Monday, Feb. 18, 2019

Van Clemens


Murray's Restaurant

Kirk Cousins High Reward or Risk?


A Tuesday notes column:

Reports that quarterback Case Keenum will sign with the Broncos this week add credibility to rumors the Vikings are targeting Kirk Cousins as the NFL moves into its free agency signing period tomorrow. Acquiring Cousins looks like the kind of personnel decision that could either help the Vikings to a Super Bowl, or put general manager Rick Spielman in a bad spot with ownership.

The Vikings recently sent a message to Keenum by not making him a franchise player and providing a lucrative contract. The Broncos need a quarterback and Keenum could certainly be impressed by joining up with John Elway, the former Denver hall of fame quarterback and now a team executive.

Keenum was 11-3 as a sub for the Vikings last season and was popular in the locker room. However, he wasn’t outstanding in the NFC title game loss to the Eagles and it appears the Vikings think Cousins is more talented.

Acquiring Cousins could cost $90 million, with a sizeable portion guaranteed money. That’s a big financial commitment for a player who the Vikings will gamble can fit their system and change his image to that of a winner.

Rich Cimini, writing on February 25, said the 29-year-old quarterback has a 4-19 record against winning teams (based on final season records). Cousins has set franchise passing records for the Redskins during his six seasons with them.

Karl-Anthony Towns told ABC television Sunday he wants to become the greatest basketball player ever. To do so the Timberwolves third-year center has to one day move past an extraordinary and long line of players, but his career goal is nothing to laugh at.

At 22 years old, the 7-foot, 248-pound Towns is already an NBA All-Star but certainly not the best player in the league. His size, skills and versatility do give him a chance at one day replacing a LeBron James or Kevin Durant as the top player on the planet. Forget the all-time stuff, that alone is lofty goal setting. But remember, too, that a preseason poll of NBA general managers named Towns the player they would most want to start a franchise with.

Towns made the general managers look prophetic Sunday during ABC’s nationally televised game when he led his team to a 109-103 win over the defending NBA champion Warriors. He scored 31 points (the Warriors’ Durant had 39) and grabbed more rebounds, 16, than anyone on the court. Towns, as usual, scored inside and out including two of five three point shots. He earned praise “as a very versatile offensive player” from Warriors coach Steve Kerr.

After the game Towns had a league-leading 57 double-doubles (171 career). It was his ninth 30+ point performance of the season, and he has 10+ rebounds in 16 of the last 18 games.

The win over the Warriors ended a three-game losing streak for the Wolves. With 14 games remaining in the regular season the team is competing to make the playoffs for the first time since 2004. If the season ended today the Wolves would qualify but with a 3-3 record since team MVP Jimmy Butler was injured, Minnesota is in must-win status in the weeks ahead including tonight on the road against the Wizards.

With his team pursuing a playoff assignment, and Butler’s return uncertain for anytime soon, this is an opportune time for Towns to take another step in building his resume. He told ABC he knows a lot of work will be involved if he wants to fulfill his biggest ambition. The present moment and leading the Wolves to the playoffs is the best place to start.

Sunday’s Timberwolves-Warriors game at Target Center was Minnesota’s second consecutive sellout and 13th of the season—the team’s most since 2003-04 (15 sellouts).

Dick Jonckowski

Dick Jonckowski is co-writing a book about his life with local sports author Jim Bruton. “It’s All about Me—Dick Jonckowski a Minnesota Treasure” is due out in May. Jonckowski hopes to sell copies at two venues where he became famous, Williams Arena and Siebert Field. Known to generations of Minnesotans as the Gophers public address announcer for men’s basketball and baseball games, the 74-year-old Jonckowski has enjoyed a career that also includes radio and banquet emcee assignments.

ESPN2 will televise the Gopher-Green Bay first round women’s NCAA Tournament basketball game starting at 4 p.m. CDT Friday from Eugene, Oregon. Minnesota is the No. 10 seed in the Spokane Region while Green Bay is No. 7. The team that advances will play Sunday against the winner of the first-round game between No. 2 seed Oregon and 15th-seeded Seattle. Minnesota earned its second NCAA Tournament spot in four years (first since 2015) and the 10th in program history.

Among teams Minnesotans will follow with interest in the men’s NCAA Tournament are the underdog South Dakota State Jackrabbits who play their opening game Thursday afternoon as a No. 12 seed against No. 5 Ohio State in the West Region. Twelve seeds are famous for upsetting fives.

Jackrabbit forward Ian Theisen started five of 30 games and averaged 4.7 points and is the lone Minnesotan on the South Dakota State roster. He graduated from Osseo High School as the school record holder in points, 1,590, and rebounds, 1083.

Guard Owen King from Caledonia will join the Jackrabbits next season as a scholarship freshman. King is one of five finalists for Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball Award and last December was also a finalist for the state’s Mr. Football.

Award winning comedian and actor Bill Murray, a part owner of baseball’s Saint Paul Saints, is the father of Luke Murray who is an assistant coach for Xavier, the No. 1 seed in the West Region of the men’s NCAA Tournament. The younger Murray, a 2007 graduate of Fairfield, is known as an outstanding East Coast recruiter.

The city of Cincinnati has two teams in the tournament, Xavier and No. 2 South Region seed Cincinnati. Meanwhile, the Big Ten managed to send only four teams to the tournament—Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Purdue.

If you’re keeping score, the U men’s program has produced five tournament teams since 2000.

Xavier senior guard J.P. Macura is no longer projected to be selected in the second round of the 2018 NBA draft, per who had the former Lakeville North all-stater at No. 55 back in December.

Duke freshman guard Gary Trent Jr., a former star at Apple Valley, is predicted to be the No. 15 pick in the first round.

Club president Dave St. Peter told Sports Headliners yesterday about 1,000 tickets remain for the Twins’ home opener April 5 against the Mariners. As of now, none of the franchise’s 2018 home dates are sold out but the opener soon will be.

St. Peter said the season ticket total has surpassed last year, although he declined to provide figures. It’s believed the club’s total in 2017 was about 12,000.

A friend who saw last night’s Twins 2-1 exhibition win over the Yankees in windy Tampa said Minnesota catcher Bobby Wilson impressed not only with a two-run homer but in catching foul balls. Not so good were four plate appearances and four strike outs by center fielder Byron Buxton.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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