RandBall

Michael Rand started RandBall with hopes that he could convince the world to love jumpsuits as much as he does. So far, he's only succeeded in using the word "redacted" a lot. He welcomes suggestions, news tips, links of pure genius, and pictures of pets in Halloween costumes here, though he already knows he will regret that last part.

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Tuesday (Will Wild moves haunt in the future?) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated March 3rd at 9:56am 294841501

One of our generation’s foremost philosophers once said, “If you want to get some, you’d better bring some.”

The philosopher, of course, is former Gophers football coach Tim Brewster. And like any good philosophy, the phrase can be applied to many facets of life.

We will apply it here to the Minnesota Wild and GM Chuck Fletcher, who for the third consecutive year have made the decision late in the season to given up pieces of the future to acquire what they hope is a better present day.

The question, then, is simple: Fletcher wants to get some players; did he bring too much to other teams, sacrificing a chunk of the Wild’s future in the process?

Much of how we answer that question depends on what you think of the Wild and how it is currently constructed. We know Zach Parise, Ryan Suter and Jason Pominville will be here for a very long time. But we also know that a lot of their young players will reach payday age in the coming years, and the Wild presumably won’t be able to keep all of them. Rather, they will need to replenish the roster with more young talent.

That said, you can’t always worry about three or four years from now. The Wild is playing in a manner that suggests it could do some damage in this year’s playoffs. To get better, Minnesota again has had to give up players. You are not, after all, going to slay a bear with a pellet gun.

Big-picture, though, it feels as though Fletcher has given up an awful lot the past three years leading up to the trading deadline. Some of the moves listed below came a little earlier than the deadlinfletchere, but all were in the middle of seasons. The principal players and picks are listed:

*The Wild dealt a 2013 first-round pick and 2014 second (but got a 2014 fourth-round pick back) for Pominville.

*Traded 2014 and 2016 second-round picks for Moulson and Cody McCormick.

*Traded a 2014 fourth-round pick for Ilya Bryzgalov.

*Traded a 2015 third-round pick for Devan Dubnyk.

*Traded a 2016 third-round pick for Sean Bergenheim (and also got a seventh-round pick back).

*Traded a 2015 fifth-round pick (and Justin Falk) for Jordan Leopold.

*Traded a 2017 second-round pick for Chris Stewart.

*Received 1 sixth and 1 seventh round pick in minor mid-year trades in 2013.

If the fourth-rounder the Wild got back in the Pominville deal cancels out the fourth-rounder it traded for Bryz, the sum total the past three years one first-round pick, four second-round picks, two third-round picks and a fifth-round pick between 2013 and 2017 traded away. They have received two seventh-rounders and a sixth-rounder.

If we consider “premium” picks to be those in the first three rounds, the Wild has traded seven of those mid-season in the past three years.

This is not to say the trades have been bad, at least short-term. Dubnyk has been wonderful. Minnesota probably doesn’t make the playoffs without Bryzgalov last year. Pominville is a very good forward. And the deadline moves Monday could very well help fuel playoff victories. Overall, one would say Fletcher’s trade ledger looks pretty good, with a method to the madness.

But it is fair to wonder if the Wild will face a talent deficit in the long run even if it has a surplus in the short-term. That’s a price Minnesota appears willing to pay, putting even more pressure on this year’s team.

TFD: Michael Jordan is a billionaire NBA team owner

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated March 2nd at 7:13pm 294731601

jordanSome of the most obscenely wealthy people in the world are also owners of major U.S. pro sports franchises.

And for the first time, you can add Michael Jordan to that list of the obscenely wealthy, at least if your definition of reaching that threshold is being a billionaire.

(As a thousandaire, we might cut it off differently, but still).

Jordan is — according to Forbes — a billionaire, earning that designation for the first time. He’s also the owner of the Charlotte Hornets (yes, they’re the Hornets again after being the stupid Bobcats for a while).

Not on the billionaire list, by the way: Craig Leipold, Zygi Wilf or any Pohlad, though Wolves owner (and Star Tribune owner) Glen Taylor is on there at $2.4 billion.

Per ESPN.com, there is speculation that Jordan makes $100 million a year in royalties from Nike, so that would explain a lot of his massive wealth.

And it does still make us wonder if Kevin Garnett — who has made more than $300 million in his NBA career — will really have the financial chops to own an NBA team.

Here's an adorable letter Jordan Leopold's daughter apparently sent the Wild

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated March 3rd at 6:42am 294710231

The Wild traded for ex-Gopher Jordan Leopold today before the deadline in a move designed to bolster their defensive group.

