the last couple of years that there are tens of thousands of people who will pack Target Center if the Wolves can just give them a little hope. And I think Adelman represents hope.

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My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib. I'll be on 1500espn at 2 p.m. weekdays, plus on at 6:15ish on Monday and Friday (Twins schedule permitting) with Tom Pelissero, my Sunday Morning Sports Talk partner, who will be hosting a nightly show from 6-8 p.m. on the station.

 

Slowey. Really?

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: September 4, 2011 - 6:54 PM

When Kevin Slowey took the mound on Sunday, he could have had any number of goals.

He could have wanted to win a game. That's always good. Whether he wants the victory to help his teammates, or to help himself in arbitration, or to enhance his trade value, doesn't matter. You've got to want to win, right?

Or he could have wanted to help his team out, and save the bullpen for Monday, when the Twins have to play a doubleheader with a thin, injury-depleted pitching staff. Saving the bullpen would be a baseball moral victory.

Or he could have wanted to prove that he's a tougher guy than everyone thinks he is, after he bailed to the disabled list earlier this season because he didn't want to pitch in the bullpen.

So Slowey throws 95 pitches through seven innings. He looks sharp. He strikes out four, doesn't walk anybody, and he's down just 2-1.

If he goes out for the eighth inning, he has a chance to get a victory, or at least has a chance to save the Twins' bullpen for Monday.

Instead, he complained of a tight hamstring, forcing the Twins to bring in two relievers to pitch the eighth. The Twins lost 4-1, and Slowey didn't accomplish anything other than fortifying his reputation within the organization as a malingerer.

They need to trade this guy. The problem is, he's got a 5.31 ERA and a bad reputation. The Twins need to wait until teams are looking for pitching help this winter, and trade him for the best offer.

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I can't mention any names because of the sources of my information, but I was told that three different Twins were laughing or giggling or smiling in the late innings on Sunday, as the Twins lost 4-1.

It's amazing how a bad farm system has taught a bunch of young players that losing is the norm, and that there's no reason to get down about it.

That's one of the subjects of my Monday morning column.

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I keep hearing people saying that Rick Adelman and Don Nelson are better candidates than Sam Mitchell.

Well, Adelman is an excellent coach, but he's 65. When is the last time a 65-year-old coach took over an NBA rebuilding project and wound up being the right guy? (I'm sure there are examples. I'm also sure there aren 't many.)

The more I talk to NBA insiders, the more I hear that Nelson would be a ticking time bomb who would quickly fall out of favor with ownership and the front office. He might not last a season.

Mitchell may not be the first name you think of when you decide you want to hire an NBA coach, but he shouldn't be dismissed, either.

He was the NBA coach of the year in 2007. His winning percentage with the Raptors was .452. Not impressive? Well, consider the context. The only Raptors coach who has done better was Lenny Wilkins, at .459. Mitchell's replacement, Jay Triano, won at a .380 clip. I can only wish Dwane Casey, the classy former Wolves coach, luck in turning that franchise around.

Mitchell is 48. He's experienced but not old. He fought his way to the NBA with a gritty style of play that hid his lack of talent. He is an experienced NBA assistant. He'd force the Wolves to play with fire, and to play defense. If he had success, he wouldn't use this job as a golden parachute into retirement or a steppingstone to a better franchise. He'd stay.

He'd reconnect with Wolves fans who remember this franchise when it was competent and competitive. He'd be a credible connection to potential free agents. He has the right personality to make owner Glen Taylor feel included without allowing Taylor or anyone else to impinge on his authority.

Would he succeed? I have no idea. Circumstances are more important than will in some cases. But he seems to me to be the best fit out of all the candidates.

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My favorite moment of the day: FSN's Robby Incmikoski asking Twins manager Ron Gardenhire if he took solace in the fact that his rotation is settled.

Gardenhire looked at him like he had cotton candy leaking out of his ears.

