Zimmer Predicts ‘Chip on Shoulder’ Saints
Enjoy a Monday notes column that includes the Vikings, Gophers and Timberwolves.
There is plenty of advance intrigue surrounding next Sunday’s Vikings-Saints game at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Saints return here no doubt seeking some redemption on last January’s “Minneapolis Miracle” that bumped them out of the playoffs. Then during the offseason Tom Pelissero from NFL Network reported in a March story the Vikings inquired about legendary Saints QB Drew Brees before eventually signing Kirk Cousins. Count on comparisons being made Sunday between the two.
Then, too, and most importantly, the game Sunday is an opportunity to judge two teams that could meet again in the playoffs. The Saints, 5-1, have the second best record in the NFC behind the 7-0 Rams. The 4-2-1 Vikings are trying to stay ahead of the 3-2-1 Packers in the NFC North.
The Saints are known as a gritty team under the direction of head coach Sean Payton. “I think the Saints will come in with a chip on their shoulder because that’s who they are,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said this afternoon at his news conference heard on KFXN Radio. “They are very aggressive on defense. They’re aggressive offensively. They’ve got a good football team.”
Asked about the 39-year-old Brees, Zimmer said, “This guy is amazing. When you talk about Hall of Fame quarterbacks, obviously, he’s going to be one. But he’s very cerebral, accurate. He’s moving well in the pocket. …”
The Gophers, 53-28 losers to Nebraska on Saturday, are giving up an average of 43.3 points per game against Big Ten opponents. Meanwhile, former Gopher coach Tracy Claeys is in his first season at Washington State as defensive coordinator and deserves a lot of credit for helping the nationally ranked Cougars to a 6-1 start.
Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor was asked Friday night by Sports Headliners if he was embarrassed for young fans after Jimmy Butler’s profanity-laced practice earlier this month. “Let’s just say I wish some of those things were handled a little bit better,” he said.
Butler, one of the NBA’s best two-way players, wants to be traded but Taylor said he is not handling inquiries from other teams. He is deferring to general manager Scott Layden. “At this point that’s his job,” Taylor said. “He’s out there doing it.”
Taylor wouldn’t say if he expects his club to move Butler elsewhere before the February 7 NBA trade deadline. He acknowledged disappointment that Butler—the most important player in leading his franchise to the playoffs last spring for the first time since 2004—doesn’t want to continue beyond one season in Minneapolis.
“It’s a shame because I was looking forward to this season because I had the highest goals for it,” Taylor said. “I just thought we would be a really good thing.
“And I think we still can but we just somehow got to make sure that a couple of things (happen). We’ll have to do a good trade, and a number of members of our team will have to step up. We still could have a really good year.”
For that to happen the Wolves, with a 1-2 record so far this season, need to fix a leaky defense. Counting their final exhibition matchup before the regular season started last week, the Wolves have given up 143, 112, 123 and 140 points in their last four games.
Despite Butler’s nasty preseason behavior, the Wolves announced a sellout attendance of 18,978 at their home opener Friday night. Ticket King was promoting $27 tickets for the game last week.
During pregame player introductions Butler received an earful of boos from the home opener crowd. Tom Thibodeau, the coach and president of basketball operations, might have been targeted with even louder jeers.
The crowd warmed to Butler, though, as he led the team to a win over the Cavs. Almost as usual, he was the Wolves’ best player at both ends of the court.
The Sports Illustrated NBA preview issue, out last week, quotes a rival scout as being skeptical of the Wolves making the playoffs—and not just because of the trade drama involving Butler. “Their floor could be pretty low because their roster isn’t balanced well positionally and has a lot of holes,” the scout said in S.I.
The issue included a ranking of the NBA’s 30 teams according to “entertainment value.” Criteria included “projected success, style of play, firepower, age, injuries, coaching and personality.” The Wolves landed at No. 22 (“…Butler circus left them dead on arrival.”) The NBA champion Warriors got the No. 1 spot, just ahead of the new LeBron James-led Lakers.
Paige Bueckers, the junior point guard at Hopkins, excelled last season for the Royals and in AAU competition during the summer. Among girls, she might be the best young teenage point guard in the world. Legendary Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma is all-in on recruiting her.
Remember “The Crusher?” The former professional wrestler was hugely popular in Minneapolis and other places in the Midwest decades ago. Now a memorial bronze statue is going up in his hometown of South Milwaukee. How about a statue of Minnesota wrestling legend Verne Gagne?