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The Gophers women’s basketball teams’ mid-year swoon, which included four losses in five games to drop their Big Ten record to 6-5, has given way to a torrid stretch as Minnesota heads down the stretch run of its regular season.
The Gophers have won five consecutive games — scoring at least 85 points in every victory (and allowing at least 77 in every game, too) — to sit at 11-5 in conference play, tied for third in the standings.
As a result, Minnesota has moved up in the NCAA tournament bracket projections as well. The Gophers were still teetering a week ago as a No. 10 seed in ESPN’s projections; this week, after big wins over Iowa and Michigan, they’re a much firmer No. 7 seed.
With two more games to go — at likely NCAA tourney teams Nebraska and Iowa — Minnesota figures to be locked into the NCAA field.
The big question now is whether the Gophers can finish in the top four in the Big Ten and make their conference tournament path easier. That will be difficult considering their two tough road games to finish the year, but the Gophers have also shown all year that — in spite of losing Rachel Banham — they can’t be counted out.
There is a nagging suspicion that Adrian Peterson, even as he approaches 30 in a month, is primed for a strong 2015 season. Peterson has always been best when motivated (see: his rookie year of 2007 after getting passed over in the draft and 2012, coming off the major knee injury), and this year he has the added benefit of rest.
(The counter-argument is that rest=rust and Peterson might not be in prime shape, but it’s a long time between now and September).
The practical Vikings fan might think, “If Peterson has 1 or 2 more good-to-great years left in him, it sure would be nice if they were in purple instead of another uniform.” With Teddy Bridgewater on a rookie contract, the Vikings aren’t paying their QB much and could theoretically afford to keep a running back with a very high cap number.
Another bit of logic — and history, since it happened with Randy Moss, Daunte Culpepper and Percy Harvin — suggests that once a relationship sours between the Vikings and a player, the next course of action is to part ways.
This might be a relationship damaged beyond repair on both sides. The Vikings are probably still uneasy about some of the public relations battle that would ensue by bringing Peterson back. Peterson — who brought all of this on himself, let’s not forget — is battling through a perceived slight from the Vikings because they apparently didn’t stand by him 100 percent as he faced scrutiny for whipping his young son.
Right and wrong is not hard to discern here, but it doesn’t matter much. Peterson’s stance gives the Vikings the “out” they quite possibly wanted anyway. It might make trading him a little harder, but it could make their decision even easier.
And maybe, as crazy as this would have sounded at this time last year, the two sides are simply better off moving on from each other.
P.S.: KG is with the Wolves, Torii Hunter is with the Twins and Peterson could soon be gone from the Vikings. Just another reminder to never say never.
B.J. Upton has had a terrible couple of years with Atlanta, hovering below or near the Mendoza Line while putting up positively Punto-esque OPS numbers.
So now B.J. Upton is going by Melvin Upton. But it’s not because he’s been terrible or needs a fresh start (except that it probably is).
“This has nothing to do with starting a new chapter,” he told reporters. “I just wanted to. My father thought enough to give me his name, so why not?” Upton will use his birth name this season after long going by B.J., short for Bossman — his father, Manny’s, nickname — Junior. Upton’s full name is Melvin Emanuel Upton. Upton said Monday that most of his friends already call him “Mel or Melvin.” “Nobody really calls me B.J., except at the stadium,” he said.
That all makes sense, but … still, it will be nice for him to tell people, “I hit .184 in 2013? Nah, wasn’t me. That was B.J.” The sad face in all this is that his brother Justin Upton, who hasn’t been terrible and who used to play for the Braves before signing with the Padres, will get tangled up in all the name confusion.
Over the weekend, Bleacher Report surfaced a video suggesting Adrian Peterson — according to an anonymous, high-ranking NFL official — wants to be traded from the Vikings to the Cowboys.
That report came not too long after an ESPN story in which Peterson said he was “uneasy” about rejoining the Vikings.
On Monday, there was this beauty: Peterson’s agent and Vikings vice president of football operations Rob Brzezinski reportedly had a heated exchange at the NFL Combine, during which the agent (Ben Dogra) reportedly said Peterson would never play for the Vikings again.
So what’s really going on here?
Well, the short answer is this: leverage is power, and for a long time Peterson has had neither. He’s in a limbo state, a no-man’s-land, as he waits for the NFL to reinstate him and presumably waits for the Vikings to decide what they want to do with him.
When you’re a superstar, you’re not used to being without leverage. So Peterson is trying to create some, first by suggesting not everything is square between he and the Vikings (thus attempting to make the decision about bringing Peterson back not just a matter of Minnesota’s preference) and then by planting a story about a possible trade (this was probably Peterson’s reps, but it’s all part of the same puzzle in trying to make it seem like a man with few options has more). The Combine story is just icing on the cake.
The Vikings still have more leverage — Peterson is under contract, and if he wants to get paid in 2015 ultimately the Vikings control his fate — but the earlier AP starts painting a picture that he doesn’t want to be in Minnesota (true or not), the less it seems like the Vikings are really in control.
The Vikings will counter by denying everything while — probably — quietly exploring options to see if they can trade Peterson for acceptable value. Our guess is the Vikings aren’t 100 percent sold on wanting Peterson back, and knowing he’s not sold either will make it easier to part ways.
But the Vikings can’t say all that because they want to preserve Peterson’s trade value — again, that pesky leverage, which is what the power business of the NFL is all about.
The upshot of these reports is this: whereas we were once starting to become convinced Peterson would be back with the Vikings in 2015, now we are not nearly as sure.
Fans gobbled up tickets for Friday night’s Wolves game against the Suns in anticipation that Kevin Garnett — for whom Minnesota traded on Thursday — would be making his return in that game. There were a few low grumbles from the masses when they found out he was, in fact, not going to play until Wednesday’s game against Washington at Target Center.
Mostly, though, there was genuine excitement Friday … and a lot of fans wearing rumpled KG jerseys. A couple of fans said they bought Garnett jerseys at thrift stores recently; another said he dug his old childhood KG jersey out of a box in his parents’ basement. It used to be way too big; now it’s a perfect fit.
Whether KG is a perfect fit back with the Wolves remains to be seen. The hope and goal on the Wolves’ part is that Garnett will mentor the bevy of young players on the team while also providing a measure of defense and toughness to a team that often has lacked both. We were never blown away by Thad Young — the player the Wolves traded for Garnett — and we consider, skill-for-skill, the deal to be about a wash even though Garnett is 12 years older and at the tail end of his career. For what the Wolves need right now on the court, Garnett is a better fit.
That said, there are some who worry that 1) this is nothing more than a nostalgia tour and 2) that his presence in the locker room will be too much for the young players if they can’t accept his brand of tough love.
We’re going to give this the benefit of the doubt. If Garnett can play 20 minutes a night — ideally divided up roughly as 7 minutes at the start of the game, another 7 minutes at the start of the second half and the final 6 minutes of the game — while hitting the right notes in the locker room, this will have been a worthy move. We don’t even mind the idea of an extended Garnett reunion tour beyond this season.
And if it fails? At least it’s fun.
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