Friday, Oct. 18, 2019


 

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Downtown Safety Concerns Wolves Owner

October 16, 2019 - (0) comments

 

A week from Sunday night the NBA Timberwolves open their home regular season schedule at Target Center against the Miami Heat. Many of the Wolves’ customers will be concerned about safety in downtown Minneapolis for that game and the 40 other home dates to follow.

Patrons of city-owned Target Center and many other places downtown are alarmed by the shootings, beatings, harassment and other abhorrent behavior by thugs who roam downtown streets, say and do what they want, and threaten the well-being of defenseless men, women and children.

The environment in a once great downtown and admired city has changed with a population of troublemakers who brazenly do everything from panhandling to stealing to inflicting physical harm and property damage. A downtown proprietor told Sports Headliners about his building being spray painted with graffiti and his entrance doors frequently being urinated upon. Another person confirmed she and her workers are funneled off the street into a protected place to ensure their safe arrival.

Downtown business leaders, and the police, want more cops hired in the city, maybe even 400 additional law enforcement officers. The City Council, though, hasn’t approved additional hires and many skeptics don’t think it will. Critics say the Council just thinks differently. “They’re on another plane,” a former city official said.

Downtown businesses provide huge revenues to the city via commercial property taxes, and contributing significantly too are the customers who generate sales tax revenues. Without those monies the City Council would have a much different Minneapolis budget to work with. “They (the Council) are killing the Golden Goose,” the source quoted above said.

Glen Taylor

Glen Taylor has owned the Timberwolves for about 25 years and he has seen the deterioration of downtown. “The safety of our fans downtown at night is of the utmost importance for us,” he told Sports Headliners. “Not to have the proper law enforcement people out there to at least discourage any bad things to happen is just the wrong way to go. I hope the City Council will get in line and help support this idea (of) getting more law enforcement downtown for not only us but for all the events down there.”

Taylor is knowledgeable about his customer base, including families with young children. They may think twice about attending a Wolves game. Perception is enough to frighten fans, even if they haven’t been traumatized by past experiences. Taylor said, “…It just keeps them from coming downtown because they’re frightened that it (an incident) might happen to them.”

Worth Noting

Taylor’s other team, the WNBA Lynx, is done with its season and made the playoffs for a ninth consecutive year. He said the club again was financially profitable, although not as much as in the past when the Lynx had deep playoff runs.

All-Pro forward Maya Moore took a sabbatical and didn’t play last season. What about next year? “I don’t have any knowledge of what her decision is going to be,” Taylor said.

Golden Gophers redshirt junior forward Eric Curry, who suffered a season-ending knee injury last week, will have surgery next week, per an announcement this morning from basketball coach Richard Pitino.

In a couple of “mop-up” situations, including in the fourth quarter last Saturday night when the Golden Gophers had a 34-7 lead over Nebraska, coach P.J. Fleck has not used freshmen backup quarterbacks Jacob Clark and Cole Kramer. By doing so Fleck preserves the option of being able to use either, or both, for up to four games and still preserve their redshirt status if they have to replace starter Tanner Morgan because of injury or illness.

Morgan ranks No. 4 nationally in passing efficiency, while running back Rodney Smith is ninth in rushing yards per game (112.5) and 14th in all-purpose yards (134.33). Minnesota ranks 10th in the country in fewest penalties at 4.50 per game, and No. 12 in time of possession, 33:33.

Fleck said on his KFAN Radio show Tuesday that Gophers offensive tackle Daniel Faalele, who missed last Saturday’s game against Nebraska, was back at practice. He also said quarterback Zack Annexstad, last year’s early season starter, was not wearing a protective boot at practice, and possibly could play before year’s end. He had foot surgery in August.

Twin Cities native Amanda DeKanick, a graduate of Irondale High School, is the first female full-time athletic trainer in Vikings history.

