Golden State and Cleveland on collision course

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By Larry Fitzgerald
May 18, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

 

LeBron James says there is no rivalry between him and Stephen Curry of Golden State. They are not Magic Johnson vs. Larry Bird, Los Angeles vs. Boston. I disagree, and every playoff game played this post season by these two superstars has proven my point.

James is chasing another championship. He has three already to go with four NBA MVP trophies. Curry wants the championship back.

These two greats are different in terms of what they bring to the game. Their size and styles are miles apart, but their passion and fire and desire to win is as clear as day. And their teams win. Curry has two NBA MVP Awards back to back, including last year when he was a unanimous selection.

Curry scored 40 points in game one of the Western Conference Finals Sunday. The Warriors rallied from 25 points down and took advantage of a bad ankle sprain to San Antonio’s star Kawhi Leonard, who had 26 points when he left the game in the third quarter. The final score was 113-111 Warriors.

It was one of the mothers of all comebacks in NBA playoff history. Previously, when San Antonio led by 25 points or more in the regular season and playoffs under 20-year Head Coach Gregg Popovich, five-time NBA Championship coach of the Spurs, they were 316-0!

Golden State is now 9-0 in the playoffs; Cleveland is 8-0. Golden State and Cleveland have played the last two years in the NBA Finals. Two years ago the Warriors beat Cleveland four games to two in the NBA Finals.

LeBron James battles Draymond Green beneath the basket.

LeBron James battles Golden State’s Draymond Green

Last year, the Cavaliers rallied from down 3-1 to win a dramatic game seven at Golden State to snatch the crown, Cleveland’s first title of any kind in 54 years. Cleveland will play the game-seven winner between Boston and Washington Monday in the Eastern Conference Finals starting Wednesday.

Golden State rallied to beat the Spurs in game one. However, the Spurs were 2-1 vs. Golden State in the regular season. The Warriors are the winningest team in NBA regular season history over three years with one title to show for it so far: 67-73 and 67 wins, that’s 207 wins total.

Spurs have beaten the Warriors five times more than any other NBA team and had them down by 25 points Sunday until Leonard’s untimely injury. So it might be a bit premature to think the Spurs can’t slow down the Warriors and stop a potential Cleveland vs. Golden State three-peat in the NBA Finals.

 

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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Making the case for NBA MVP

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By Larry Fitzgerald
April 20, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

OK, by a show of hands, your choice for NBA MVP is Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, right? He led the NBA in scoring with 31.9 per game. He averaged a triple double for the season — 31.9 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists over 80 games.

He broke Oscar Robertson’s 55-year-old record of 41 triple doubles with the new high mark of 42. Oscar Robertson is a legend of an era where the big man dominated the NBA. Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Willis Reed all led their teams to titles.

Guards like the “Big O” Oscar Robertson, Jerry West and Walt Frazier did not get the attention back then compared to what guards receive today. Back in the 1961-62 season, Robertson, while setting the NBA record of 41 triple doubles, finished third in the MVP voting to Bill Russell of the Boston Celtics. Russell was the MVP with 18.9 points, 23 rebounds, and averaged five blocked shots per game.

Philadelphia’s Wilt Chamberlain that year averaged 50.4 points per game and was the runner-up to Russell for the MVP that season. That’s something for you to think about before you assume Westbrook has locked up the MVP Award. History has shown that the MVP award usually goes to the best player on one of the league’s top teams.

For example, last year Stephen Curry of Golden State led the Warriors to an NBA regular-season record 73 wins while scoring 30 points a game. He won the honor the previous season also by leading the Warriors to 67 wins; again, they had the best record in the NBA.

Westbrook, as dominating as he was, led Oklahoma City to a 47-35 record, good for the sixth-best record in the Western Conference. Most people think James Harden of Houston, with 29.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, and leading the NBA in assists with 11.2 per game, could grab the MVP trophy because Houston was 55-27, third-best record in the NBA.

Oklahoma City Thunder's Russell Westbrook

I think the vote will be real close. Curry, the winner the last two years, averaged 25.4 points, his new teammate Kevin Durant averaged 25 points, and the Warriors had the best record again with 67 wins.

