Simons Says - Sept. 6, 2012
Can I tell you how crazy this month has been? It’s just days old and we are flat out “off to the races.” Since a lot of my world revolves around sports, the Olympics are wrapped in time for the return of NFL football, Fantasy Football rosters are set, the pennant chase for MLB (and unfortunately not our Twins), the winter sports reboot and here in Minnesota, there’s also back to school and so many high school and college activities for families.
Choosing to pass on NFL Opening Night gatherings in downtown Minneapolis, I’m sitting and jotting basketball notes while the NFL’s kickoff game takes center stage. It’s a TV event like few others and it’s head-to-head against the Democratic National Convention. The clicker is handy but it’s a pen doing all the work. A Bic jotting down thoughts on this season’s N.B.A. Western Conference and our Wolves in particular.
I’ll admit, I’m a hoopaholic. Just the other day, when the Wolves pre-season schedule was finalized and released, I was a bit more anxious for basketball’s return. The NBA’s ability to get its labor situation resolved is the biggest reason why the sport is going to enjoy a great year. From Miami’s run to the title in a schedule-shortened season to the Olympic Gold, a full schedule of games awaits and that’s a winning ticket for fans. And it’s just the elixir for the Wolves.
From the draft to free agency and roster shuffling complete, it appears that the Wolves have made moves that on paper make them a legitimate playoff contender. Some will disagree with even that point but it falls on a hoopaholic’s bad ear. Indeed, a lot of things have to fall into place. And for Minnesota, it means staying injury free, getting Ricky Rubio back as soon as possible and his game returning back to its pre-injury place. Brandon Roy has to contribute. The Wolves were not the only team eager to take a leap of faith with the former Portland star. But when you plot out the things that have to go right, from health to No. 9’s return, getting solid contribution from Roy will be key.
We all figure that Kevin Love will be, well…Kevin Love. A monster last season, Love’s star shined in London and it figures that he will become even stronger this season. Congrats to the Wolves for putting more veteran players around K-Love. Love had to see how determined and passionate Andrei Kirilenko was playing for Russia at the Olympics. Love will have help. And that is a very good thing this coming season.
At a recent GameON! TV taping, an admitted “mild” basketball fan asked me if I thought the Wolves had enough players to compete. To SERIOUSLY compete. Great question I thought. And I replied, I believe so…getting there.
There’s Love, Rubio (upon his return), AK and Roy. I love the addition of Chase Budinger from Houston (he had fun playing against the Wolves last season) and Kirilenko’s Olympic/Russian teammate Alexey Shevd. Another key element will be the strong return and good health of guard JJ Barea and man in the middle Nikola Pekovic. Big Pek is poised to make a huge contribution this winter. Don’t forget the addition of big Greg Stiemsma as well. I thought he was a great free agency “get” after being wooed because of his playoff work for Boston. Nice passer, good shooter and again, tough in the middle. Doesn’t back down. He’s matured nicely and wanted to be here. Welcome!!
I’ve said it time and again that youth alone would not serve the Wolves well. David Kahn and coach Rick Adelman have tweaked the roster so it’s a nice mix of veteran players and young guns. Remember too, consistent performances from Pek, Kirilenko and Budinger won’t make everyone forget Beasley, Johnson and Milicic but it will show up where it counts. In wins.
This is an exciting time for the Wolves because a better team is set to hit the floor at training camp. Rick Adelman has been here many times and will enjoy working with this group. Coach has more offense and players not afraid to shoot the ball. He has long defenders. Young legs that can get out in transition and make things happen. He has rebounders. There are scrappy, in your face players who look to shut down opponents. There are players who buy into what Adelman believes.
Will the Wolves win it all? Likely, no. And that said, I never say never. I will concede that the Lakers, on paper, look better to me than OKC. I believe Kevin Durant is the best in the West but that L.A. roster, with Dwight Howard, Kobe, Pau, Steve Nash for Pete’s sake, Antawn Jamison and solid role players off the bench is my pick.
