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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Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer weighs in on 'Deflategate'

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated January 21st at 2:10pm 289342011

zimmerVikings head coach Mike Zimmer is a no-nonsense guy who doesn’t look for a lot of excuses when it comes to winning and losing. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that Zimmer — when asked Wednesday at the Senior Bowl about the ball deflation controversy that has emerged in the wake of the Patriots’ AFC title game thrashing of the Colts — wasn’t buying it.

I think it was like 41-7, right?” Zimmer said, according to NFL.com“I don’t think the balls had a lot to do with it.”

Well, 45-7, but point taken. That said, the Vikings were EMBROILED IN CONTROVERSY over a somewhat similar ball situation earlier this season (and by that we mean it passed with barely a whimper aside from a warning and reminder from the league), when sideline attendants were shown heating footballs against league rules during Minnesota’s freezing 31-13 win over the Panthers.

Forbes: Timberwolves' franchise value jumped from $430 million last year to $625 million this year

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated January 21st at 12:59pm 289331231

wolvesForbes Magazine annually compiles sports franchise value data, and the numbers for the NBA came out this week. The league — which announced a massive new TV deal in October, jumping from less than $1 billion per year to more than $2.6 billion per year — figured to see some large gains in franchise values.

But the numbers that came out Wednesday are eye-opening even when accounting for expectations. The average value of franchises jumped a whopping 72 percent from last year to this year, per Forbes.

The Timberwolves’ increase wasn’t quite that dramatic, but it is still quite sharp: a 45 percent increase, from $430 million in 2014 to $625 million in 2015. While that value puts Minnesota 29th among the 30 NBA franchises (only the Bucks are valued lower), it is the continuation of a sharp upward trend for the Wolves.

For most of the mid-to-late-2000s, the Wolves hovered around a $300 million value mark. The recession and NBA work stoppage dropped the Wolves to down to $264 million in 2011 (their lowest value since 2004) and it increased only modestly to $272 million in 2012.

From there, though, it jumped to $364 million in 2013, $430 in 2014 and now $625 million. That’s a 130 percent increase in just three years, which certainly brings a smile to the face of team owner Glen Taylor (who also owns the Star Tribune).

Of course, the valuation doesn’t mean much unless it moves the needle on a potential sale price for the team. Kevin Garnett better start saving his money.

Wednesday (Faith in Pitino being tested) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated January 21st at 10:23am 289307231

pitinoRichard Pitino was hired as Gophers men’s baskeball coach in April of 2013, a couple weeks after Tubby Smith was fired. Smith was jettisoned right after leading Minnesota to its first NCAA tournament victory since 1997 and its first non-vacated NCAA tourney win since 1990. The sentiment — which still seems like the proper one — is that Smith had taken the program as far as he was going to take it. There was a level of stagnation with the players and apathy in the Barn.

Pitino was brought in, and the presumption was it would take some time for him to bring in players to fit his style — that the program might need to take a short-term step back in order to take a larger step forward in the long-term.

Last year’s Gophers team went 8-10 in the Big Ten and was probably one win away from making the NCAA tourney. Instead, Minnesota went to the NIT and won that tournament for a 25-win season that fueled all sorts of optimism going into this year. Instead, the year has descended into a 1-6 Big Ten start — one punctuated by as ugly a game as you might want to watch Tuesday, a 52-49 loss at Nebraska that our own Amelia Rayno aptly described for the Gophers as playing “only a little bit  worse than their opponent.”

Earlier this week, before that loss, Pitino suggested last year’s team had overachieved and re-asserted that he wasn’t the one who set expectations for this year’s team. On the first point: maybe so, though Pitino still had some nice leftover pieces (namely Andre and Austin Hollins) left over from Smith’s NCAA tourney team.

This year’s problems are myriad. The Gophers have had eligibility issues, a transfer kicked off the team, a current player transfer and still another get in trouble with the law. The core of the team, though, has remained intact and reasonably healthy. If last year’s team overachieved, this year’s bunch has underachieved.