Settled? Gardenhire has one member of his original five-man rotation healthy: Carl Pavano. His other starters this week will be reliever Anthony Swarzak, Rule 5 draftee Scott Diamond, TBA (probably callup Liam Hendricks), Pavano, and the out-of-favor Slowey.

The Twins' rotation is about as settled as the San Andreas Fault.

Sometimes I hear the stupid questions people in my business ask and I hate the media, too.

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My thanks to Gophers coach Jerry Kill for joining Sunday Morning Sports Talk. For once, I see Gopher fans falling all over themselves about a new coach, and I think they might be on to something.

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Interesting week coming up for me: I'll be in Green Bay on Thursday night for the Packers opener, then heading to San Diego for the Vikings opener. I guess I could drop by Target Field, too, but I don't like being lonely.

My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib. Follow me, Kevin. Please.

 

Sam Mitchell?

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: August 9, 2011 - 8:43 PM

I'm hearing that Sam Mitchell has emerged as the frontrunner for the Timberwolves' head coaching position.

To me, this is a sign that Glen Taylor has exerted his influence on the hiring process. Mitchell is an old favorite of Taylor's, and in the absence of a sure-thing candidate like Rick Adelman (who appears to be ready to sit out next season), Mitchell, with his local ties and tough-guy persona, makes a lot of sense.

-It's been a brutal year for the Twins and their medical staff, so let me point out something nice:

Ryan Hedwall, the athletic trainer for the Elizabethton (rookie-league) Twins, has been named as the minor-league athletic trainer of the year for the Appalachian League. Hurry to the bigs, buddy: This team needs lots of healing.

-Baseball is so often wonderfully strange. The Twins had drawn just one walk in their previous 182 plate appearances before Tuesday's game. They drew four walks in the first inning against Red Sox starter Erik Bedard. Including a bases-loaded walk by Delmon Young. I'm not making this up.

Ball four to Young looked like a strike. Young's reputation for patience must have won over home-plate umpire Tim McClelland.

-It was a blast catching up with former Twin Gene Larkin on the radio on Sunday. Gene was always one of my favorite players, a pro who never complained about anything and took great pride in preparing himself to play.

-I believe this trivia question originated with ESPN's Jayson Stark, and the Red Sox beat writers were kicking it around before the game: Name the five active big-leaguers who have hit 20 or more home runs with four different teams. The answer is at the end of this post...

-What are the Twins going to do with Tsuyoshi Nishioka? He struck out in his first two at-bats on Tuesday, looking helpless each time. He's hitting .213 as I write this. If I were the Twins, I would offer to buy out part of his $6 million-plus in remaining salary, and let both parties off the hook. This has to be tremendously embarrassing for a guy so revered in his home country.

-This from Twins' PR wizard Dustin Morse: Jim Thome now ranks eighth all-time in homers and walks. He has 10,003 career plate appearances (through four innings on Tuesday night), with 1,708 walks and 598 homers. That means he has homered or walked in 23 percent of his big-league plate appearances.

-Believe it or not, I agree with the Twins' decision to call up Kevin Slowey, my old pal, and stick him in the rotation, now that Scott Baker is headed to the disabled list.

Slowey won't or can't pitch out of the bullpen. If this were a contending team, I wouldn't want a guy with his attitude around. Now that this team is no longer in contention, allowing Slowey to reestablish his trade value by pitching in the big leagues makes sense.

If he can pitch decently, Slowey should be able to bring a reasonable price in a trade this winter. A lot of teams are looking for affordable bottom-of-the-rotation help in the winter.

-Beautiful night at Target Field, whatever the outcome. There is something relaxing about going to the ballpark and knowing the game doesn't mean anything. It's like spring training in August.

-Trivia answer: Jim Thome, Alfonso Soriano, Mike Cameron, Adrian Beltre and J.D. Drew. (I didn't do very well on this one.)