Kiwai Leonard of San Antonio averaged a career-best 25.7 points per game while leading the Spurs to 61 wins, second-best in the NBA the year legend Tim Duncan retired after 18 seasons. Boston’s Isiah Thomas led the Celtics to the best record in the Eastern Conference and tied Harden, averaging 29.1 points per game.

LeBron James and Cleveland slipped to number two in the East, but as defending NBA Champions and averaging 26.4 points per game. The King, a four-time MVP winner, will get a lot of votes also.

I tend to lean to the best player on the best team. That formula seems to be the way the voters go, and history shows that whether it’s 1961-62 or 2016-17, it’s still a team game. The best player on the best team wins MVP honors just about every year. We will soon see.

 

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: New logo, new-look arena and a talented core create optimism for the Minnesota Timberwolves

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By Eric Nelson
April 12, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from the land of logos

• Playoff Drought:  Once again the Minnesota Timberwolves are absent from the NBA playoffs. This has become a spring tradition for the Wolves, who have missed the post-season since 2004 – the longest current drought in the Association. For the 13th straight off-season the Wolves will be selling hope and optimism to their incredibly patient fan base…

• New Look:  On Tuesday night at Target Center, the Timberwolves unveiled a cool new logo against Oklahoma City. Minnesota hyped the event for weeks and it generated plenty of buzz in the Twin Cities. The logo was a perfect distraction and took away the focus from another lost season. The circular logo – which includes an aurora green north star next to a howling wolf on a basketball backdrop – is cutting edge. Other colors include midnight blue, lake blue, moonlight grey and frost white…

New Timberwolves logo adorns the scoreboard at Target Center

Timberwolves unveil a new look

• New-look Arena:  The combination of a trendy logo, Target Center’s $150 million renovation, and young stars such as Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, give Wolves fans reasons to be upbeat. But, ultimately this will come down to winning. Minnesota’s core of talent had better blossom asap and get this team back to the playoffs. Logos and renovated arenas can only take a franchise so far…

• Baseball Gem:  My favorite MLB ballpark is Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. I was at the venue Monday when the A’s played the Royals in KC’s home opener. The 44 year old stadium has aged incredibly well. The facility – which underwent a $250 million makeover in 2009 and some more changes this past off-season – looks fabulous…

Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium

Home of the Royals

• Bells and Whistles:  The K still has signature waterfalls and a gigantic Crown Vision scoreboard in deep CF. There is plenty of info on the video board, including the type of pitch that was just thrown. The ballpark’s unique architectural design sets it apart from others. The arching upper deck has jutting points at both ends. The K is a spectacular setting for baseball..

• Tale of the Gate:  A crowd of 40,019 showed up to see Oakland shutout Kansas City 2-0. Fans arrived early and many participated in pre-game tailgating that would make some NFL teams jealous. Of course, Arrowhead Stadium is located just south of The K and is part of the Truman Sports Complex. Tailgating before Chiefs games at Arrowhead is legendary – thanks to a parking lot that has a huge footprint with acres of blacktop…

• Panoramic Views:  The K has plenty of postcard sights. It never gets old seeing the ballpark’s immaculate, emerald green grass, the waterfalls and crown-shaped scoreboard. Beyond the ballpark is I-70, a concrete ribbon criss-crossing Mid-America…

Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri

Within “The K”

• Sounds Good:  Royals broadcaster Steve Physioc is one of the top play by play guys in MLB. Physioc does an outstanding job painting the picture over the radio airwaves with his knowledge and commanding voice…

• Texas Tango:  After losing 2-0 to Dallas FC last week, Minnesota United returns to the Lone Star State for a match in Houston on Saturday night. The Loons (1 win, 1 draw, 4 losses) have scored 10 goals this season – fourth most in MLS. The Dynamo (3-0-2) is undefeated at home this season, winning all three of its matches at BBVA Compass Stadium…

• Meteoric Rise:  I wonder how CBS broadcasters feel about Tony Romo being hired as the network’s number one analyst with no experience in the booth? Guys like Dan Fouts and Rich Gannon were bypassed for the position, despite having been part of CBS broadcasts for many years…

• Wild Party: The Minnesota Wild are hosting a free pre-game party on Friday before Game 2 of their Stanley Cup Playoff series against the St. Louis Blues. The event takes place at the Cleveland Circle parking lot near the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul…

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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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