All the close losses and ugly stretches have served to test the patience of the Gophers faithful, particularly when it comes to the second-year head coach. The grumbling starts with this: if the Gophers are 1-6 this year, what are they going to be like next year when they lose their two most established guards (Andre Hollins and DeAndre Mathieu) and their two most established big men (Mo Walker and Elliott Eliason) to graduation.

The counter to that is those players have faltered in key situations this year and perhaps the next wave will be better. More likely, though, is that this rebuild won’t start to really take off until Year 4, when Pitino has a roster full of his players, and they have a measure of Big Ten experience.

That’s a long time to be patient — fans and administration alike — and it will offer plenty of time to compare Pitino to his predecessor. Pitino’s Big Ten regular-season record stands at 9-16 (.360) as of now. Conference record was one of the biggest knocks on Tubby, who finished at 46-62 (.426).

It’s fair for Pitino to preach patience because this will take time, but it’s also fair to start looking at his tenure through a more critical eye as we measure whether true progress is being made.

Jim Harbaugh once poured Gatorade on his cereal because he was out of milk

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated January 20th at 1:01pm 289191331

harbaughMichigan just announced the hiring of Jay Harbaugh — Jim’s son — as the team’s new tight ends/assistant special teams coach. He worked last year with the Ravens (and his uncle, John).

As part of the release announcing the hire, Michigan included a 3-minute “get to know him” video for the 25-year-old. That video provides some keen insights into Jim Harbaugh, as it turns out, including this just past the 2 minute mark when Jay was asked to tell the viewing audience something about his dad that they probably didn’t know:

“For some reason, the first thing I thought of when you asked that is one time when I was a kid and we didn’t have any milk for cereal, and I saw him put Gatorade in the cereal instead of milk. It was the weirdest thing I ever saw.”

It’s really hard to imagine any flavor of Gatorade and any type of cereal that would go together well, but you’re welcome to give us some suggestions in the comments.

Meet the fan who trolled the Packers with 'HAHAHAHA' sign at Wild game

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated January 20th at 6:45pm 289162301

ryanrhodyThe Wild lost 3-1 to Columbus at Xcel Energy Center on Monday, but during and after the game most people weren’t talking about what was happening on the ice.

Rather, they were fixated on a fan seated directly behind tthe Wild’s bench holding a simple but memorable sign that read: “HAHAHAHA PACKER FANS.” We tweeted about it, as did countless others. The fan — 31-year-old Ryan Rhody of St. Paul — earned instant Internet fame and heard himself being talked about Tuesday morning on ESPN’s SportsCenter. He was also kind enough to chat with us Tuesday to paint a fuller picture of his big night and big idea.

As you might imagine, Rhody is a big Vikings fan — he went to 13 games in person this season, including five on the road — and an equally big anti-Packers fan. Sunday’s NFC title game was about as good as it gets for him, he said.

“I hate the Packers fans more than anything. So I will do anything to chirp them in any way possible,” Rhody said. “With the amount of texts and Facebook messages I got when they were (ahead on Sunday). This was my way to laugh right back at them.”

So Rhody made the sign and headed to the game with his sister and parents.

“I didn’t tell anybody,” he said. “I just pulled it out of my jacket right when the game started. And it just went nuts.”

Indeed, it kept coming in waves on social media every time there was a fresh shot on TV of the Wild’s bench, with Rhody and his sign perched just to the side of head coach Mike Yeo. But Rhody — who says he has made plenty of signs for games before but never experienced anything like this — didn’t anticipate just how popular he would become Monday night.

“I had easlily 20,000 tweets or retweets. I couldn’t even keep up with my Twitter,” he said. “My phone went from 70 percent battery down to 7 percent like nothing. I got like 200 or 300 texts. My phone died and I turned it back on. In that time I had 120 texts in 45 minutes.”

Some of it was backlash from Packers fans, but most of it was positive — either from Vikings fans or neutral parties who thought it was funny.

It will be hard to top in the future, but Rhody already has some ideas. He’s going to be in Arizona during the Super Bowl, which offers a much bigger stage than a Wild game.

“I don’t have tickets yet. I wouldn’t go if Green Bay was there,” Rhody said. “I’ve had the trip planned for over a month. I think I can figure out a way to do something good at the Super Bowl.”

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