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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TFD: Timberwolves reportedly willing to trade Thad Young

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated January 16th at 6:18pm 288865881

youngThe logic when the Wolves and Cavaliers involved the 76ers in their summer trade in which the big pieces were Kevin Love and Andrew Wiggins was this on Minnesota’s end: Philadelphia was willing to part with power forward Thad Young, who could replace Love’s minutes on a young, rebuilding team. Philadelphia took a couple of contracts off Minnesota’s hands and received a real asset, too: a top-10 protected pick in 2015 from Miami.

The Wolves could have had that pick instead of Young had they kept the trade simply between two teams (though they presumably wouldn’t have been able to offload those contracts). Some think the Wolves would have been better off keeping the pick, though some of that is hindsight now that the Wolves’ season has descended more rapidly into a full scale rebuild thanks to injuries to several key veterans.

Whatever you think of the original trade, there is now this: Marc Stein from ESPN is reporting the Wolves are willing to trade Young, and it sounds like Brooklyn is a suitor.

Dealing Young now makes some sense. He’s a useful player and a good guy. But he also has a player option next year at around $10 million, money the Wolves could conceivably spend on other assets while hoping Anthony Bennett or someone else grabs hold of the power forward spot in the future.

That said, if the Wolves aren’t able to get a real asset in return for Young, those who were scratching their heads over bringing Young to Minnesota in the first place are going to be looking smarter.

Nuclear Wessel: Sunday is a beautiful day for football

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated January 16th at 2:57pm 288859161

nuclearDana Wessel is a part of the Go96.3 Morning Show and an all-around good guy.

Welcome back, Nuclear Warheads for another face-melting edition of the most popular Premier League preview blog on the Star Tribune website.

My apologies for the lack of post last week. I appreciate the all the cards and singing telegrams.

This weekend’s slate is kind of a slow-burn until the big match on Sunday. What a day Sunday will be, by the way. Manchester City vs Arsenal + NFC/AFC Championship games. Beautiful.

It’s also kind of an odd schedule this weekend. No early match so there is no need to set your alarm for 6:45. That means a lot of matches bunched together at 9:00 am. Chelsea and Liverpool are only on NBC Sports Extra so this is your advance notice to get to a bar or try to track down your NBC login information.

Alright, onto the matches!

No. 1: QPR vs Manchester United at Loftus Road

When: Saturday at 9:00AM on NBC Sports Network

Last year: The last time these two teams met was February of 2013. It was a simpler time. Before selfie sticks and before that one chick embarrassed herself on the Oscar nominations ceremony by calling the guy Dick Poop. Anyway, United won 2-0. Ryan Giggs scored a goal and it probably caused all United stand up and yell “GIGGGGGSSYYYY!!! LEGEND!!! DERP!!!!”

Remember David Moyes? The guy who replaced Sir Alex Ferguson last season and drove United into the ground, causing them to miss out on Champions League? Remember how fans hung banners at Old Trafford demanding he be fired?

Well, they have the exact same point total today than they did at this point last season! Party on, Luis van Gaal!

This year may feel differently for United, mainly because they sit in 4th right now (were 7th at this point last year) because none of the other fringe top-4 teams have bothered to string some results together. Their spot in the table may sound nice but it is a total misnomer. They are closer to Stoke City in 11th (11 points) than they are league-leaders Chelsea (12 points).

So lets all cool on the “UNITED ARE BACK!” discussion that even I contributed to a few weeks back*.

*I wish I could say I was trying to reverse jinx them, but that would be a lie. And I never lie. Only exceptions are my goal total during my U-12 soccer season and that I was Macaulay Culkin’s stunt-double in Home Alone 2. Both lies always impress chicks.

United are winless in the league since Boxing Day, a stretch that includes a home loss to Southampton last week. They have a soft schedule through February where they will need to make some hay.

They start with the newly-promoted QPR that has proven to be the abject failure we all knew they would be. They even lost to Burnley last week. Anytime you let Burnley get over on you it might be time to start preparing for life back in the Championship.

Highly unlikely United find a way to mess this one up. Not expecting a lot of entertainment out of this one. It is on TV by default, because you can’t put Liverpool/Chelsea on TV every week and because Spurs v Burnley sounds about as exciting as deleting  the backlog of voicemails on your cell phone.

No. 2: Newcastle vs Southampton at St James’ Park

When: Saturday at 11:30am on Big Boy NBC

Last year: 1-1 draw for these two a year ago up at Newcastle. Sounds riveting. If you have a copy of that game on VHS I bet you could make a fortune on eBay.

Whoooooaaaaa babies! Did I mention the matches on Saturday were a bit stale?

