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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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Kevin Love: 'I’d like to take a moment to thank the fans of Minnesota for six great years'

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated October 23rd at 12:48pm 280206522

Former Wolves forward Kevin Love became the latest athlete to pen a piece for Derek Jeter’s new “Players’ Tribune,” a new venture that an optimist would call a chance for athletes to speak directly to fans and a pessimist would call a chance for athletes to craft specifically tailored messages without being asked any difficult questions.

Regardless of how you feel about The Players Tribune, there are some items of interest from Love’s piece, which details his emotions over the summer, reveals some thoughts about Minnesota and then delves into his time, so far, with the Cavaliers.

He also apparently watched more Netflix than should be humanly possible. But here’s the good stuff:

Things were especially tough because for a month before the trade was finalized, Wiggins and I were caught in NBA purgatory. Is this happening, is this not happening? With everything up in the air, I felt like I couldn’t say a proper goodbye to Minnesota. And once the trade finally went through, everything happened quickly. So I’d like to take a moment to thank the fans of Minnesota for six great years. I still remember sitting in Madison Square Garden when I was first drafted in 2008, thinking that if I could go anywhere it would be to the Timberwolves to work with one of my childhood idols, Kevin McHale. There are so many people in Minnesota who helped to shape my game and mold me into the player I am today. I’ll always be fond of going to Manny’s Steakhouse, and the support I got from the entire Minnesota community — even in tough times — is something I’ll remember forever. (Seriously, thanks for not burning my jersey, you guys.)

Seems like a pretty legit thanks/goodbye. Well done. Now we get into a mix of contrition and thin skin, two things that don’t mix well:

I’ll be the first to tell you that I didn’t always handle things perfectly. We are all unfinished products. It’s not easy to handle the disappointment of losing when you’re in your early twenties. There were times when I wasn’t easy to be around in the locker room. It’s hard to be a leader when you don’t have the model — and when you don’t have a blueprint for what winning in the NBA looks like. But I make no excuses. I posted my best personal numbers last season, and we still didn’t make the playoffs. Some of the backlash was pretty hard to take — I learned that there is apparently such a thing as an “empty stat” (I’ll try to remember the importance of that the next time I am boxing out for a rebound against Tim Duncan).

Translation: Sometimes he was a bad teammate, but it’s only because he wanted to win and because nobody showed him how to be a leader. And even though he was doing everything he could to win, it still happen. And even though he put up his best personal numbers of his career, he’s not a stat-chaser and takes offense to the notion of an empty stat. He makes no excuses, except where he makes excuses. But still: his acknowledgement that he made mistakes is meaningful.

Everything on the plane to Rio was natural, and I felt like I could be a part of something special. It was a culture that I’m not accustomed to. After I was traded this summer, I kept hearing about how our challenge was going to be figuring out how to share the ball among LeBron, Kyrie and myself. Reporters kept asking me how I felt about it. … To them I say: I don’t care. I’ve never played in a playoff game. I came to Cleveland because I want to win. I’ll grab a broom and sweep the floors if it gets me an NBA title.

Another shot at the Wolves’ culture, though we’re not sure he can be blamed for that. And an affirmation at the end that he doesn’t care about stats, just winning. We’ll see how that goes as the season progresses. He’s already talking about how he’s not getting touches in the post, and it’s still just the preseason. We’ll see.

Thursday (An extended Twins managerial search) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated October 23rd at 11:50am 280182272

gardyryanThe Twins fired Ron Gardenhire more than three weeks ago. At the time, GM Terry Ryan said there was no timetable for how long the process of finding a successor would take, but the best guess now is that it won’t happen until after the World Series — meaning it will be at least four weeks from Gardy’s firing date of Monday, Sept. 29.

How fast the Twins move ultimately won’t matter. But the most recent update offered by La Velle E. Neal on Wednesday makes us wonder: are the Twins taking their time and making sure they make a thorough decision at this point, or are they stalled?

We ask because all three of the top identified candidates (Paul Molitor, Doug Mientkiewicz and Torey Lovullo) have reportedly either interviewed multiple times or the Twins have permission to do so.

And yet Ryan is reportedly open to the idea of expanding the search to new candidates, and owner Jim Pohlad hasn’t yet been in on any of the interviews.

That first piece of information is a sign, at least to us, that either Ryan isn’t sold on any of the three front-runners or that his preferred candidate among the three — whomever it might be, though a lot of people would presume it to be Molitor — isn’t sold on the job from his end.

That second piece of information is a sign, at least to us, that the Twins really aren’t that close to making a decision. Pohlad presumably will be brought in only for the final interview with the candidate Ryan wants to hire.

Again, the timing won’t ultimately matter much. The process, though, is interesting and right now it’s reasonable to wonder if the wheels are turning — or if they’re just spinning.

TFD: Softer upcoming pass defenses mean its time for Vikings' Bridgewater to make his mark

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated October 22nd at 5:42pm 280114992

brigewaterAll it takes these days is two bad games by a rookie quarterback to make us question whether he is going to be the right guy to lead a team for the next decade.