You could choose to believe that the seeds of the trade were planted during some conversation between execs with the Wild and Columbus, but WE CHOOSE TO BELIEVE IT WAS SOMETHING DIFFERENT.

We’re going to believe it was all thanks to a letter Leopold’s daughter sent the Wild, apparently sometime this season, basically begging them to bring her dad home.

Here’s the letter, as tweeted by KFAN:

Monday (The albatross of Pekovic's contract) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated March 3rd at 7:10am 294670931

pek2Nikola Pekovic has never played more than 65 games in a season. When the Wolves signed him to a five-year, $60 million contract extension in the summer of 2013, the motivation was two-fold:

1) They thought they were building a contender around Kevin Love, and offensively Love and Pek worked very well together. So in order to convince Love to stick around, and without other options at center, they couldn’t afford to let Pek walk.

2) They were hoping Pek would stay healthy enough — maybe missing 15 games a year — to justify the expense because, when healthy, he is a productive (albeit unique) post player.

Since signing that extension, Pek has played 81 of the Wolves’ 140 games. We would bank on that number staying at 81 for a while, now that Pekovic’s bothersome ankle problem has flared up again.

Last year, his 54 games were productive: 17.5 ppg, 8.7 rpg and 54.1 percent shooting from the field. You could almost live with him doing that and only playing two-thirds of the games for the life of the contract.

This year, those numbers — without Love spreading the floor and giving him more room to work down low — have dipped to 13.2 ppg and 7.8 rpg on a dismal 42.9 percent shooting. His health problems seem to be limiting his mobility, to the point that he’s a candidate to have his shot blocked on every post-up or putback.

He just turned 29, so this should be the prime of his career. But he’s also a giant man who puts a lot of pressure on those poor ankles and feet. There is a nagging suspicion that — without Love and with those injuries — this is close to the version of Pek we are destined to see for the life of the contract (another three years, at roughly $12 million per year, after this season).

And that would create a two-fold problem: First, that’s a lot of money and years left for a player who might not fit into the team’s current style and whose production has diminished. Second, it potentially puts the Wolves in an awkward spot if they get one of the top two picks in this year’s draft and have a shot at an elite college big man because that player, plus Pek, plus Gorgui Dieng would be quite a logjam at center.

Our best guess is the Wolves would still take an elite big man if they got that chance, and then try to move Pekovic to another team. To do that, though, they would probably have to take back another big contract.

Unless Pek makes a magical transformation and can return to even his 2013-14 production level, his is the one contract you look at, long-term with the Wolves, and cringe at. It won’t kill them, cap-wise, but it will weigh them down.

Nuclear Wessel: Put up your nukes, it's time to fight in the EPL

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated February 27th at 4:33pm 294434871

nuclearDana Wessel works at Go963 FM in Minneapolis and formerly worked at Enterprise Rent-A-Car under their excellent corporate structure where *they* gave *him* the tools to be his own boss.

Lets get Nuclear!

Before we get to the weekend preview, I want to give a shout to the Vikings for putting on a cool event for soccer fans last Sunday at Brits in Minneapolis. The Vikings treated everyone to free beer, breakfast buffet, t-shirts and pint glasses. Thanks, Zygi! This was part of their continued interest in getting an MLS franchise to play in the new Vikings stadium. I have been very open on social media that I prefer the other group lands a team, but I have to give the Vikings credit for putting on a fun event. VP Lester Bagley even came — although I didn’t see him move more than a few feet from the door. Don’t be shy, Lester! Us soccer folk are good people!

Alright, it’s a lopsided slate of matches this weekend with all of the meat worth sinking your teeth into coming on Sunday. Great triple-header, though. And definitely worth getting up early for.

Onto the matches!

No. 1: Liverpool vs Manchester City at Anfield

When: Sunday at 6:00AM on NBC Sports Network

Last year: This was the match where Liverpool fans believed they won their first Premier League trophy. They beat City 3-2 after blowing a 2-0 goal lead but finding a winner from Philippe Coutinho in the 78th minute. They controlled their own destiny with four matches to go but lost to Chelsea, blew a 3-goal lead at Palace and finished two points behind City. One of the biggest crotch-shots in recent sports history.

Set those alarm clocks! Earrrrrly start for this one. If 6:00am freaks you out, sleep in a bit later. I talked to Shane the manager over at Brits and he says they are showing the match on tape-delay at 7:30 with doors opening at 7:15. As always, the Liverpool fans will be out in force at Brits.