If coach Mike Mahlen’s Verndale team defeats Rothsay Wednesday night, he becomes the first Minnesota prep football coach to achieve 400 career wins. Mahlen, 399-123-3, is in his 51st season at Verndale (about 150 miles northwest of Minneapolis) where he has spent his entire head coaching career. He can become the 18th active high school football coach in the country with 400 or more career wins. The national all-time high school career wins leader is John McKissick from Summerville High School (South Carolina), with a career record of 621-156-13.

Yom Kippur was last week and Minneapolis attorney Marshall Tanick authored an article for the October 4 American Jewish World regarding Jewish athletes who chose not to play on the sacred holiday. Tanick recalled that Dodgers’ superstar pitcher Sandy Koufax sat out the October 6 opening World Series game in 1965 against the Twins at Metropolitan Stadium. In 1967 Gophers All-American defensive end Bob Stein chose not to play when his team’s game against Illinois came on a Yom Kippur Saturday.

Quoting Wild owner Craig Leipold via email: “The NHL scheduler in NY was hard on the Wild this year by starting the season with 4 of 5 games on the road. Tough way to start the year.”

Birthday wishes to classy Fred Hoiberg, the former Timberwolves player and executive, who turned 47 on Tuesday. Hoiberg, now head men’s basketball coach at Nebraska, has twice had open-heart surgery and worn a pacemaker for years.

 

Don’t Expect Stefon Diggs Trade Now

October 14, 2019 - (0) comments

 

The NFL trade deadline is October 29 but there seems zero chance the Vikings will move Stefon Diggs between now and then. Diggs has been mentioned nationally in trade rumors as recently as yesterday when he had 167 receiving yards and three touchdown receptions in the Vikings’ 38-20 win over the Eagles.

Diggs created controversy by skipping practices and meetings earlier this month, and was reportedly fined more than $200,000. The fifth-year wide receiver wanted to be a bigger part of an offense that was struggling with its passing game. Maybe his disgruntlement prompted opening things up the last two Sundays, including yesterday when Diggs not only caught seven passes (he dropped two) but ran the ball twice for 18 yards.

Before Sunday’s win Billswire.usatoday.com posted a story saying Good Morning Football Weekend host Michael Robinson speculated a Diggs trade was the most likely involving an NFL star before the October 29 deadline. The 4-1 Bills are chasing the 6-0 Patriots in the AFC East Division.

“They need another number one receiver,” Robinson said. “Zay Jones (wide receiver traded to the Raiders) has just got out of there. So I’m telling you, go get Stefon Diggs. He could be the piece, the secret piece to beat the New England Patriots.”

But six games into the season the Vikings seem too committed to their roster to shake things up by trading Diggs. With Super Bowl ambitions and coming off a failed season in 2018, they want to give quarterback Kirk Cousins the best and most familiar personnel possible to make the offense successful. Cousins was unfamiliar with Vikings receivers in his first season a year ago but now can take advantage of the knowledge he has about Diggs and others. That’s a comfort for the inconsistent Cousins.

Diggs is talented and experienced, and forms a big-play threat with Adam Thielen, the team’s other dangerous wide receiver. The Vikings, though, aren’t deep at WR and that’s another reason why a trade during the season makes no sense given Minnesota’s commitment to win now.

Worth Noting

Donald Trump made no mention of Minnesota sports teams or celebrities including Cousins (the two spoke a week ago Sunday) when in Minneapolis Thursday night for a campaign re-election rally, but when the President was in Lake Charles, Louisiana the next evening he was touting the undefeated LSU Tigers and quarterback Joe Burrow.

The unseasonably inclement weather for Saturday night’s Minnesota-Nebraska game might have prompted a few Golden Gophers football historians to recall the late October upset of 10th ranked USC at old Memorial Stadium in 1955. Played in an October 25 snowstorm, the Californians acted like they had never seen snow (and many had not) and couldn’t wait to fly home. A mediocre Gophers team that won just three games all season, took care of the chilly and wet Trojans.