It is hilarious that this match is on the Big Boy NBC. I get that scheduling stuff on a major television network is tougher than I like to assume it is, and they don’t sit around and try to cater to my personal tastes. That being said, you spend all this money on the rights to the league and you roll out Newcastle/Sunderland as one of the matches you put on over-the-air TV?

Obviously I am exaggerating a bit; this one will be a fun match. The ‘ARE SOUTHAMPTON FOR REAL TOUR!?!’ tour continues with its next stop at St James Park*. With wins against United and Arsenal and a draw with Chelsea, it might be time to transition to the SOUTHAMPTON ARE FOR REAL TOUR!!!

*Quick thought. You know how Newcastle are always in need of cash? Why not sell the naming rights to their grounds to Universal for the next 6 months and name the place St JURASSIC Park leading up to the release of Jurassic World in June? Genius. I better get a cut of the cash when they strike the deal.

Every year there are the teams that that have a hot run early (typically thanks to a friendly fixture list) and everyone jumps out with hot takes about whether they are or are not for real. They never are. But the Southampton situation seems different. The table usually settles around early December with any and all non-big club hopefuls having their top-4 dreams dashed before the calendar flips.

Everyone looked at the Chelsea/Arsenal/United stretch as the point where they would return to their post as a 6-10 side but the Saints made it through with 7 of a possible 9 points. After being that surprise team that faded in December a year ago, Ronald Koeman’s men appear to be here to stay.

They will be up against it a bit Saturday. St JURASSIC Park is always a tough place to play. Just ask league-leaders Chelsea. However, their last time out at home they drew Burnley 3-3. In their two matches since, they lost to Leicester City in the FA Cup and allowed to Chelsea to get revenge at Stamford Bridge.

A draw makes sense here but I want this run for Southampton to continue and them to finish with a Champions League spot. There aren’t enough genuine surprises in the way the Premier League table shakes out each year and this would definitely qualify. Also, it just means one less spot for United/Arsenal/Spurs/Liverpool. That is neat!

No. 3: Manchester City vs Arsenal at Etihad Stadium

When: Sunday at 10:00am on NBC Sports Network

Last year: Oh, man remember this one? Finished with a 6-3 baseball score last December. This match knocked Arsenal out of first place for the first time since August. They would reclaim the top spot before falling out of first for good in February after losing to Liverpool 5-1. Then in March a 6-0 loss to Chelsea would drop them all the way to 4th. Hey Arsenal fans — do you like movies starring Jeff Bridges and Tommy Lee Jones? Because you got BLOWN AWAY a lot last season! Boom. Nailed it.

Ah, here we go. The premier (no pun intended) match of the weekend and a perfect appetizer before we eat ALL the wings and drink ALL the beers during NFL Championship Sunday.

City sit second in the league and could find themselves top of the table with a win and help from Swansea. Arsenal sit fifth and could find themselves in the top four with a win and help from QPR.

These two met back in September at the Emirates in what the English like to call an absolute cracker. It finished 2-2 after Arsenal fell behind, took the lead, and gave up a late equalizer.

City dropped points last week at Everton, but that shouldn’t take away on the incredible run they are on. They haven’t lost in the league since a 2-1 defeat to West Ham back in October. October was like last year. They closed the 8-point gap that Chelsea jumped out to pretty quickly, but now sit two points behind the leaders because of that aforementioned draw against the Toffees.

Arsenal have been no slouches lately, either. Other than their loss at Southampton on New Year’s Day, the most embarrassing mishap for them lately was Arsene Wenger having trouble zipping his sleeping bag of a jacket.

This match kinda previews itself. It is a doozie. We all know it, They all know it. And the next chapter in what has started to become a bit of a bitter rivalry. The oddsmakers like a 1-1 draw as the most likely result but I have a hunch* this one will have a winner.

*Remember: hunches and feelings are always better than any and all advanced statistics and actual analysis.

Also, if any Aresnal fans have read this far after I SCORCHED them with that Jeff Bridges/Tommy Lee Jones joke, I would like to give my honest thanks and invite you out for oysters and PBRs. Thanks for being good sports.

Alrighty, that’ll do it for this week. Enjoy the weekend of matches. Remember to tip your waiters, waitresses and bartenders at your favorite soccer bar. They don’t necessarily enjoy getting up that early to serve us surly soccer fans. Let them know you appreciate it.

Until next time, may your oranges always be sliced and your bottle of magic spray always be full.

Twins sign four arbitration-eligible players, including Trevor Plouffe (1 year, $4.8 million)

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated January 16th at 3:05pm 288851941

plouffeFour down, two to go.

The Twins on Friday announced they have come to terms on one-year contacts with four arbitration-eligible players, including starting third baseman Trevor Plouffe.

