Wednesday, Jul. 6, 2022


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D’Lo Due to Lift Wolves’ Offense

 

“Mr. Inconsistent,” D’Angelo Russell, just might give the Timberwolves the scoring lift they need tomorrow night to pull back ahead of the Grizzlies in the first round NBA playoff series tied at 1-1.

The Wolves ‘enigmatic guard averaged 31 points against the Grizzlies in four regular season games. But in the first two playoff games he is averaging 10.5, converting 22.7 percent of his field goal attempts. That’s a big contrast from the 19.4 points he averaged in five games for the Nets in the 2018-2019 playoffs.

After last night’s 124-96 blowout loss to the Grizzlies,Wolves coach Chris Finch acknowledged his offense let him down. The switching and pesky Memphis defense bothered all the Wolves including Russell. Finch suggested his players can make adjustments including better ball movement to find open teammates.

The Grizzlies are among the NBA’s highest scoring teams and totaled 117 points in their loss to the Wolves Saturday. Minnesota is going to need more offense than producing 96 points to keep the series competitive. Russell must step up starting tomorrow night at Target Center.

Finch said the Wolves need to get him better looks at the basket but D’Lo can also be more decisive with his shot selection. It’s not like big games are too challenging for the 6-4 guard. Just last week in the team’s Play-in-Tournament win over the Clippers he scored 29, while making 10 of 18 shots. Part of the Wolves’ big three all season, Russell complemented Anthony Edwards who scored 30 points and both players helped make up for a dismal 11 point, foul plagued performance by Karl-Anthony Towns.

A peaks-and-valleys career performer, Russell is now with his fourth NBA team in seven seasons. He’s been in the valley against the Grizzlies in Memphis but maybe he can climb the mountain in Minneapolis with games Thursday and Saturday night.

Worth Noting

Brian Cosgriff

Minnetonka administrators made a savvy hire this week with the appointment of Brian Cosgriff as the Skippers’ girls basketball coach. Before retiring in 2020, the high character coach won seven Minnesota state championships at Hopkins, with a career record of 569-67.

Eric Musselman, who the Gophers likely could have hired on two occasions during the last 10 years, has his Arkansas basketball team drawing top five mentions for best team in the country next season. Musselman’s 2022 recruiting class is No. 2 in the nation, per 247Sports.

Gophers quarterback Tanner Morgan, a starter since 2018, is effusive about the return of offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca, who mentored him from 2017-2019. “I have known him for a long time, and obviously he means a lot to me,” Morgan said.

Morgan, 27-12 as a starter and the winningest quarterback in program history, said that as a 17-year-old he was “terrified” of Ciarrocca. “When I first got here I was afraid to make mistakes and stuff like that. That relationship is awesome (now) and I am very thankful that he came back.”

Indications are the aggressive passing game—including slant patterns—that the Gophers had so much success with under Ciarrocca in 2019 will return in 2022. Wide receivers Chris AutmanBell and Dylan Wright will likely be frequent targets, with opportunities, too, for tight end Brevyn Spann-Ford. Prediction here is 30-35 receptions and four-five touchdown catches next season for the talented Spann-Ford who was under utilized last year.

Autman-Bell talking about promising Western Kentucky and Abilene Christian cornerback transfers Beanie Bishop and Ryan Stapp who he faces in practice: “Those guys are going to be ballplayers for the Gopher Nation. …I got nothing but love for them.”

Starting linebacker and team leader Mariano Sori-Marin talking about the progress of the defense this spring: “I’ve just been really excited about how tough (physical) we’ve been playing.”

Barry Mayer, who led the University of Minnesota in rushing in 1969 and 1970, chuckled over a conversation he had with a current Gopher at practice on Saturday. Today’s players like to wear their football pants, including knee pads, close to mid-thigh. Mayer suggested to the Gopher that knee pads should cover knees. “He looked at me and said, ‘Not in this generation.’ “

ESPN.com’s Jeff Legwold wrote earlier this week former Gopher tackle Daniel Faalele will be the biggest player in the upcoming NFL Draft at 6-8, 384 pounds. Legwold reported Faalele said at the NFL Combine he weighed 426 pounds in his early days at Minnesota. The Australian native is one of the biggest NFL prospects ever and could be drafted in the second or third round.

I am feeling confident about predictions after the Timberwolves went 46-36 in the regular season (forecast 45 wins). Here’s a guess on the Twins’ final record: 76-86.

The MLB Morning Lineup email newsletter has the Twins No. 19 in its power rankings. The Dodgers, who swept the Twins in Minneapolis, are No. 1 in the listings—with Minnesota’s division rivals ranked like this: White Sox, No. 3; Guardians, No. 14; Tigers, No. 17; and Royals, No. 25.

Trivia buff John Justice from Edina points out Highland Park High School in the Dallas area has amazing sports alums including Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw who no- hit the Twins last week over seven innings and helped his team become 2020 World Series champs. Other famous names are 2022 Masters winner Scottie Scheffler, 2022 Super Bowl winning quarterback Matthew Stafford and football immortal Doak Walker.

Marshall Tanick

Minneapolis attorney Marshall Tanick will talk about “Law and Lore of Baseball in Minnesota” on Thursday at the Dakota County Law Library. He is a long time observer of sports and law in the state, including the historic attempt to contract the Twins in 2001. Tanick is a former sportswriter at the University of Minnesota and a Stanford law school graduate.

The CORES luncheon group welcomes Gregg Wong as its guest speaker May 12 at the Bloomington Event Center. The Minneapolis native is a former sportswriter for the Pioneer Press who covered the Gophers and Minnesota’s pro teams, and reported from two Olympics. Reservations must be made by May 9. For more information contact Jim Dotseth: dotsethj@comcast.net. CORES is an acronym for coaches, officials, reporters, educators and sports fans.

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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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