Monday, Mar. 1, 2021

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Clock Starts Now on Wolves Rosas


The Timberwolves hired Gersson Rosas as president of basketball operations in May of 2019.  Now he has been through one season and two NBA Drafts including last evening when he used the No. 1 overall pick to select shooting guard Anthony Edwards.

With draft choices and trades, including bringing back fan favorite Ricky Rubio to Minneapolis, Rosas has reshaped the roster.  Assuming the NBA can have a 2020-2021 season despite the pandemic, the next 12 months will indicate whether Rosas can succeed with a franchise that avoids the playoffs like it was the virus.

With the Timberwolves up for sale, it’s a solid bet the next owner will come in with eyes wide open about Rosas.  That new owner could already have “his own guy” in mind when he signs the paper work to acquire the franchise.  But if Rosas has the Wolves rolling, his job security should be fine.

Gersson Rosas

It’s hyper-competitive trying to build and maintain a winning NBA team.  There are a lot of bright basketball operators in the league including Danny Ainge, R.C. BufordBob Myers, Daryl Morey, Donnie Nelson, Sam Presti and Pat Riley. Wolves faithful are hoping Rosas will some day have his name mentioned in the same group.

As for Edwards, the Wolves may have acquired the highest potential player in the draft.  This week ESPN said analytics showed a 41 percent likelihood of Edwards  becoming an NBA All-Star, a higher percentage than the two other consensus top draft prospects, James Wiseman and LaMello Ball.

Edwards is a potentially prolific scorer with his shooting range and ability to drive to the basket.  The former Georgia freshman’s perimeter shooting and ability to run the floor is a welcome fit for the style Rosas wants his team to play.  With only about a month until the season starts, and no preseason games, Edwards and other rookies will have a different kind of introduction to the NBA with a fast and difficult learning curve asked of them. is reporting power forward Freddie Gillespie, the former East Ridge and Carleton player who walked on at Baylor, will sign as a free agent with the Mavericks.  An NBA authority told Sports Headliners yesterday he thought Gillespie might be taken in the second round.

Four other Minnesotans were drafted including ex-Hopkins player and power forward Zeke Nnaji who was taken in the first round. “Energy. Always in the mix, playing hard,” said the source who requested anonymity.

The first pick in the second round was point guard Tyrell Terry, the former DeLaSalle and Stanford point guard.  “He might be the best shooter in the draft,” said the source whose basketball background includes coaching and scouting.

After Terry was chosen at No. 31, the Gophers’ Daniel Oturu was taken at No. 33.  There was speculation last spring Oturu, the former Cretin Derham-Hall center, might be a first round draft choice after making All-American his sophomore season at Minnesota.

Tre Jones, the ex-Apple Valley and Duke point guard, was drafted at No. 41.  The NBA authority raves about him.  “Just never, ever count him out. ..He’s a winner.  His pedigree is really strong.”

As a first rounder, Nnaji receives a guaranteed contract. Second rounders don’t and often start out in the NBA’s development program, the G League, where for seven months players receive a base salary of $7,000 per month for five months.

Golden Gophers Turn into Underdogs

The way it looks now the Golden Gophers football team will be underdogs in their four remaining scheduled games.  The most winnable for 1-3 Minnesota appears to be Friday night at home with 2-1 Purdue.  The Boilermakers are about a three-point favorite and deserve a bigger spread based on how the Gophers are playing.

In Minnesota’s other three games, at 2-0 Wisconsin and 1-2 Nebraska, and home versus 4-0 Northwestern, the Gophers figure to be larger underdogs than they are tomorrow night.  Try this as possible pre-game point spreads: Wisconsin by 28, Northwestern by 18 and Nebraska by 8.

In December all Big Ten teams will be assigned a ninth game against a divisional crossover opponent based on the strength of their 2020 record.  That could be the next time Minnesota is favored in a game.

Minnesota’s 2020 performance is one of the most disappointing in college football.  Coming off an 11-2 season last January, it seemed success would be sustained even if not at that level.  The Gophers entered their October 24 season opener against Michigan nationally ranked.  The program was showcased that Saturday with ABC televising the game across the country. Earlier in the day ESPN’s College GameDay produced its show inside TCF Bank Stadium.

Seldom in modern Gopher football history has a defense started the season so ineptly as this fall.  Linemen are often pushed way off the line of scrimmage, the linebackers frequently don’t fill holes, and the secondary (sometimes out of position) is the last line of defense.  The safeties lead the team in tackles.  Minnesota is giving up a Big Ten leading 7.8 yards per play.  The Gophers also are yielding a conference worst 20 touchdowns and 35.8 points per game.

Gone from last year’s defense are the best players, who used up their eligibility.  It was understood before the season the defense would be suspect, but no one thought this bad.  The pandemic and the cancellation of spring practice were setbacks for a defense trying to regroup.  Inexperience and injuries have added to the challenge, but expectations were rightfully higher.

Head coach P.J. Fleck insists the talent is present for a better defense in the future but experience is needed first.  However, with the program in its fourth year under Fleck, there should have been more capable and experienced defensive players in place to take over from last season’s seniors.

Futility was so evident in last week’s embarrassing 35-7 loss to Iowa.  For Gopher fans the game was an unwelcome reminder of recent history in the Minnesota-Iowa series.  The Hawkeyes have won six straight games for the first time in the 114-year-old rivalry. In the battle for Floyd of Rosedale, the series is tied at 42-42-2. Iowa has not trailed in games against Minnesota since the fourth quarter in 2016.

In this year’s game even the Minnesota offense, fifth best in the Big Ten averaging 29 points per game, was ineffective.  Iowa controlled Minnesota’s usually productive running game, and the Gophers have been struggling to develop their passing attack other than with All-American wide receiver Rashod Bateman.  Under new offensive coordinator Mike Sanford the Gophers, despite having most of their key players back, seem more conservative than last season.  Creative play-calling is absent in the read-option offense that almost never has quarterback Tanner Morgan running with the football. Program woes also include special teams, with disappointments evident with field goals, extra points, kickoff returns and punt returns.

The Gophers need to find themselves starting tomorrow night, hoping for a result similar to two years ago.  On November 10, 2018 Minnesota played Purdue at home and entered the game having lost five of its previous six games.  The Gophers won 41-10 and took two of the next three games with an upset victory over Wisconsin in Madison and bowl game win versus Georgia Tech.

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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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