We freely admit we have some concerns about Teddy Bridgewater at this point — most of them similar to what Patrick Reusse wrote recently, in that he doesn’t seem to do one thing, physically, great.

Instead, Bridgewater will be relying on intangibles, which largely means football intelligence mixed with poise and presence. After three NFL starts, he’s not there yet — nor should he be.

But we should also note this: those last two starts, which have been struggles, have also been against two of the best defensive lines the Vikings will face all season. Detroit and Buffalo get hellacious pressure, and the Vikings’ offensive line is a mess. Both the Lions and Bills rank among the NFL’s top five in sacks and interceptions.

What does that mean? Well, when it comes to appraising Bridgewater’s early work, it means we also need to give some credit to the opponent. He carved up an awful defense (Falcons) in his first start. And in his next three games, he’ll face:

*Tampa Bay, which has just nine sacks this season and is averaging 295 passing yards per game, worst in the NFL (hello, Leslie Frazier, my old friend).

*Washington, which has just three interceptions this season while allowing 15 TD passes (both stats put them among the 10 worst NFL pass defenses).

*Chicago, which does rank eighth in sacks (with 19) but is allowing 8 yards per pass attempt — 28th in the league.

Sure, the Vikings and Bridgewater will have to beat better defenses at some point to prove they are legitimate. But these next three games should be an opportunity for Bridgewater to gain some proficiency, yardage and confidence.

On the flip side, if he still struggles in this stretch … well, then some of the concern will gain legitimacy, even if it is still very early in his tenure.

Gophers seventh-most likely team to make college football playoff, says U of Wisconsin statistical model

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated October 23rd at 5:29am 280082212

gophersbadgersAn associate professor in the engineering department at the University of Wisconsin has created a statistical model that is VERY favorable to your Gophers football team (and not the Badgers, by the way).

Laura McLay’s “Badger Bracketology” is an attempt, she says, to forecast which four teams will make the inaugural college football playoff this season.

The methodology, at a glance:

I start with the outcomes of the games played so far, starting with at least 8 weeks of data. This is used to come up with a rating for each team that I then rank. The ranking methodology uses a connectivity matrix based on Google’s PageRank algorithm (similar to a Markov chain). So far, I’ve considered three variants of this model that take various bits of information account like who a team beats, who it loses to, and the additional value provided by home wins. I used data from the 2012 and 2013 seasons to tune the parameters needed for the models.

The ratings along with the impact of home field advantage are then used to determine a win probability for each game. … My method is simple, but it gives us everything we need without being so complex that I would be suspicious of overfitting.

McLay actually uses three models, with 10,000 replications for each one. The most useful tool is the “ensemble,” which takes the average of the three models.

This is the first week for which the model has churned out projections for the playoff. It starts off about as expected, with Florida State as the most likely, followed by Mississippi, Mississippi State and then Alabama. Next you find Georgia, then Notre Dame and then …

Minnesota.

Yes, the Gophers are No. 7 in the model right now. That is to say, they are the seventh-most likely team to reach a four-team college football playoff for a national championship. Seventh. Yes, that’s right out of the money. But it’s so close to the money. They’re ahead of Michigan State (No. 8), while Wisconsin is nowhere to be found in the top 25.

Much of the season is yet to be played. So much can happen. But just know that, as of now, a simulation from the University of Wisconsin says things are looking good for the Gophers.

H/T: Fasolamatt.

Wednesday (Bennett a true wild card for Wolves) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated October 22nd at 1:25pm 280050892

rubioWhen the Wolves were finally able to announce the blockbuster trade that sent Kevin Love to the Cavaliers, two of the three pieces they received in return were easy to categorize.

Andrew Wiggins, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, was the clear jewel of the trade. He was the deal-maker and the deal-breaker. His superstar potential made it possible for the Wolves to feel good about dealing an established star player.

Thaddeus Young, a power forward with credentials, came over to fill Love’s spot in the lineup, contribute points and rebounds, and help mentor some of the team’s younger players. He was the known commodity in the deal.

The third piece, though, was Andrew Anthony¬†Bennett. He was the No. 1 overall pick in 2013, then had a disastrous rookie year. The only thing you could say about him was that he had the potential to be a boom or a bust — a true wild card. But his potential was intriguing, nonetheless.

In early preseason action, Bennett — now healthy — has shown off some of those skills that led the Cavs to make the power forward the top pick a year ago. He plays with energy, he has a nice mid-range jumper and he could be a fan favorite. His nickname, “Big Daddy Canada,” is also fantastic.

We don’t imagine a strong contribution from Bennett will make much of a difference in the bottom line for this year’s Wolves team. It’s still a group that will struggle to win 35 games and likely will settle in more around 30 by season’s end.

But if Bennett can continue to contribute when the real games start, he certainly has the opportunity to make the Wolves better in the future — and to make the Love trade look even better as well.

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Kansas City - WP: J. Guthrie 3 FINAL
San Francisco - LP: T. Hudson 2
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
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Cleveland
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Carolina
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Houston 96
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Minnesota 113 FINAL
Chicago 112
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Utah 100
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LA Lakers 92
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LA Clippers 89
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Troy 13 FINAL
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