Eric Nelson

SPORTS NUGGETS: Twin Cities-based Mortenson is the gold standard when it comes to sports construction

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By Eric Nelson

February 22, 2017

GAMEDAY GOLD

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from the home of Chex Mix…

 

• Minnesota Makeover: Target Center’s three-phase renovation is now 40 percent complete and is going to be finished in November. The $150 million project will give the arena a totally different look – adding new seats, suites, a glass atrium and other amenities. A fabulous new circular video board is already up, providing crystal clear views of the action on the floor or ice…

•Sports-Centric: Mortenson Construction of Golden Valley, MN is handling the renovation. It’s a full circle project for the company because Mortenson built Target Center in 1990 for $104 million. Mortenson’s fingerprints are on every major sports venue in the Twin Cities. They built Target Center, Target Field, TCF Bank Stadium, US Bank Stadium and the Xcel Energy Center. Mortenson is also going to build Minnesota United’s soccer specific facility in the St. Paul Midway…

•Gold Standard: Mortenson is the top sports construction company in the US. Besides the Target Center renovation, they are also constructing a new stadium for the Atlanta Braves and new arenas for the Golden State Warriors and Milwaukee Bucks. Mortenson has built a total of 170 sports and entertainment facilities at a cost of $9 billion…

•Hot Ticket: The crowd for Minnesota United’s home opener against Atlanta United FC on March 12 at TCF Bank Stadium could top 35k. Minn U’s first-ever MLS game is March 3 at Portland…

•1-2 Punch: Denver (22-6-4) is the top-ranked team in this week’s USCO.com college hockey rankings. UM-Duluth (19-5-6) is second. The Pioneers and Bulldogs both play in the NCHC. Minnesota (20-8-2) is ranked fourth, the highest of any Big Ten team…

•Denver Dominance: The Pioneers have now won 20 or more games for 16 straight seasons. G Tanner Jaillet leads the NCHC with 20 wins and has a 1.84 GAA…

•NFL Olympics: The NFL Scouting combine begins next Tuesday in Indianapolis. This is one of the most overrated events on the sports calendar and gets too much attention. The focus is on 40-yard dash times, cone drills, lateral jumps and bench pressing 225 pounds – instead of football. What happened to judging a player by how they play in games? The Combine is paralysis by analysis…

•Meat Market: The Combine generates good revenue for Indy and gives the NFL Network something to put on the airwaves. Fair or not, players can’t afford to miss this hyped-up event, because coaches and scouts flock to Indiana. Over 300 prospects go to Lucas Oil Stadium to be timed, measured, poked and questioned by probing teams…

•Family Feud: Just a hunch, but I am guessing that Jeannie Buss and Jim Buss won’t be celebrating Thanksgiving together this year. It was Jeannie who removed brother Jim and Mitch Kupchak from the LA Lakers front office on Tuesday, clearing the way for Magic Johnson to take control…

•Juggling Act: Magic is a basketball genius and clearly loves the game. But will he be able to give the Lakers the laser-focus they need? Magic is also part-owner of the LA Dodgers, Sparks and runs many businesses…

•Marathon Man: On April 10 Joe Gagnon will embark on a marathon journey – literally. Gagnon will try to run six consecutive marathons in six cities on six continents in six days. Gagnon is going to run in Sydney, Singapore, Johannesburg, London, Sao Paulo and Los Angeles. If everything goes smoothly, Gagnon will run 157 miles and log over 40,000 miles in the sky…

 

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NBA family takes on Donald Trump

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By Larry Fitzgerald
February 14, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

Times are changing and the NBA, as we approach the 66th All-Star Weekend in New Orleans, had taken a strong stand. The game was moved a year ago, remember, to New Orleans from Charlotte because of the controversial House Bill 2, the law known as the bathroom bill of North Carolina.

It’s no secret that the NBA game has seen a spectacular growth spurt. Eight different players — Jimmy Butler, Demarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, James Harden, Isiah Thomas, Klay Thompson, John Wall and Russell Westbrook — have already scored 50 points or more in games.

Oklahoma City star Russell Westbrook is averaging a triple double: 30.9 points, 10.5 rebounds and 10.2 assists per game. If he succeeds he’ll be the second player (after Oscar Robertson) in NBA history to accomplish the rare feat. So far he has 62 career triple doubles. Golden State is on a 70-win clip again, and the Timberwolves are, well, the Timberwolves.

Photo by Steve Floyd

Somebody said politics and sports don’t mix. However, since Donald Trump moved into the Oval Office, the NBA coaches and players have let the White House have it. So many of the NBA players are born in different countries, and the game invites many cultures. It’s clear that the policies that Trump is pursuing have angered many. Top NBA coaches Greg Popovich, Stan Van Gundy, and Steve Kerr have all made it clear that Trump is bad news.

