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

What a world

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: June 9, 2011 - 11:30 PM

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.

-Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 and 6:15 on Friday. Tom Pellissero and I will run Sunday Morning Sports Talk on 1500espn from 10-noon at the St. Thomas mobile press box outside Target Field.
 

-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.

 
Below is a note written by Nita Killebrew about a celebration/Harmon Killebrew Foundation fundraiser at Target Field’s Budweiser Roof Deck during the Twins game on June 29, 2011. ''
 
 
 
----------------------------------
Dear friend,
 
Harmon Killebrew was truly a gifted man. He not only was one of the greatest baseball players of all time, but he had a knack for creating memories for the millions of people he met along the way.  Whether you remember him as a power-hitting ballplayer or the friend who always greeted you with a warm smile, there’s no doubt he had a powerful impact on many a person. 
 
We had plans to help him celebrate turning 75.  He wanted to spend the day at Target Field watching the Twins play the game that brought him so much joy throughout his life.  Even though he can’t be there – we will be. 
 
The Harmon Killebrew Foundation is opening up the Budweiser Roof Deck for the Twins game against the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 29th—Harmon’s 75th birthday.  If your schedule allows, grab your Killebrew jersey and join us to celebrate Harmon and the joy he brought to your life.  Tickets are $150 ($95 of which is tax deductible), and include access to the Budweiser Roof Deck, as well as food and beverages for the game.  All net ticket proceeds will benefit the Legacy Program of the Harmon Killebrew Foundation. 
 
We sincerely hope you can make it. And know that your donation will go towards a legacy left by a man whose contribution to people’s lives was equal to what he did on the diamond. 
For more information, and to purchase tickets, go to:
Or contact:
Kelly McDyre
612-399-0583
 
 
-end-

The great debate (for today): Blame Delmon, or blame the bats?

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: June 8, 2011 - 7:57 AM

Picked up on this debate on Twitter last night: Should we blame Delmon Young's error or the Twins' bats for their 1-0 loss at Cleveland?

Both are culpable, of course. But while all teams and hitters will have a bad night, and sometimes will simply be overmatched by a good or hot pitcher, all Major League leftfielders should be capable (and interested in) bending over to pick up a bouncing baseball.

I saw someone defend Young because he smashed a double. That is missing the point.

A year after generating hope that he could become an MVP-type player, Young has been an embarrassment this season. He's played horribly in the field and has produced a stat line that would make Matt Tolbert giggle.

I'm not a big fan of the stat OPS for precise measurement of offensive capability, but it does provide a good snapshot into a player's performance.

Consider these OPS totals:

Alexi Casilla: .653

Rene Rivera: .620.

Matt Tolbert: .578.

Delmon Young: .534.

The Twins are getting no offensive production out of a player whose fielding has suggested that he can be valuable only if he is an exceptional offensive player. If you're determined to prove via your fielding that you are nothing but a designated hitter, you might want to get a few hits.

The biggest, strongest Twin now has six extra-base hits in 151 at-bats.

At this point, my chosen outfield for the 2012 Twins would be Ben Revere in left, Denard Span in center and Jason Kubel in right, with the hope that Joe Benson makes a push to be a contributor or the first player called up in case of injury.

Now the Twins have to hope Young can at least play well enough to bring value in a trade.

And while he's here, Young should at least be moved to leftfield. He has a strong arm and limited range. That would make him a perfect fit for right field at Target Field.

-A new report alleges that Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor made $40,000 autographing memorabilia. I hope he saved some of the money.

Pryor is skipping his senior year at OSU to enter the draft. His problem is, he's not a very good quarterback, and he won't be a good pro quarterback, and he's not gifted enough to make a living at another position.

I don't blame college athletes for wanting to make a little money while they're generating tens of millions of dollars for their schools. I just hope for Pryor's sake he has positioned himself to make a living outside of football.

-It's interesting that the Golden State Warriors hired Mark Jackson shortly after hiring Jerry West as a consultant. When Jackson was a Wolves' candidate, I kept hearing from my NBA people that Jackson had a terrible reputation as a selfish player and clubhouse lawyer, and that the Wolves were lucky they didn't hire him.

Now Jackson will take over a skilled team that plays almost no defense. Is he really the right man to fix that problem? I tend to doubt it.

-It's fascinating that lame-duck Wolves coach Kurt Rambis is now trying to publicly position himself to return, considering the disdain with which he treated everyone in or near the Wolves organization last year.

If he comes back, I hope he does so with some class. I've had more than a few people in the Wolves' organization tell me that he is the worst, most arrogant guy with whom they've ever worked. I don't think he coached well enough to deserve to return, but there has to be a good basketball brain hidden somewhere behind all that unearned smugness. Who knows? Maybe coming close to getting fired would be enough to jolt him into the right mindset for coaching a young team.

I'd still rather see Dwane Casey or Sam Mitchell running this team.

-I covered the Lynx home opener on Sunday, and I thought it was a good time. The atmosphere felt different than most sporting events, and I kept trying to figure out exactly what was different.