Hard to pass off OKC. Durant, fellow Olympians Russell Westbrook and James Harden are big time and have youth on their side. That trip to the Finals may just be their return ticket as well. If LA misses one beat, OKC will step on ‘em.
The Thunder clearly better than last season’s top team and 50 game winner San Antonio. Another year older and that massive postseason flame out is just one reason the Spurs will not be around when the WCF take place next spring. Yes, oh yes, they are good and will have a good regular season. I can’t see them making a Finals run.
After LAL, after OKC and SA, I see the Clippers. Those four teams are the pick of the West in my eyes. LAC made nice off season moves. Grant Hill can still contribute. Jamal Crawford (former high school competitor of Roy’s in Seattle) was a player I’d hoped the Wolves could land. A healthy Chauncey Billups will be gigantic as well as the return of Lamar Odom to LA. Will Odom be the LAL Odom or the Dallas version? Those pieces added to the Blake Griffin and Chris Paul show will again turn some heads. They will get after it.
From there, Dallas, Denver and maybe Memphis go 5-6-7, in no order. Lots of roster shuffling in Big-D and some in the mile high city but very little in Memphis. That’s where I see the Wolves entering the playoff chatter, around 7 or 8th seed. I see Portland, Phoenix, Utah, Golden State, Houston, Sacramento and New Orleans on the outside looking in.
There’s certainly more to be said, more back & forth with fans about this year’s team and more roster reviews to come. But in this moment when we walk, feet first into fall, when the leaves turn, the kids go back to school, when football fills our weekends and say goodbye to summer, it’s great to have basketball back. This hoopaholic is happy. And gearing up to have many high-5’s with Crunch as the Timberwolves become Team Turnaround.
Who doesn’t like a “deal”
With more than 9,000 season tickets, there’s more room on the bandwagon and the Wolves are making it possible for you to be there and at a great price point. The Timberwolves are now offering fans customizable ticket packages and back by popular demand, fans will once again have the opportunity to create their own multi-game ticket package at the prices they want. Through the Flex Pack, fans can build a personalized ticket package by selecting 12 or more games of their choice, with the flexibility to change seat location, the number of tickets per game and price point based on the matchup. They start as low as $108! Additionally, fans that purchase 16 games will receive 5% off their total order, while buyers of 20 games will receive 10 percent off. Flex Packs are on sale and check ‘em out on line at www.timberwolves.com or call 612-673-1234.
You know that GameON! is on FOX’s MY29 and now the Wolves tell us that a franchise-record 78 regular-season games will be televised locally, including 50 on Fox Sports North and 25 on the Wolves' exclusive over-the-air broadcast home, WFTC My29. For the second consecutive season, every Wolves regular season contest will be carried live on News Radio 830 WCCO-AM.
The 2012-13 Wolves Home Opener against Sacramento will be broadcast on WFTC MY29, beginning a string of 36 consecutive televised games to start the season.
See you on TV
You don’t want to miss GameON! powered by SEVEN Steakhouse/Sushi/Ultralounge & Skybar this Sunday morning on FOX’s My29 at 10:30AM. Our special guests include Vikings Middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley, X-games Superstar Levi LaVallee and our new Fantasy Football insider Jeremy Johnson all in house! All shows are broadcast in High Definition and can be found on ITunes and online at www.gameontvmn.com.
GameON! powered by SEVEN allows you the opportunity to get up close and personal, to meet your favorite players and fellow fans at our weekly tapings next door to Target Center at SEVEN (7th and Hennepin). GameON! offers in-depth interviews with the top players, great food, sports newsmakers and we get you inside your favorite teams (including the Wolves). You can friend us on Facebook at GameOnTvMN and drop me a note, Rod@GameOnTvMn.com. We reserve the right to use your e-mails here in SimonsSays at Timberwolves.com.
Keep your GameON! See you soon!