LeBron James and the NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers refused as a team to stay in the Trump Towers Hotel while visiting the New York Knicks. The Cleveland ownership traveling party booked the hotel, but the players put up a red flag saying no way.

Stephen Curry, the NBA’s two-time MVP and last year’s scoring champion, disagreed with the CEO of Under Armor apparel company. Curry is paid handsomely by them — $4 million per year on his endorsement shoe deal. After hearing that the Under Armor CEO said, “Donald Trump is an asset,” Curry responded, “If he drops the ‘et’ I’m okay with that.”

The NFL Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Head Coach Bill Belichick, and quarterback Tom Brady are friends with Trump. This puts many of their fans, particularly Black fans, in an uncomfortable position.
During Super Bowl LI in Houston, no mention of Trump appeared in any official NFL written distribution of interviews recorded by NFL personnel, by Super Bowl players or coaches from the daily media sessions. His name came up among the 5,000 accredited media in questions, but not on the record.

Trump apparently made a disparaging remark about Commissioner Roger Goodell in support of his buddy Brady after the four-game suspension related to the Deflategate controversy. Politics and policies and the mixing of billionaire owners and their comfort zones alienate millionaire players. Yes, they have put sports leagues and players on the front line.

With social media in the game, the world gets to keep score so to speak. Many Black players from the champion Patriots are letting it be known they will not visit the Trump White House.

 

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

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Eric Nelson

SPORTS NUGGETS: Timberwolves should give KG some love

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By Eric Nelson

February 14, 2017

GAMEDAY GOLD

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from the tropical Twin Cities…

 

• Valentine’s Salute: Since it’s Valentine’s Day, it only seems fitting to bring up an athlete that Minnesota sports fans love – Kevin Garnett. KG is the greatest Timberwolves player ever, and brought unharnessed energy and pure passion to the floor every game. Garnett loved to play and Minnesota fans loved his desire and motivation…

•Hoops Breakup: After 22 NBA seasons (14 with the Wolves) Garnett is into year one of retirement. When Flip Saunders brought KG back to “Sota” in 2014, it appeared to be a storybook ending to a spectacular career. Garnett had come full circle and even had aspirations of becoming part-owner of the Wolves. But, all that changed when new HC Tom Thibodeau took over last summer and quickly sent Garnett packing. KG was treated more like a guy on a 10-day contract – instead of someone who will someday be in the Pro Basketball HOF and was part of eight straight playoff teams in Minnesota (1996-2004)…

•KG Night: Was the parting acrimonious? Possibly. Should the Wolves have handled Garnett’s departure better? Probably. But, the Association is a cold, cruel business and what’s done is done. However, what needs to be done is for Minnesota to bring Garnett back and have “KG night” at Target Center. Retire his number 21 Wolves jersey and throw a festive bash. Show KG some love…

•Bronze Tribute: When Target Center’s $150 million renovation is finished in November, Minnesota should put a KG statue outside the arena. Garnett’s resume (former MVP, 15 time All-Star and 12 time all defensive team) has earned him that kind of salute…

•Lovey-Dovey: Both the Timberwolves and the Wild are playing on Valentine’s night. Lebron James and the NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers will be at Target Center, while the Anaheim Ducks go against former HC Bruce Boudreau at the Xcel Energy Center. The matchups have plenty of juice, but for obvious reasons, kiss-cam could be the highlight of the evening in both arenas…

•Missing Love: Former Wolves star Kevin Love has an injured left knee and will not play for the Cavs against  Minnesota. All of which means there will be no Love for Cleveland on Valentine’s Day…

•Triple Digit Streak: The good times continue for the U-Conn women’s basketball team. The top-ranked Huskies knocked off No. 6 South Carolina 66-55 Monday night for their 100th consecutive win. This is clearly one of the most impressive accomplishments in sports history and ranks right up there with UCLA’s 88-game winning streak from 1971-74…

•Just a Hunch: I am guessing that Tracy Claeys and Mark Coyle did not exchange Valentine’s cards this year…

•Raw Deal: The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that Claeys did not get a fair shake from the U of M. Despite dealing with off-the-field turbulence, Claeys and the Gophers were 9-4 last season and finished with an impressive Holiday Bowl win against Washington State. Claeys deserved better…

•Parade of Champions: If you’re keeping score at home, Boston has now celebrated 15 sports championships since 2001. The Patriots (5) lead the way followed by BC hockey (4), the Red Sox (3), Bruins (1), Celtics (1) and BU hockey (1). Winning titles is so common in Beantown, that Boston would be wise to add championship parade costs to the city budget…

•Skiers Mecca: Iconic Mt. Hood in Oregon has 29 feet of snow, which is 200 percent more than normal. All that powder should have skiers flocking to Hood…

 

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Eric Nelson

SPORTS NUGGETS: Despite low attendance, Adam Silver believes the Minnesota Timberwolves are trending up