Then it hit me: I didn't sense any anger from the stands. Usually when you attend a pro sporting, or a major-college revenue sporting event, there is an undercurrent of angst and anger. Particularly at basketball games, you hear fans cursing the refs and opponents.

The people at the Lynx game just seemed happy to be there, happy to support their team. The Lynx players seemed unified and gregarious.

I think this is going to be a really good team, and while most people in my business mock the Lynx and the WNBA, I would love to see them make a run at a championship and give us all reason to pay more attention.

-LeBron James remains a mystery. He's the best player in the game in part because of his unselfishness and passing ability, but it is so strange to see the best player in the game content to let other people dominate the ball at the end of close games.

James was incredibly passive last night, and that's one big reason why the Mavs won Game 4. I'm still picking the Heat in seven games, but if the Heat had played with a little more intelligent and and intensity at the end of Games 2 and 4, it might already be over.

-Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 today, as long as the Twins' game ends in time. My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib. Tom Pelissero and I are starting to make plans for Sunday Morning Sports Talk, 10-noon on 1500espn. We'll run the show from the St. Thomas Mobile Press Box outside Target Field.

 

Farewell to Shaq, hello to Rambis

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: June 3, 2011 - 3:10 PM

In Twitterland (@Souhanstrib), I was chatting with Tim Linnemann and others about the brilliance of Kurt Rambis. Not as a coach. As a Larry David-like (thanks, Tom) creator of awkward situations meant to play out in his favor.

Rambis keeps showing up for Wolves events, and today he told reporters that he doesn't know what the future of his job holds, and that he wouldn't have handled the situation this way, but, dang it, he has a job and he's going to keep showing up and doing it until further notice.

Which is exactly the right way for him to handle this. He's making himself look willing and shrewd, and David Kahn look either weak or manipulative. If Rambis had coached as well as he's playing this situation, he wouldn't be in this situation.

This is where owner Glen Taylor needs to step in and remind Kahn what happened the last time he went into a draft without a coach.

-When Shaquille O'Neal retired, my first thought was: Where have all the fun athletes gone?

Kirby Puckett was fun to be around. So was Torii Hunter. O'Neal, even though he could be childish, displayed a sense of humor, a sense of fun, that few modern athletes possess.

Think of the greats in each sport:

Golf: Tiger Woods. At his best, rarely took off his game face.

Baseball: Albert Pujols, Jose Bautista, Alex Rodriguez...boring, boring, used to be egomaniacal but has learned to be boring. And then there's Joe Mauer...

Basketball: LeBron James. Was fun with Cleveland, with the pre-game rituals and funny commercials. Now he's no fun at all.

Football: Peyton Manning is boring in interviews, but he's great on Saturday Night Live. Tom Brady must lead an exotic life, but he doesn't show much of himself during the season.

Hockey: Sidney Crosby is boring, and Alex Ovechkin has learned to be boring.

Maybe being great requires what Denny Green used to call ``that real, fine, focus.'' Maybe the demands of stardom cause most stars to withdraw. Whatever the case, we should miss Shaq as much for his sense of humor as for his dominant play.

-This is what I love about the NBA playoffs: If you don't coach well and your key players don't make good decisions, athletic ability will not carry you through.

Last night Eric Spoelstra blew his timeouts too early, Chris Bosh forgot to foul with a foul to give against Dirk in the final seconds, and the Heat offensive structure disappeared under pressure, and the Mavs pulled off a 15-point comeback.

Dirk is becoming my favorite NBA player, and making a case for himself as one of the all-time greats.

-Giants GM Brian Sabean is getting shredded nationally for ripping on the Marlins' Scott Cousins for injuring Buster Posey in that infamous play at the plate.

To me, Sabean went too far with his rhetoric. He shouldn't demonize a part-time player who thought he was doing all he could to win a game for his team.

But the gist of Sabean's comments are correct: Cousins broke the letter of the rule by going outside the baseline to vault into Posey. The play was wrong. While I keep saying headlines questioning why baseball would change such a long-standing rule, what you have to understand is that the rule is already on the books: You may not go out of the baseline to collide with a player for the purposes of dislodging the ball at home plate any more than you could do it at first base.

Baseball has every right to enforce this existing rule, and should. If a catcher hasn't moved into the way of the plate, he isn't fair game. Sabean's rhetoric is overheated, but his opinion is right on.

-Upcoming: Tom Pelissero and I will run Sunday Morning Sports Talk from the studio this week. The Gardy Show is at 9:30 followed by our show from 10-noon.

 

Post-Memorial Day SORT

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: May 31, 2011 - 10:39 AM

-I kept telling people ``Happy Memorial Day'' yesterday, then finally realized that doesn't sound quite right. My father was a vet, and I've read a lot of military history, and I'm not sure anyone who hasn't fought can comprehend just how horrific war is.

My father never even wanted to talk about it, and his silence told an awful story.

Now, on to the silliness of the sports world...

-Delmon Young update: The biggest, strongest man on the Twins' roster, the guy who produced 112 RBI and 68 extra-base hits last year, has four extra-base hits in 119 at-bats this season.

It's sad, really. The guy has so much power, such great hands, such great potential. He showed up at spring training with massive arms, and the Twins' internal fear was that he would become a DH - a power hitter with no interest in playing the field.