Plouffe will make $4.8 million in 2015; the other three signees: left-handed pitcher Tommy Milone, a candidate for the final spot in the Twins’ rotation, will make $2.775 million; right-handed reliever Casey Fien will make $1.375 million; and utility player Eduardo Nunez will make $1.025 million.

That leaves left-handed pitcher Brian Duensing and outfielder Jordan Schafer as the two remaining arbitration-eligible players who have not yet come to terms with the Twins.

Plouffe, 28, has been considered for a couple years to be a placeholder for Miguel Sano at third base. But in 2014, he had his best all-around season in a Twins uniform, making a case that he has a long-term future with the club as well.

Plouffe had 40 doubles and a team-high 80 RBI while improving on defense to the point that advanced metrics show he’s gone from being a liability to above-average at third base. Twins Daily has a good breakdown of his improvement at the position.

Milone was largely ineffective in five starts for the Twins after coming over from Oakland, but he had 25 wins with a 3.92 ERA combined for the A’s in 2012 and 2013 and would give Minnesota  a left-handed option in a rotation that is otherwise stacked with righties.

Fien’s strikeout numbers regressed in 2014, but at $1.375 million he remains a reasonable bullpen option at a low cost. Nunez hit .250 in 2014 while playing all over the infield and outfield.

Friday (Mel Kiper has Vikings taking Louisville WR) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated January 16th at 3:41pm 288827771

devanteOutside of quarterback and maybe tight end, it’s conceivable that every spot on the field is a “position of need” that could be addressed by the Vikings with a high draft pick.

Running back? If Adrian Peterson doesn’t return, that a hole. Wide receiver? The stalled development of Cordarrelle Patterson and the desire to get Teddy Bridgewater more playmakers makes that a candidate. Offensive line? No doubt. Defensive line? Brian Robison will be 32 before the start of next year, and the interior line can always use more help. Linebacker? Anthony Barr is the real deal, but other spots are up for grabs. Secondary? Even with improvement last season, the Vikings could upgrade at corner and safety.

As such, mock drafts are pretty much impossible right now. And they will continue to be impossible for the Vikings right up until the time the draft actually starts and we see who is available at No. 11.

Mel Kiper Jr. acknowledges this much in his first 2015 mock draft for ESPN, which just came out Thursday. But he has to make predictions anyway, and the one he came up with for the Vikings is intriguing even if it means nothing right now.

Kiper has Minnesota taking Louisville WR Devante Parker at that first-round slot. Parker played all four years in college and is, of course, a former teammate of Bridgewater’s with the Cardinals.

In many ways, he seems to be the receiving equivalent of Teddy: above-average in almost every area, though not exceptional — a well-rounded, high-character player.

Writes Kiper: Teddy Bridgewater showed he can be the long-term answer at quarterback if his development continues, and while there are also questions along the offensive line, Parker is a tantalizing talent at this point, as I think some teams will have him graded as the best receiver in this draft class once they’ve wrapped up evaluations. This is A.J. Green lite, and he’s not that lite. Parker doesn’t just have the leaping ability and length to go up and get it and beat even longer defensive backs at the catch point, he can create space with his short-area explosiveness underneath. Teddy needs another weapon. Here he is.

To be honest, we’d much rather see the Vikings spend the pick on an offensive lineman. But if drafting Louisville players becomes GM Rick Spielman’s new fascination — as opposed to just Notre Dame players — the track record so far is pretty good.

TFD: From bad to worse for Kevin Love in Cleveland

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated January 16th at 6:01am 288744101

loveWe swear we’re not trying to pile on here. But goodness, the national stuff coming out on the Cavaliers and Kevin Love just keeps getting worse. The latest we’ve read comes from ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst, and the portion on Love — coming after Love was benched for the fourth quarter in a loss to Phoenix, the Cavs’ 9th in their past 10 games — isn’t pretty:

His defense has been predictably shoddy much of the time, but as a team, the Cavs’ transition defense and overall communication are routinely abysmal. The Cavs got down by 19 against the Suns before making a comeback, mostly without Love, but James and Kyrie Irving‘s combined 13 turnovers were more of a culprit than Love’s defensive issues.

On offense, where Love should be a monster, he hasn’t been very often.

“I’ve seen Kevin fall down with the ball more times this season than the rest of his career combined because he’s always in positions where he’s uncomfortable and he’s forced into trying to make some sort of move to get a shot, and that has never been his game,” said one veteran NBA coach. “They almost never put him in position to get the ball that he did in his last few years in Minnesota and I can’t figure out why.”

