Welcome to the Tuesday edition of The Cooler, where sometimes you have to do the best with what you have. Let’s get to it:
*Wolves forward Taj Gibson is one of those steady grinders who probably doesn’t get appreciated enough. Even in posting a double-double during the Wolves’ 132-105 rout of the Kings on Monday, Gibson was overshadowed by several teammates — including high-flying rookie Josh Okogie.
So let’s pause for a moment and recognize Gibson’s effort Monday. And in particular, let’s zero in on one amazing and amusing sequence.
The scene: Gibson worked his way inside for a very Taj-like basket early, giving the Wolves an 11-4 lead. But in the process, he lost his right shoe. Rather than staying down on the offensive end while trying to put it back on and making his teammates defend short-handed, Gibson put the shoe in his hand and ran to the defensive end.
From there, he brandished it almost like a an extension of his hand. As luck would have it, the player he was guarding — former Wolves forward Nemanja Bjelica — tried to take Gibson to the hoop. Gibson did his best to stay with him and raised his extended shoe-hand high in an attempt to influence the shot.
And the shot was blocked!
Replays confirmed that it was Karl-Anthony Towns, providing help defense at the rim, who swatted away Bjelica’s shot — and not Gibson. But the imagery was still fantastic, as captured in the photo above by the Star Tribune’s Jeff Wheeler and on the video below.
I’m not sure what Gibson did was legal or what the officials would have called had he actually swatted the shot with his shoe. But the whole thing was enough to make head coach Tom Thibodeau laugh about as hard as you’ll see him laugh in the postgame news conference (just before the 5:00 mark of the video).
*Lost in all the good feelings from the Vikings’ 41-17 win over Miami: The Vikings threw ANOTHER backward pass on a swing from Kirk Cousins to Dalvin Cook. It came with Minnesota leading 24-17 in the third quarter (just after the 1:00 mark of this video).
Thankfully for the Vikings, Cook caught the ball — or else it would have been a fumble — and managed to even gain a few yards. I’ve written about the high risk and low reward of these passes. It is my mission to eradicate them from every NFL playbook. Anyone involved in these plays needs to make sure the pass is thrown forward, so at worse it’s an incompletion.
*Are the Vikings for real? FiveThirtyEight had a little chat about NFL teams and spent quite a bit of time on the purple.
*James Harden always travels. I don’t care what the NBA rules say. But he ESPECIALLY TRAVELED on this play.
*Some tough news from the world of journalism: Paul Lukas, who runs the entertaining Uni Watch site that is devoted to what players are wearing, said his contract was not renewed by ESPN. He should have other options, so stay tuned.
*Panthers safety Eric Reid has been randomly selected for a drug test six times in the last 11 weeks. Yahoo wonders if there’s more to the story, given that the chances of someone being randomly selected that often are about 1 in 588.