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By Eric Nelson

February 1, 2017

GAMEDAY GOLD

 

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from Timberwolves nation…

•Crowd Counts: Despite winning seven of their last 10, crowds are not exactly flocking to Target Center to see the Minnesota Timberwolves. In 26 home dates the Wolves average just 13,871 fans per game – which ranks 29th out of the NBA’s 30 teams. Only Denver (13,575) draws fewer fans per game…

•Silver Lining: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was in Minneapolis last week watching the Indiana-Minnesota game. Despite the Wolves attendance woes, Silver is not concerned about Minneapolis as a basketball market. “No, not at all,” Silver said. “They’re doing all the right things to continue to attach themselves to the community. Part of it is building the team and building the arena as well. They are doing everything that is necessary, so I have not a bit of concern…”

•Wow Factor: It was Silver’s first trip to Target Center since the arena’s three-phase, $150 million renovation began. Silver raved about the new circular video board that is in the venue. “It really changes the experience for the fans,” Silver said. “These high-definition, big screen video boards are unique to our league…”

•Trending Up: Silver calls Minnesota a “first class organization” and says all the “arrows are pointing in the right direction.” He believes the Wolves have the right pieces in place to have sustained success…”

•C-Town-Bound: Minnesota logged another win Monday night, defeating Orlando 111-105 in overtime at Target Center. Next up for the Timberwolves (19-29) is a Wednesday evening game at Cleveland. The NBA champion Cavaliers (32-15) are on top of the Eastern Conference and have a 21-5 home record…

•In the House: Twins 2B Brian Dozier and CF Byron Buxton were at Saturday night’s Brooklyn-Minnesota game at Target Center. Dozier and Buxton were in Minneapolis for Twinsfest…

•Girl Power: Wednesday is National Girls and Women in Sports Day, and to celebrate the Minnesota Lynx are taking 20 female athletes from St. Paul Humboldt High School to the Science Museum of Minnesota Sportsology Exhibit. Lynx stars Rebekkah Brunson and Lindsay Whalen will participate in the festivities…

•Bold Bash: The Minnesota Super Bowl host committee is throwing a party Thursday night in Houston. “Bold north down South” is the theme of the evening. Super Bowl LI is Sunday in Houston and Super Bowl LII will be played in Minneapolis in 2017…

•Super Stats: According to wallethub.com, 51.7 million cases of beer will be sold on Super Bowl Sunday and 1,300 planes will land at Houston area airports during Super week. Most of those (85 percent) will be corporate jets…

•Big-Game Brent: Another legendary sports broadcaster is retiring. ESPN’s Brent Musberger is leaving after a fabulous career in the booth, the studio and the sideline. Musberger was a multi-talented guy who brought energy and passion to the broadcasts, and is one of the all-time greats. Musberger’s staple was the way he used to open up the old NFL Today shows on CBS by saying, “You are looking live at a sold out Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, MN…”

•Fab Four: Musberger’s retirement comes just months after three other icons left the booth. In 2016 Vin Scully, Dick Enberg and Verne Lundquist called it quits too. The foursome leaves a huge void. The airwaves will never be the same…

 

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Larry Fitzgerald, Sr.

Can Timberwolves finally show a growth spurt?

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By Larry Fitzgerald
November 16, 2016
GAMEDAY GOLD

How long is too long? And at what point do fans decide enough is enough? After 12 years of the Timberwolves missing the playoffs, I feel being patient and trusting have just about run their course.

Every organization experiences tough breaks, losing star players in free agency and injuries. Some teams fail because management and the coaching staff work against each other, both seeking more control over basketball decisions.

Three years ago, Flip Saunders was brought back by owner Glen Taylor to help rebuild this organization, which appeared to have lost its way. Two years ago, Saunders died after a sudden battle with cancer. Much of the work he put in motion kind of drifted through a season of mourning. Sam Mitchell was interim coach and led the team to 29 wins.

That was a big improvement over the previous one year under Saunders with only 16 wins. Still, Taylor decided he would not hang with Mitchell and the staff that Saunders hired. He virtually cleaned house and hired Tom Thibodeau as president of basketball operations and head coach.

Minnesota Timberwolves head coach shouts from the sidelines at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Coach has something to say

Thibodeau is well respected and highly regarded and was very successful in Chicago for five years. He was five for five, making the playoffs each year. He is trusted with taking this young, talented core of carefully selected players to the next level.

Many expect the Timberwolves to be a playoff team this year, although some are disappointed already with the team’s 3-6 start in which several big leads have been blown. Thibodeau does not bite his tongue about his team — he’s called them out for at times lacking discipline and toughness.

When he has about 20 games in with these guys, you will start to see Thibodeau’s imprint — improved consistency and working together as a unit. His ability to make in-game adjustments is highly regarded.

