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We’ve been accused in years past of having an overly optimistic view of the Timberwolves going into seasons, only to see great expectations (or, let’s face it, even modest ones) blow up in another lost season. This optimism even explains the piece of art you see with this post; friends say our annual “the Wolves could be better this season” blog season preview is a good reminder to check your smoke detector batteries.
As such, we’re trying something a little new this season: tempered realism. We’ll let the Wolves try to exceed our modest expectations. Under-promise and over-deliver. That’s the way to get ahead in 2014. As such, here are five things we think about this year’s team:
1) In the long run, we think the Wolves are better off having made the Kevin Love trade. We don’t think he could be the No. 1 player on a great team, and we don’t think the Wolves could have added anyone better than him without trading him. So we stand by this post from a few months ago: David Kahn, in botching Love’s contract, quite possibly saved the Wolves. It forced them to trade Love in his youthful prime, and we can’t imagine ever getting a better haul than what Flip Saunders achieved this offseason.
2) That said, we most definitely think there will be a drop-off in victories this season from last year. Our gut says even when you factor in all the close losses last season, Love was worth an extra 10 victories from last year to this one. So we’re saying this year’s Wolves are a 30-win team.
3) While including Thad Young in the Love trade could be construed as a sign the Wolves aren’t fully committed to a rebuild (they could have had a future first-round pick instead), we do like what Saunders is doing with the roster. Having a few veterans sprinkled in with all this youth is a good thing, in our mind, and it was encouraging to hear Saunders talk after the Wolves cut J.J. Barea about the move being geared toward the future and not wanting to give up on a promising young player like Glenn Robinson III instead.
4) Of all the young players on the roster, we think Zach LaVine will need the longest leash when it comes to figuring out just how good he is. LaVine is a great athlete, but his freshman year at UCLA was nothing special. Sounds a lot like Russell Westbrook (3.4 ppg, less than 1 rebound and assist per game as a UCLA freshman). We’re not saying LaVine is the next Westbrook. That would be crazy. But this was a pick that will take a couple of years to judge.
5) The Wolves should have a pretty nice bench this season. We look at their roster and see a lot of useful players and not a ton of roster filler. The downside is we’re not sure the starting five will be all that much better than the next five. We’re also not entirely sure how this team is going to score points on a nightly basis, which is half of the object of the game, but we certainly foresee this being a more motivated team and a better defensive team than in the Rick Adelman years. Maybe that adds up to a few more close wins. Maybe the youth comes together more quickly than we think. For now, though, 30 wins is our guess. But check those batteries anyway.
In the grand scheme of things, this is not as bad as other recent ideas, but still members of an Illinois fraternity are in trouble because over a Gophers football-related sign they made over the weekend.
Here’s a tweet with a picture of the sign:
— Steven Salaita (@stevesalaita) October 27, 2014
And here’s the report from the News-Gazette out of Champaign:
Members of a fraternity are expected to meet soon with University of Illinois officials following its posting of a sign that depicted a knife-wielding American Indian posed over a gopher.
The giant paddleboard placed on the Delta Chi lawn during Saturday’s homecoming game against the Minnesota Gophers featured a Chief Illiniwek-like character in a headdress leaning over a gopher. Painted on the sign were the words, “Gut the Gophers.”
Two paragraphs from La Velle E. Neal’s Monday update on the Twins’ managerial search:
The Twins on Friday expressed interested in speaking with Joe Maddon, who opted out of his contract managing the Rays and became a free agent. According to the source, the Twins had not contacted Maddon as of Monday but are keeping that option open.
To do that, the Twins would have to extend their search into November, which isn’t likely. All signs point to the club making its decision sometime this week on a new manager.
In other words: The Twins said they were interested in talking to Maddon; a weekend passed and they still haven’t tried to do that. If they really want to do that, they will have to stretch out their search. But indications are they are going to name a manager this week, so why even bother trying to go after Maddon?
This line of thinking is, well, maddening (Maddoning?). We will reiterate two things we have said multiple times regarding the Twins and Maddon: 1) If the Twins really have an interest, then they should show that interest and do something about it. Call Maddon’s people. If they get rebuffed, that’s fine. 2) If we were running the Twins, we would essentially give Maddon a blank check. Does he want $5 million a year? Fine. How about $6 million a year? Sure. Because in modern baseball, the number of impact free agents at that price are few and far between — and far less likely to have the kind of impact a very good manager could have.
No offense to Paul Molitor or Torey Lovullo, who are said to be the front-runners for the job, but neither has even close to the track record of Maddon. If the Twins have, in fact, reached out to Maddon and been rejected but won’t say so because they are worried about offending other candidates or making an eventual hire be perceived as a second choice, they shouldn’t be. A lot of good coaches weren’t the first choice. Two of them are leading the Gophers football and men’s basketball programs right now. The public perception backlash is greater if the perception is that the Twins didn’t even really try for Maddon.
This is about exploring a unique opportunity — one that probably wouldn’t work, but you never know.
Yes, the start of any season allows the most desperate of gamblers to wager on normal things like projected win totals to completely speculative things like …
Who will be the first head coach replaced on a full time basis in the 2014-2015 season?
That’s the exact wording from Bovada, a master at timing the release of these prop bets to generate publicity. And we bought it, mostly because of the curious names at the top of their list.
The favorites — the coaches with the shortest odds — to be fired: 1) Kevin McHale of Houston, at 7 to 4; and 2) Flip Saunders of the Wolves, at 2 to 1.
This is strange and comical on a number of levels. First, of course, the two used to work together in Minnesota, and McHale fired Saunders about a decade ago. … Then McHale and Rick Adelman essentially swapped places, with McHale going to coach Houston and Adelman coaching the Wolves. … Then Saunders replaced Adelman in Minnesota.
