Wolves Find Point Guard, But Not Defense
Enjoy a Thursday notes column starting with the revamped Timberwolves who have played three games since president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas shook up the roster last week with new player acquisitions.
D’Angelo Russell is the long sought answer at point guard. The former NBA All-Star has played in two games for Minnesota including last night’s loss to the Hornets. He scored 26 points with 11 assists, at times showing deft ball handling and passing.
While in the game, Russell was a +12 and he had only three turnovers. No teammate was even close to that efficiency, showing the importance of the player Rosas sent to the Warriors in exchange for the much less valuable Andrew Wiggins, who despite his considerable talent never caught on at any position for Minnesota including point guard.
An announced sellout crowd at Target Center was energized last night, particularly in the first half when the Wolves moved out to a 66-50 halftime lead. Late in the second quarter fans chanted: “Defense! Defense! Defense!” Nice try, but defense is not a strength for the 16-37 Wolves who are 1-15 in their last 16 games.
The Wolves gave up 65 points in the second half to the Hornets and their offense slowed down in a 115-108 loss. Similar story on Monday night in Toronto against the defending NBA champion Raptors. After leading 75-74 at halftime, the Wolves went on to lose 137-126. The Wolves entered last night’s game yielding 116 points per game, ranking No. 27 in the 30-team NBA, per Fox.com.
A veteran hockey insider puts the chances at “100 percent” the Wild will make another trade before the NHL’s February 24 deadline. He also told Sports Headliners the team is too inconsistent and predicted a “40 percent” likelihood the Wild makes the playoffs after missing out on the postseason in 2019.
The Wild traded veteran forward Jason Zucker to the Penguins this week and acquired forward Alex Galchenyuk, defenseman Calen Addison and a 2020 conditional draft choice. The source said the Penguins have been interested in Zucker, 28, for about a year and hope he will bolster their scoring.
It remains to be seen if the trade will increase the effort and consistency of Wild players with Minnesota GM Bill Guerin on record that more deals could be coming.
The hockey Gophers have a young roster and could be special in another year or two if they retain their outstanding freshman class and players like sophomore forward Sammy Walker. “No question they’re better than at the start of the season,” the insider said.
Still, he thinks the Gophers are too inexperienced to win the Big Ten and might miss the NCAA Tournament.
WCCO Radio “Sports Huddle” co-host Dave Mona speaks to the CORES lunch group Thursday, March 12 at the Bloomington Event Center, 1114 American Blvd. Gophers athletic director Mark Coyle speaks to the group May 14. More information is available by contacting Jim Dotseth, firstname.lastname@example.org. Reservations for the March program must be made by Monday, March 9. (CORES is an acronym for coaches, officials, reporters, educators and sports fans).
Minnehaha Academy’s Jalen Suggs could become the first prep athlete ever to win both the Minnesota Mr. Football and Mr. Basketball awards. Suggs won the former in December and looks like a favorite among the finalists for Mr. Basketball.
Isaiah Washington, the former Gopher point guard who transferred after last season, has started 13 of 18 games for Iona. He is the team’s third leading scorer at 10.4 points per game and leads in total assists.
R.J. White’s NFL mock draft for Cbssports.com on Tuesday had the Vikings selecting Gophers wide receiver Tyler Johnson in the third round with the team’s No. 25 selection. White refers to the Minneapolis native as an “intriguing slot option” for the Vikings when they use “three receiver packages.”
Quoting Mike Zimmer who is preparing for his seventh season as Vikings coach, and is the third longest tenured head man in franchise history after Bud Grant (18 seasons) and Dennis Green (13):
“We’ve been fortunate that we’ve played decent, but at the end of the day we’re looking forward, and we’re not trying to look back on the last seven years. We’ve still got a lot of things that we haven’t accomplished yet that we need to accomplish.”
Marc Trestman, the St. Louis Park native and former Gophers quarterback who coached Grey Cup champions in Canada, is the head coach and GM of the Tampa Bay Vipers in the new XFL spring league. His Vipers lost their opener last Sunday to the New York Guardians, 23-3.
The average XFL player earns $55,000 with marquee players possibly making up to $500,000, per a Reuters story three days ago quoting Fox Business.
Minneapolis area native Tim Herron, who recently turned 50, is making his Champions Tour debut this week at the Chubb Classic in Naples, Florida. Herron is seen on TV ads in the Minneapolis-St. Paul market for 2nd Swing.
Former Gophers tight end and pro wrestling start Jumpin’ Jim Brunzell is the latest guest on “Behind the Game,” the Twin Cities cable TV program co-hosted by Patrick Klinger and Bill Robertson. “Behind the Game” episodes can also be viewed on YouTube.