-I'm really hoping Jim Thome hits his 600th home run at Target Field. A lot of fans are paying a lot of money to watch bad baseball this year; seeing Thome reach that milestone would be a nice reward to them.

But if he can't hit it at Target Field, I'd like to see him hit it in Cleveland, where he started as a rawboned third baseman who heard Charlie Manuel, then the Indians' hitting coach, barking in his ear.

Even in this awful season, Thome remains the nicest man in baseball.

-Upcoming: I have columns on the Vikings, Gopher football and Lynx in the works, and I'll be in the studio on Sunday for the Gardenhire Show and Sunday Morning Sports Talk, while Tom Pelissero checks in from the road.

 

Heading back to the heat

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: July 20, 2011 - 7:17 PM

Coming back to town after a quick vacation to San Francisco. This is the first time I've ever left a sunny day in California dreading that Minnesota is much hotter.

We went to the Dodgers-Giants game on Monday night, and I believe this was my first visit to AT&T Park since the 2002 World Series.

This might be the one ballpark you'd want to visit if you've already been spoiled by Target Field. Because it has the one thing that Target Field doesn't have: A bay.

It's a beautiful setting, and if you head up to the upper deck, you can see the bay, and the lit-up Bay Bridge, and the kayakers, and the lights of the city. The Giants, like the Twins, play a Journey song during seventh-inning stretch, but theirs is ``Lights,'' a song about the bay.

(Although it sounds like Journey's Steve Perry first wrote the song about the lights of ``LA,'' but didn't like the sound of that and changed it to ``the bay.'' Which is good editing.

Anyway, I"ll be home tonight, then leaving for Cooperstown on Thursday, preparing with photographer Carlos Gonzalez to cover the weekend festivities culminating with Bert Blyleven's induction into the Hall of Fame on Sunday.

A few points on the Twins, from afar:

-No, calling Kevin Slowey up to start one game of the doubleheader made no sense. He hasn't pitched well at Triple-A yet, why would he be ready to beat the Indians?

-Much of the Twins' dominance of the division over the last 11 years is due to pitching depth. This is no time to whine about them being forced to start Anthony Swarzak and Scott Diamond. And both pitched well enough to win, had the Twins taken advantage of the Indians' weak pitching that was lined up for Monday.

-The Twins hoped to go 8-4 on the post-All Star-break homestand. If they take 3 of 4 from the Tigers, they will have done so. Even if they split with the Tigers, they will be positioned to chase these teams until the last weekend of the season.

Yes, they'll have to beat good teams to do so, given the difficulty of the upcoming schedule. But shouldn't you have to beat good teams to make the playoffs?

A few points on the Wolves:

-You could do worse than Mike Woodson. The guy teaches half-court offense, ball movement and strong defense. The Hawks apparently stopped listening to him after a while, and he failed in the playoffs, but he's young enough and ambitious enough to benefit from those lessons.

Actually, Woodson might be ideal for the Wolves, because he would fight back against David Kahn's ridiculous notion that the Wolves should run more.

I think Don Nelson would be a hoot to have around for a year or two, before he drove everyone in the organization crazy and alienated a couple of key players. I don't think he's a good fit for the long haul, but he'd hasten the Wolves' return to relevance.

A point on Tiger Woods:

-It's not unusual for celebrities and sports stars to go through scandals and personal problems. What offends me more about Tiger Woods is that he always seems to be looking for a scapegoat.

He got rid of swing guru Hank Haney, and now he's fired caddy Steve Williams. I'm not a fan of either man's work. I felt Woods won despite Haney, and Williams could be a cad when he was on Woods' bag. But neither are the cause of any of Woods' current problems.

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Upcoming: I'll be blogging and tweeting from Cooperstown all weekend. I'll also be doing Sunday Morning Sports Talk from Cooperstown. The Gardenhire Show is 9:30 on Sunday, followed by SMST from 10-noon, with Tom Pelissero in the studio.

 

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