Turns out, that was the best-case scenario. Now he's a poor fielder who has trouble hitting the ball out of the infield.

This is a product of stubbornness. All he has to do is look back at how he hit last year, and he could break out of this. And he will, eventually, break out of this. But this is the latest reason for the Twins not to give him a long-term contract. You don't know what you're getting month to month or year to year.

All players slump. But a player as talented as Young shouldn't slump this badly for this long.

Speaking with Roy Smalley earlier this season, and again two Sundays ago on my radio show, he broke down Young's swing brilliantly. (Smalley's the best.) Young has too much weight on his front foot, leaving him to hit with only his hands, like a hacker with a reverse-pivot golf swing.

Again, it's sad, because this guy could be a perennial All-Star.

-ESPN's Ric Bucher points out that Rick Carlisle and Eric Spoelstra were both under fire earlier this season. Now they're in the NBA Finals.

-Jim Tressel getting fired reminds us that Glen Mason had a chance at the job. That choice reminds us of the challenge of being a college administrator. They could choose Tressel, a dominant coach followed by whispers of impropriety, or Mason, a good coach who was thought to be absolutely clean.

Ohio State took the high-risk, high-reward choice, and was rewarded...and ultimately punished.

I'll say this: Two of the last three Gophers coaches - Mason and now Jerry Kill - have pristine reputations when it comes to recruiting.

-My buddy Tim Kawakami, A San Jose Mercury News columnist, is an excellent NBA analyst, and he's picking the Heat in five games over Dallas.

He points out that teams with an advantage in point-differential, field-goal percentage differential and overall rebounding percentage are 5-0 over the last 10 years.

The Heat holds advantages in all three categories over Dallas.

You can find Tim's analysis here: 

-So Winnipeg gets a team. How long until the city opens a Michael Russo Marriott downtown?

-My take on the controversial play in the Twins' game yesterday: Yes, the umps got it wrong. The runner should have been placed on third base. But would it have hurt Young to throw the ball in quickly, to demonstrate that the runner was a long way from scoring?

Why throw your hands in the air and leave it up to the umps to make a judgement call?

-Happy Ricky Rubio day.

Just so we're clear on this: I would love it if the Timberwolves became competitive. I'd love it if Rubio became a star, along with Wes Johnson and Michael Beasley.

My fear, though, is that Rubio's lack of shooting ability and quickness will doom him in the NBA game. I could see him becoming a useful player, but the Wolves need him to be a transformational player.

Good luck with that.

Star Trib Wolves beat writer Jerry Zgoda makes it sound as if the Wolves could and probably will sign Rubio to some kind of futures contract that would bring him to Minnesota by next year.

If so Rubio ,will enter a league filled with dynamic point guards.  Even at his best, can he be a top-10 point guard in this NBA?

I hope so. But I doubt it.

-Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 today.

It's been 45 days...

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: May 27, 2011 - 10:03 AM

No rush, David. You've already embarrassed your entire organization, if that's possible, by letting Rambis dangle for so long in employment limbo that he showed up, uninvited, to your pre-draft workouts.

I'll have more on that subject in the Sunday paper.

For today, let me ask this question:

How are American sports fans going to feel if LeBron James wins it all?

He's widely hated for ``The Decision,'' but it's increasingly clear that he made the right decision, and that he's eminently capable of doing the two things that we doubted he could do:

-Win a championship.

-Win a championship while becoming a great closer, taking and making almost all of the big shots.

James was brilliant last night, as he has been throughout the playoffs. If we could ignore his tone-deaf off-the-court comments, what we would see is a superior defender, an unselfish distributor, a guy who (other than that elimination game with the Cavaliers) seems to always play hard, and now a superior clutch player.

He is the best player in basketball, and the NBA finals matchup pitting him against Dirk Nowitzki will provide a compelling end to a compelling playoffs.

-With the Twins facing the Angels this weekend at Target Field, I'm reminded of the time that Torii Hunter took a swing at Justin Morneau, and accidentally hit Nick Punto.

Now, I'm not advocating violence, but right about now I wouldn't mind seeing a prominent Twin taking a swing at a teammate. OK, I guess I am advocating violence.

The Twins need an intimidating presence in their clubhouse, and since none of these players seem capable of playing that role, they may have to adjust their coaching staff this winter to add a former player who can get after malingerers and whiners.

Paul Molitor? Dan Gladden? Tom Brunansky? I'd take any of them. Molitor is the smartest player I ever covered. Gladden has just the right personality to be a clubhouse enforcer, and has the cache of two World Series titles with the franchise. Brunansky is on the fast track through the Twins' minor-league organization.

I like the current staff, and they've been part of a lot of winning teams, but when a season starts to go south this team needs someone who can play enforcer. My information is that manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson are the only two members of the big-league staff who can and will upbraid a lax player.

-Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn from 3-6 today, working with Reusse from 3-4, then running Garage Logic from 4-6. Sunday, Tom Pelissero and I will run the Gardenhire Show from 9:30-10, then Sunday Morning Sports Talk from 10-noon.

My twitter name is @Souhanstrib.

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