Everyone, including Wessel de Nuclear, wrote Liverpool off months ago. Thought it would be a one-and-done for them returning to Champions League and not another sustained run of top-four finishes their supporters were dreaming of. Now they haven’t lost in their last 10 league matches and sit two points out of third place.

They’ll welcome a City team with renewed confidence in their bid for the title after picking up two points on Chelsea by embarrassing Newcastle 5-0 last Saturday. A win over Liverpool would cut their deficit to two points against Chelsea and put all the pressure on the Blues to win the game-in-hand they’ll have due to the League Cup final on Sunday.

This one has the stench of a draw lingering all over it but a win for either side is important enough that hopefully we see that back-and-forth frantic action we all love and crave.

No. 2: Arsenal vs Everton at Emirates Stadium

When: Sunday at  8:05AM on NBC Sports Network

Last year: These two played to a 1-1 draw last December at Emirates Stadium with both goals coming after the 80th minute. You might not believe this (just kidding, you should absolutely believe this), Arsenal blew the 1-0 lead.

Arsenal sit alone in the race for the third place trophy with 48 points. They might have just cinched the thing up already had it not been for losses to other top-four contenders Southampton and Tottenham in the last month.

Everton continue to embarrass the idiots like myself who made them their sneaky pick to finish in a Champions League spot. Tim Howard continues to look like the kid that gets thrown in to play goalie that doesn’t want to in a U-12 match instead of the Captain America he was last summer vs Belgium. The man is entitled to a rough season but it just makes me sad to watch whenever they are on TV.

Arsenal suffered a horrible 3-1 loss to Monaco at home in the first leg of the Round of 16 in Champions League. They have now been outscored 12-2 in their last four Round of 16 first leg matches. Oof. It appears to be another one-and-done for Arsenal in the knockout round.

They will be the favorites to take three points against Everton, but it is fair to wonder what kind of effect the Monaco match will have the rest of the way. Arsene Wenger has always done a great (and underappreciated) job keeping Arsenal in the top four. They haven’t finished better than third since 2005 but they have always kept their head above Champions League water- sometimes by margins as small as the zipper on Wenger’s sleeping bag jacket. But maybe this — one of the most competitive races in recent memory — is when they finally slip up. Then the Gunner fans that called for Wenger’s head during the years of top-four finishes and Champions League will really have something to whine about.

No. 1: Chelsea vs Tottenham at Wembley Stadium in the League Cup Final

When: Sunday at  10:00AM on beIN Sports

Last time: Chelsea and Spurs last met in a Cup Final in 2008. Spurs hoisted the trophy after Spurs went up 2-1 late in added time and Chelsea couldn’t equalize. The last time they met in an FA Cup semi-final? 2012 when Chelsea won 5-1. What does that have to do with anything? Nothing, really. I just wanted to type it.

The League Cup is an odd thing. Of the four trophies an English side can win each year, it is by far the least significant. Top Premier League teams field mostly youth sides in the early going to get bench players some run. Nobody — fans, players, managers — really sheds a tear if they get knocked out. But if your team keeps winning, you get to a point where everyone just sorta says We came this far, might as well win the thing.

This year’s final is spicier than usual and actually appeals to neutrals for the first time in a while. Does anyone remember when Swansea City beat Bradford 5-0 a few years back? Does anyone even remember who played in the final last year? I’ll be honest, I had to look it up. City beat Sunderland 3-1. Woo!

The Chelsea/Spurs London rivalry is certainly not as big as it’s Spurs/Arsenal counterpart but it is still juicy. It had been very one-sided for years before Spurs poured some gasoline on the fire to renew things with a 5-3 win on New Year’s Day — their first win over Chelsea since 2010.

A trophy, 100,000 pounds (no idea how to do the cool pound sign on a keyboard) and a spot in Europa League are all on the line. But none of that really matters to either side all that much.

What’s really on the line here is pride and the thrill of defeating your rival at Wembley. Spurs catch a break with Nemanja Matic being suspended for pushing a man who tried to end his career last Saturday against Burnley. Matic is a key cog to this Chelsea squad and, somehow, underrated by folks who point to Chelsea’s big knockers when talking about the team’s success. But the Blues have quality replacements so don’t go inscribing Tottenham on the cup yet. Also, it’s a final. You never really know with these things.

Alright, everyone. Talk more next week. Only 11 matches to go. Keep your socks taped and your oranges sliced.

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