Gophers senior linebacker Kamal Martin was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week today for his 15 tackles performance in Minnesota’s win over Nebraska. He had six solo tackles for the 6-0 Gophers who are now ranked No. 20 nationally in both the A.P. and Coaches polls.

Former Gophers basketball captain Paul Presthus, now retired from the financial industry, is a starter at Braemar Golf Course in Edina. He only played 27 holes this season because of a torn Achilles suffered last October. Presthus and wife Linda celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary September 20.

Lindy’s college basketball magazine lists the top 150 players in the nation with Duke’s Tre Jones, the former state Mr. Basketball from Apple Valley, at No. 4. Another Minnesotan, McKinley Wright from Champlin Park and now at Colorado, ranks No. 10.

The state’s 2019 Mr. Basketball, Matthew Hurt from Rochester John Marshall, is preparing for his freshman year at Duke and Lindy’s ranks him No. 59 on its 150 list. “More than capable of leading the Blue Devils in scoring this year,” Lindy’s says.

No Gophers made the list, although Minnesota natives and sophomores Daniel Oturu and Gabe Kalscheur could be deserving of such recognition by next March.

The state’s pipeline of current top prep players includes Minnehaha super talents Jalen Suggs (class of 2020) and Chet Holmgren (2021). Both had recent visits to Gonzaga, with speculation the Spokane, Washington school could be the college choice for Suggs.

Richard Pitino

Meanwhile the Star Tribune is reporting Minnesota coach Richard Pitino might receive a verbal commitment today from four-star Brewster Academy guard Jamal Mashburn Jr.

Lindy’s preseason top 25 of women’s teams includes Minnesota at No. 18. The Big Ten Conference schools ahead of the Gophers are No. 5 Maryland and No. 15 Michigan State.

Street & Smith’s college basketball magazine refers to Hopkins superstar Paige Bueckers as the “nation’s top-rated player” and has her headlining its first team of high school All-Americans.

Former Timberwolves player  Mark Madsen is in his first season of coaching at Utah Valley.

 

By Land or Air Cook in Vikings Plans

October 10, 2019 - (0) comments

 

A Thursday notes column with the focus on the Vikings and Golden Gophers football.

Dalvin Cook is second in NFL rushing yards with 574 yards. Twice he has totaled 21 carries in a game this season and two years ago he had 27 rushing attempts in the third game of his rookie year. Questioned yesterday if he could handle 30 carries as the team’s prominent runner and emerging main man on offense, Cook said he is ready to do “whatever the coaches” want.

Asked about 20-plus carries a game for Cook, head coach Mike Zimmer said Monday: “I want us to do whatever we have to do to win. I don’t really care how many carries he gets or how many times we throw the ball. It’s all about trying to do the best that we can do to win.

“When he has the ball in his hand, he’s very dangerous as you can see on that tape. There’s so many ‘wow’ plays when he has the ball in his hands that he can do so much damage. When we get the passing game going like we did yesterday (last Sunday) and him running, I think it’s a good mixture.”

Cook not only had 132 yards rushing on Sunday against the New York Giants but a career high 86 yards in pass receptions. He has rushed for over 100 yards in three of the team’s five games and was questioned about the possibility of going over the 100 mark in receptions for the first time as a pro. “It would be great,” Cook said.

The Eagles, who the Vikings play Sunday in Minneapolis, are the NFL’s No. 1 ranked defense against the run, allowing just 63 yards per game. Philadelphia ranks No. 27 against the pass, giving up 271.2 yards. Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins and Cook figure to be main contributors to an offense that will balance the run and pass.

“For whatever reason he tends to make that first guy miss on the tackle,” Cousins said in evaluating Cook. “That’s the mark of a great running back. (I am) so encouraged to see the way he not only runs the ball, but you have to remember he catches the ball. It’s just as important that he’s effective there as well (pass receptions), and he has been. …He can still have the same effect after a catch as after a handoff.”

