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: 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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The Wolves and Wild Bring in Some Fresh Blood

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Segment 2: The Timberwolves didn’t make as big of a splash in the beginning of the free agency period, but they did add a couple of veteran pieces to the roster.  The guys discuss how big of an impact Brandon Rush will have on the young stars.  Plus, the Wild are being active in their offseason pursuits as well.

Gameday Gold Part 2 / 7-8-16

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Larry Fitzgerald, Sr.

Timberwolves select Kris Dunn

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Despite much speculation that the Chicago Bulls and the Timberwolves were working on a multi-player Draft Day deal, Timberwolves President and Coach Tom Thibodeau and General Manager Scott Layden did not bite on anything Boston or Chicago proposed. And most of the time that’s the best thing to do — nothing.

 

It’s been a long time since the Timberwolves were in the playoff mix. Can you say 12 years? Thibodeau took a giant step toward positioning the Timberwolves to continue on the growth spurt they currently enjoy.

 

Providence star Kris Dunn was taken by the Timberwolves with the fifth overall pick. Dunn at 6’-4” is easily the best true point guard in this Draft. He’s also a strong defensive player and has the potential to occasionally resemble Russell Westbrook.

Basketball image

Asked about being drafted by the Wolves, Dunn said, “The first thing I feel like I could bring to the Wolves is my defense. I always tell people that’s my greatest strength, and that’s one thing you can control every game.”

 

Thibodeau is a special coach. He has his way of doing things, and he’s had much success doing things his way. And it starts on the defensive end. The selection of Dunn was a perfect fit for Thibodeau. Dunn is a foundation-type player.

 

You don’t win in this league unless you have the courage to stop people. That takes heart. Thibodeau will get right to the heart of the matter with this talented young Wolves group.

 

The Timberwolves have had the fifth overall pick in the NBA first round four times in their history with mixed results. Guard Ricky Rubio was the last fifth overall pick they selected in 2009. In due time, Dunn could very well be the guy that makes Rubio, who struggles with his shooting, expendable.

 

The Timberwolves have also selected with the fifth pick Ray Allen (1996 — they traded him, a big mistake), Isaiah Rider (1993) and Kevin Garnett (1995).

 

Obviously, Garnett is the greatest fifth-round pick in franchise history, a former league MVP and multi-year All-Star. Since 1980, the fifth overall pick has become an All-Star 11 times, and that pick has been NBA MVP twice — Kevin Garnett and Charles Barkley.

 

The Timberwolves also have Tyus Jones, drafted in 2015, at point guard, so for Rubio, Dunn and Jones in 2016-17, it will be survival of the fittest at the point.

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Drafting A Plan for the Wolves’ Future

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Segment 4: With all the talk of postseason runs, we can’t forget that the NBA Draft is less than a week away.  What will the Timberwolves do with the fifth overall pick?  Eric and Larry give us some of the scenarios, including one that could bring an All-Star player to the roster.  And could the potential of this young squad turn into more than just postseason basketball?

Gameday Gold Part 4 / 6-17-16

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A Sizzling Start, A Bittersweet Return, & An Unexpected Guest

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Segment 6: The Lynx are looking for their own back-to-back title run.  We hear about the team’s unbeaten start to the WNBA season.  The Gopher baseball team is playing in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2011.  They’ll do so with heavy hearts, however, after the loss of their pitching coach.  And an unexpected guest (NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner) drops by.

Gameday Gold Part 6 / 6-3-16

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