So Love is the same guy on defense, but he’s being used improperly on offense. A lot of that is on the Cavs, but Love is bearing much of the criticism. Windhorst concludes at the end of the piece:

They are still a long way from having a lost season. But, wow, are they a long way off course.

If it gets worse, we’ll alert Stu that there’s a new candidate for the Increasingly Lost Season feature.

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Team Irvin 19 2nd Qtr 0:14
Team Carter 20
Miami 96 FINAL
Chicago 84
Oklahoma City 98 FINAL
Cleveland 108
Dallas 106 FINAL
New Orleans 109
Indiana 106 FINAL
Orlando 99
LA Clippers 120 FINAL
Phoenix 100
Minnesota 100 FINAL
Atlanta 112
Detroit 110 FINAL
Toronto 114
Milwaukee 95 FINAL
San Antonio 101
Boston 60 3rd Qtr 5:58
Golden State 70
Washington 69 3rd Qtr 5:44
Denver 75
Houston 8:30 PM
LA Lakers
Team Toews 17 FINAL
Team Foligno 12
South Florida 53 FINAL
Connecticut 66
Boston College 64 FINAL
Georgia Tech 62
Virginia 50 FINAL
Virginia Tech 47
Indiana 70 FINAL
Ohio State 82
Stony Brook 61 FINAL
Binghamton 54
Cincinnati 56 FINAL
UCF 46
Maine 70 FINAL
Hartford 61
Monmouth 64 FINAL
Manhattan 71
Fairfield 67 FINAL
Marist 73
Rowan 48 FINAL
Princeton 96
St Bonaventure 48 FINAL
Rhode Island 53
Duke 77 FINAL
St Johns 68
Saint Peters 69 FINAL
Siena 55
Drake 40 FINAL
Wichita State 74
Vermont 61 FINAL
UMass Lowell 50
Seton Hall 57 FINAL
Butler 77
NJIT 72 FINAL
South Alabama 55
Northern Iowa 54 FINAL
Illinois State 53
Louisville 80 FINAL
Pittsburgh 68
UMBC 55 FINAL
Albany 69
Niagara 64 FINAL
Iona 87
Notre Dame 81 FINAL
NC State 78
Belmont 63 FINAL
Tennessee St 55
Creighton 50 FINAL
Villanova 71
Northwestern 65 2nd Half 1:05
Maryland 62
Washington 30 2nd Half
Utah 37
Senior-North 34 FINAL
Senior-South 13
Seton Hall 99 FINAL
Georgetown 85
St Johns 69 FINAL
Villanova 81
Arkansas 58 FINAL
Florida 72
Maine 56 FINAL
UMBC 42
Vanderbilt 55 FINAL
Alabama 52
Lafayette 60 FINAL
Lehigh 65
UCF 61 FINAL
SMU 57
Utah 51 FINAL
Washington 63
James Madison 73 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 53
Delaware 56 FINAL
Drexel 61
Hofstra 56 FINAL
William & Mary 57
Hartford 58 FINAL
Albany 82
Binghamton 54 FINAL
Stony Brook 67
Towson 63 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 71
Wake Forest 80 FINAL
(17) Florida State 110
Georgia Tech 68 FINAL
Virginia 62
(22) Georgia 51 FINAL
(5) Tennessee 59
Drake 79 FINAL
Evansville 62
Iona 80 FINAL
Canisius 62
Fairfield 33 FINAL
Monmouth 59
Northwestern 75 FINAL
Penn State 76
Wisconsin 71 FINAL
Michigan State 77
Ohio State 79 FINAL
Purdue 71
Northern Iowa 57 FINAL
Indiana State 55
Butler 58 FINAL
Xavier 54
Creighton 93 FINAL
Marquette 75
Providence 42 FINAL
DePaul 90
Northeastern 77 FINAL
Elon 80
(2) Connecticut 96 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Oregon 78 FINAL
Arizona 81
Bradley 46 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 45
NC State 49 FINAL
(23) Syracuse 66
(7) Maryland 84 FINAL
Indiana 74
Illinois State 35 FINAL
Missouri State 58
Colorado 68 FINAL
Washington St 73
Tulane 45 FINAL
South Florida 64
(14) Kentucky 83 FINAL
Missouri 69
(9) Oregon State 68 FINAL
(13) Arizona State 57
Vermont 63 FINAL
UMass Lowell 72
Iowa State 58 FINAL
(8) Texas 57
Southern Ill 61 FINAL
Wichita State 80
(15) Duke 74 FINAL
(12) North Carolina 67
Miami-Florida 55 FINAL
(4) Louisville 68
(21) Minnesota 61 FINAL
(25) Rutgers 66
California 72 FINAL
UCLA 57
(11) Stanford 54 2nd Half 9:37
USC 41

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