Simon Says... Week 13

Thursday, January 28, 2009

This has been another tough week for our fans in the area. Certainly, the Minnesota fan is still sorting out what happened down on the Bayou as the Vikings tumbled from the Super Bowl chase to the New Orleans Saints. What a great season they enjoyed regardless (No solice to any of us though). Meantime, the true Timberwolves fan is also struggling at this point. The "true" fan is one who's been with this team even though they knew it was going to be a rough road. They had extra strength shock absorbers, you might say. It's easy to spot the fan who's not invested, somehow, in the T'Wolves makeover. And that's ok, no problem with it at all. They're the ones who left the game (for whatever reason), they are the crusty curmudgeon who has nothing good to say regardless or they are just that fan who's seemingly unable to see a few positives in what's become a difficult stretch for this young team.

This week, I'm not gonna sit back and tell you it's all good. No, this is a bit rocky even by SimonsSays standards. That goose-egg of no wins on the last road trip, a two point loss in a very winnable game against the New Orleans Hornets and then the Knicks Tuesday night--it's getting to me a bit and really under the skin of some fans. That in a moment.

Fans have every bit the right to be unhappy. Heck, the team, from players to sales people, front office workers to coaches, are bummed. We're far enough into the season (with the NBA's All Star game right around the corner) to begin to feel the winds of change now swirling. Trade rumors are blowing hard and the Wolves, with cap space and designs on the future, are a team squarely in the sights of teams looking to make a playoff mark. Al Jefferson is frequently mentioned as a trade possibility and fans, as we'll see in this space, have their thoughts on how the season is playing out.

Mind you, this has been a week when there's purple everywhere and all the talk was about the Vikings. Now that the NFL season is over, the Wolves have an opportunity to make some noise and get the attention of fans who may have lost a basketball focus. But they have to get out of this funk.

With perhaps the exception of Coach Rambis, his staff and players, most expected a Cavaliers win in Cleveland. The Wolves fought and played well but came up short against one of the top-3 teams in the NBA (if not the best). However, the night before is what's bummin' the bloggers. There's a noticeable hitch in their gameday giddy-up for sure. In fact, my e-mail was loaded with the unhappy after the 132-105 loss in New York. Toby from Stillwater was fuming, "I spent 15 minutes trying to find the game on TV, and by the time I realized it was only on radio, I turned it on and it was already out of hand and not even halftime. C'mon, THE KNICKS?! That team is horrible, they lost to Dallas by 50 and we lay down for them? Embarrassing."

Players had little to say about it as well. New York jumped out 15-0 to start the game and there wasn't a rally to withstand this loss. Maybe it was better that this one wasn't on TV. What is troubling the Coaches is that the Wolves can play with and win games, like the Knicks on the road. They've done it. But allowing a fast start to derail an entire game is troubling. That will be addressed.

Another reader, Jason of New Hope says, "I expect trouble against an NBA Finals caliber team like the Cavs. LeBron is just TOO tough. But the Knicks, the Grizzlies, the Clippers?" Easy. The Clippers are tomorrow and you can expect a spirited effort from the Wolves or Coach Rambis might become a new smoke stack at Target Center. The Wolves already had one let down game against the Clips this season and they will be prepared, you can bet, Friday against the other team from LA. As for Memphis, that has become one of the NBA's hottest teams. 'Nuff said.

By the way, you know, the Knicks were allowed 40 points in the first quarter and when it was all said and done, 21 turnovers for the Wolves. And the reader mentioned that loss to the Mavs, well New York's loss/win turnaround was one for the record books. The Knicks lost by 50 then beat the Wolves by 27 for a 77 point swing. One of the top five in NBA history.

Remind yourself, there will be good days. Those are the days, in this season of rebuild that we have to embrace. And let's get after the Clippers tomorrow night. Minnesota is still winless in the three previous matches against LAC this season and that is a burr in the Wolves saddle for sure.

Bits and pieces:

> 'Tis the season I guess. Mock drafts are already popping up in advance of March Madness and the Wolves look good in many of them. New Jersey will most likely have the NBA's top pick (or at least the most ping-pong balls) and the Wolves have great odds to get the #1 or #2 selection. You'll hear many names, Wall to Favors, Davis to Aldrich and one media outlet had Ohio State's Evan Turner (6-7 shooting guard) going to the Wolves.

> We're also seeing our share of trade rumors. As the NBA's trade deadline approaches and teams jockey for playoff positioning, look for a few Wolves to get a peek. I asked a number of players at practices if all of the talk bothers them. The textbook answer is "no, it's part of the business", but it's the uncertainty that drives them nuts. Here one day, gone the next. That is part of life when you are a professional athlete, in any sport it seems.

> Congrats to Timberwolves rookie guard Jonny Flynn and forward Kevin Love for their selection to the Rookie Challenge & Youth Jam on NBA All star weekend in Dallas. Joining Flynn on the Rookie team will be Chicago's Taj Gibson, Detroit's Jonas Jerebko, Golden State's Stephen Curry, Milwaukee's Brandon Jennings, Oklahoma City's James Harden, Sacramento's Tyreke Evans and Omri Casspi and San Antonio's DeJuan Blair. Meantime, Love will run with Chicago's Derrick Rose, the L.A. Clippers' Eric Gordon, Memphis's Marc Gasol and O.J. Mayo, Miami's Michael Beasley, New Jersey's Brook Lopez, New York's Danilo Gallinari and Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook on the Sophomore team. Check out Flynn's January 24th appearance on Sports Final on our website, .

> Had a blogger ask me for two good games to buy tickets to see in February. The two I won't miss are Charlotte Bobcats on February 10 and the Portland Trail Blazers on the 27th. Both teams are young, have playoff plans (Charlotte's still working on it but Portland appears to be a lock) and both teams have outstanding coaches. The Bobcats have really improved thanks to the addition of Stephen Jackson from Golden State. We've talked about the Blazers in this section this season. They continue to be one of the best in the west despite numerous injuries including a torn Achilles to Head Coach Nate McMillan. So there you have it, two great games out of a good February of Wolves picks at Target Center. Have fun!

If you like good shows on TV, it’s time to catch SPORTS FINAL before you call it a night. Sports Final is now at 10pm on Sunday night’s and it’s moved to a new home on the CW/Twin Cities-23. Sports Final will bring you inside your favorite teams, including the T’Wolves, with exclusive interviews, team notes and as always, offering you the best guests and a full interactive website. I’m back with longtime colleague “Coach” Dean Dalton and we couldn’t be more excited about the Vikings strong showing this season and all the possibilities surrounding the Wolves in this new NBA season.

Sports Final is just moved and launches on the CW-Twin Cities-23 Sunday November 8th at 10pm! We hope you tune in and let us know what you think.