Cousins praised Cook as a player with stamina, someone who can handle a lot of carries and still perform. “He’s right back (running), again and again,” Cousins said.

Matt Birk told Sports Headliners his new Unity High School in Burnsville has 14 students enrolled and will grow in the years ahead. The former Viking center predicts his former team will defeat the Eagles by seven points Sunday.

Vikings defensive back Mike Hughes, who missed most of last season with a torn ACL, has played in the last three games. He told Sports Headliners he is playing without a brace in both games and practices.

Former Viking Andrew Sendejo is listed as a second team safety with the Eagles defense, while ex-Gopher Craig James is a third team cornerback.

Looks like the 5-0 Gophers will be playing in temperatures in the mid to upper 30’s Saturday night at TCF Bank Stadium against Big Ten West Division rival Nebraska, 4-2. The team has been practicing in cooler temps in its practice facility and using other ploys to prepare for the weather conditions, per head coach P.J. Fleck.

P.J. Fleck

Gophers offensive left tackle Sam Schlueter, a redshirt junior from Victoria, Minnesota, has improved from being a marginal performer to outstanding. Fleck said Schlueter’s commitment and maturity in the process has been impressive.

“He’s been the (Gophers’) Offensive Line Player of the Week four straight weeks,” Fleck said. “This is a guy that needed some time off for a while a few years back, was going through some really tough times. It’s fun to watch guys like that go through that. That’s why you coach.”

Players on Fleck’s roster who aren’t seeing game action participate in Sunday scrimmages. Among those who are impressing the coach is 6-2, 310-pound freshman defensive lineman DeAngelo Carter from Leesburg, Georgia.

“If you look at the defensive line (among reserves), there’s a plethora of guys.” Fleck said. “DeAngelo, he is going to be a special football player. His motor never stops. His first step off the ball is scary quick and fast.”

Among the traditions of Gophers football are the Goal Line Club sponsored Friday lunch programs at Jax Café. This Friday the booster club has arranged for Minnesota defensive line coach Jim Panagos and former Gopher offensive lineman Tommy Olson to speak. More at Goallineclub.org.

Gophers basketball fans need encouragement this week after hearing redshirt junior Eric Curry has sustained another knee injury, casting doubt about his future availability with the program. But fans won’t find much to be happy about reading college basketball preview magazines.

Street & Smith’s publication forecasts a 10th place finish and of course that was written before news concerning Curry, a 6-9 experienced forward expected to be one of the team’s better players. Lindy’s college basketball issue projects an 11th place Gopher finish in the 14-team Big Ten.

Wisconsin, with Minnesota natives Brad Davison and Nate Reuvers among the team’s key players, will finish fifth in the Big Ten, per Street & Smith’s. Lindy’s projects the Badgers seventh, with both publications predicting Michigan State and Maryland will be No. 1 and 2 in the league.

Kylie Miller, the Gophers volleyball transfer from UCLA, hasn’t played in a match since September 27 because of “medical issues,” Hugh McCutheon told Sports Headliners this morning. The coach said “it’s day-to-day” on her return to game competition.

John Gilbert, the former Minneapolis hockey writer now living in Duluth and still following the Gophers, refers to Minnesota’s Bob Motzko as a “great coach.” He thinks Motzko’s second season Gopher team will be improved after not qualifying for the NCAA Tournament last winter.

Years ago the Gophers won with a roster of all-Minnesotans. Gilbert believes a return to that policy would elevate the program’s success. “Make it the beacon where all the (Minnesota) kids want to go,” he told Sports Headliners.

It was 63 years ago this week that New York Yankees pitcher Don Larsen threw the only no-hit perfect game in World Series history. On October 8, 1956 Larsen shut down the Brooklyn Dodgers, 2-0, in a game that lasted 2:06.

While MLB playoff games elsewhere have struggled to draw capacity crowds, the Twins’ attendance of 41,121 Monday night was a sell-out and the 11th largest ever at Target Field.

 

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