We can understand McHale being on the list at the top, since there are still major expectations for the James Harden/Dwight Howard-led Rockets, who have yet to win a playoff series under McHale.
But Saunders? Is Bovada aware that Saunders is also a minority owner with the Wolves as well as President of Basketball Operations — meaning there are a lot of layers to get rid of him?
As noted on Twitter, though, it could be pretty lucrative:
— Ben Chapman (@bchapman88) October 27, 2014
Regardless, we’d take Scott Brooks (8 to 1), Randy Wittman (10 to 1) or Dave Joerger (10 to 1) if we were betting. (That’s a former Wolves player, a former Wolves coach and a would-be Wolves coach, if you are scoring at home and still looking for a Timberwolves connection).
(Photo from 2001 preseason Star Tribune photo shoot. We just rediscovered it, and it is magic).
We don’t know how serious this is. We don’t know if it’s the same wrist that limited Byron Buxton this season. All we know is we saw these two tweets about Buxton from MLB.com’s William Boor. We’ll see what happens from there:
— William Boor (@wboor) October 27, 2014
Buxton was taken to clubhouse. Will report anything I learn postgame. #AFL14
— William Boor (@wboor) October 27, 2014
|Tampa Bay||11/2/14 12:00 PM|
|Arizona||11/2/14 12:00 PM|
|Philadelphia||11/2/14 12:00 PM|
|NY Jets||11/2/14 12:00 PM|
|Jacksonville||11/2/14 12:00 PM|
|San Diego||11/2/14 12:00 PM|
|Washington||11/2/14 12:00 PM|
|St. Louis||11/2/14 3:05 PM|
|Denver||11/2/14 3:25 PM|
|Oakland||11/2/14 3:25 PM|
|Baltimore||11/2/14 7:30 PM|
|Indianapolis||11/3/14 7:30 PM|
|Oklahoma City||85||4th Qtr 2:11|
|(2) Florida State||42||FINAL|
|Cincinnati||10/31/14 7:00 PM|
|Tulsa||10/31/14 7:02 PM|
|Air Force||11/1/14 10:30 AM|
|ULM||11/1/14 11:00 AM|
|(19) Oklahoma||11/1/14 11:00 AM|
|Northwestern||11/1/14 11:00 AM|
|(24) Duke||11/1/14 11:00 AM|
|Maryland||11/1/14 11:00 AM|
|Wisconsin||11/1/14 11:00 AM|
|Rice||11/1/14 11:00 AM|
|(21) East Carolina||11/1/14 11:00 AM|
|UCF||11/1/14 11:00 AM|
|Boston College||11/1/14 11:30 AM|
|North Carolina||11/1/14 11:30 AM|
|Washington||11/1/14 12:00 PM|
|Central Mich||11/1/14 12:00 PM|
|Western Mich||11/1/14 1:30 PM|
|Western Ky||11/1/14 2:00 PM|
|NC State||11/1/14 2:00 PM|
|Virginia||11/1/14 2:30 PM|
|Purdue||11/1/14 2:30 PM|
|BYU||11/1/14 2:30 PM|
|(10) TCU||11/1/14 2:30 PM|
|(20) West Virginia|
|Indiana||11/1/14 2:30 PM|
|Florida||11/1/14 2:30 PM|
|Georgia State||11/1/14 2:30 PM|
|Kentucky||11/1/14 3:00 PM|
|Kansas||11/1/14 3:00 PM|
|Texas State||11/1/14 3:00 PM|
|New Mexico St|
|Houston||11/1/14 3:00 PM|
|USC||11/1/14 3:30 PM|
|Arkansas State||11/1/14 4:00 PM|
|South Alabama||11/1/14 4:00 PM|
|New Mexico||11/1/14 4:30 PM|
|UAB||11/1/14 6:00 PM|
|(4) Auburn||11/1/14 6:00 PM|
|(7) Ole Miss|
|Old Dominion||11/1/14 6:00 PM|
|Colorado State||11/1/14 6:00 PM|
|San Jose St|
|Arkansas||11/1/14 6:15 PM|
|(1) Miss State|
|Stanford||11/1/14 6:30 PM|
|Tennessee||11/1/14 6:30 PM|
|Texas||11/1/14 6:30 PM|
|Southern Miss||11/1/14 7:00 PM|
|(6) Notre Dame||11/1/14 7:00 PM|
|Oklahoma State||11/1/14 7:00 PM|
|(11) Kansas State|
|Illinois||11/1/14 7:00 PM|
|(13) Ohio State|
|(14) Arizona||11/1/14 9:30 PM|
|California||11/1/14 9:30 PM|
|San Diego St||11/1/14 9:30 PM|
|Wyoming||11/1/14 9:45 PM|
|(18) Utah||11/1/14 10:00 PM|
|(15) Arizona State|
|Utah State||11/1/14 10:00 PM|
|Bowling Green||11/4/14 7:00 PM|
|Toledo||11/4/14 7:00 PM|
|Buffalo||11/5/14 7:00 PM|
|Northern Ill||11/5/14 7:00 PM|
|(22) Clemson||11/6/14 6:30 PM|
|Sporting Kansas City||1||FINAL|
|Red Bull New York||2|
|Hamilton||10/31/14 6:30 PM|
|Winnipeg||11/1/14 3:00 PM|
|Brt Columbia||11/1/14 6:00 PM|
|Toronto||11/2/14 11:00 AM|
|Ottawa||11/7/14 6:00 PM|
|Calgary||11/7/14 9:00 PM|
|Montreal||11/8/14 3:00 PM|
|Edmonton||11/8/14 6:00 PM|