Drafting point guard Kris Dunn number one to team with Ricky Rubio, Zach LeVine and Tyus Jones was a good move — he’s talented and a good defender. The talented Karl Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Zach Lavine, Gorgui Dieng and Ricky Rubio have had time together. I’m a big believer in Thibodeau staying the course and teaching his team the little things.

The Western Conference is so deep and loaded — Golden State, San Antonio, Los Angeles, Oklahoma City, Portland, Memphis, Utah — that everyone is good.

 

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

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Eric Nelson

SPORTS NUGGETS: It’s a Golden finish for Detroit against Minnesota

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By Eric Nelson
November 7, 2016
GAMEDAY GOLD

 

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from the Glass House…

 

•Purple Pain: The Minnesota Vikings are the shakiest first place team in the NFL. Their 5-0 start has vanished, replaced by a three-game losing streak that has exposed their most glaring flaws. The most recent loss was a 22-16 dagger defeat in overtime against the Detroit Lions before 66,807 fans at US Bank Stadium. It was a Golden finish for the Lions as QB Matthew Stafford threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Golden Tate in OT. Tate caught 11 passes for 79 yards and punctuated his walk-off winner with a somersault across the goal line…

Detroit Lions wide receiver Golden Tate eludes the Vikings tacklers

Golden’s day

•No Norv: One guy who did not see the carnage in person was former Vikings OC Norv Turner – who left the team last week. Daryl Johnston – who was part of the FOX broadcast team that called the Lions-Vikings game – was stunned when he found out Turner had quit. “I was,” Johnston said. “I had an opportunity to talk to Norv. It was a situation here in Minnesota where there was just a disconnect between he and Mike Zimmer and he felt the best thing for the team moving forward was for him to step away so they were allowed to move in the direction that they wanted to move in…”

•Cowboy Connection: Johnston knows Turner well from his days in Dallas when Turner was the Cowboys OC and they won three Super Bowls in the mid-1990’s. “I had a lot of respect for somebody doing that,” Johnston said. “There’s a lot of outside opinions that will say he left the team, and that’s not the case at all. It just gives Minnesota the best chance to win. He said it was the hardest decision he has ever made in his life. It will be interesting to see how Minnesota navigates it…”

•Divisional Logjam: Detroit’s win in Minnesota has created gridlock in the NFC North. The scrum includes the Vikings (5-3), Lions (5-4) and Packers (4-4), as they battle for first place. Like Minnesota, Green Bay is in free fall mode. The Packers lost to Indianapolis 31-26 on Sunday at Lambeau and now embark on a three-game road trip that takes them to Tennessee, Washington and Philadelphia…

•Laquon Sighting: Minnesota WR Laquon Treadwell is no longer missing in action. The Vikings top draft choice from Ole Miss actually caught one pass for 15 yards against Detroit. It will be a bonus for the Vikings if they can get contributions from Treadwell in the second half of the season…

Vikings rookie wide receiver Laquon Treadwell is in the game

Vikings rookie wide receiver Laquon Treadwell is in the game…

•Walsh’s Woes: Vikings K Blair Walsh continues to be inconsistent. Walsh missed an extra point and had a field goal attempt blocked in the loss to the Lions. In a game where every point counted, that adds up. Walsh is 13 of 16 on extra points and 12 of 16 on field goals this season…

•High Stakes: Saturday night’s Gophers-Cornhuskers game in Lincoln is crucial for both teams. Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin are tied for first place in the Big Ten West division with 4-2 records. The Gophers (7-2) have won four straight and have a chance to go to a bowl game with some juice. But their next three games – against Nebraska, Northwestern and Wisconsin – figure to be challenging…

•Sputtering Start: There was plenty of hype, hope and optimism surrounding the Minnesota Timberwolves entering this season. Unfortunately, the Wolves (1-4) have gotten out of the blocks slowly and have blown huge leads in most of their losses. The Wolves fan base will continue to stay away from Target Center until this team proves it can win…

Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns rises with the ball

Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns up and over from ten feet…

•Three is not a charm: Minnesota has been horrible in the third quarter this season and needs to fix that problem asap. The Wolves play at Brooklyn on Tuesday and Orlando on Wednesday…

•Free Agent Plums: According to MLB.com, the top 5 free agents this off-season are – Justin Turner (LA Dodgers IF), Yoenis Cespedes (NY Mets OF), Edwin Encarnacion (Toronto DH/1B), Dexter Fowler (Chicago Cubs CF) and Josh Reddick (LA Dodgers OF)…

•Goal Oriented: Minnesota United forward Christian Ramirez has won this season’s Golden Boot award that goes to the player who scores the most goals during the season. Ramirez had 18 goals for Minn U and a career total of 50. Ramirez has won the Golden Boot in two of his three years in the NASL…

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