Glen Taylor owes us an explanation!

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By Larry Fitzgerald
December 27, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD
@FitzBeatSr

 

Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, Minnesota’s own, is the most (no-secret-here) popular owner in town. He owns the Star Tribune newspaper also. Since he has owned the Timberwolves, however, it’s been hit and miss. What have you done lately?

Thirteen years in a row the team has missed the playoffs while his investment in the team has grown by leaps and bounds. Taylor has been chairman of the NBA Board of Governors. He has even been fined by David Stearn for his role in the fraud case of Joe Smith many years ago.

He hired Kevin McHale and Flip Saunders in 1995, many years ago, and the Timberwolves were actually relevant for a while. They even made the playoffs seven or eight years in a row. They drafted this high school kid from Chicago, Kevin Garnett, who turned out to be one of the NBA’s greatest stars. In fact, he is the only Timberwolves player who was selected the NBA’s Most Valuable Player.

The guy played for 20 years. The Timberwolves even traded him to Boston, and he led the Celtics to an NBA championship and to the NBA finals twice. Five years ago Taylor hired Saunders again, this time as part owner and head coach. Saunders had a master plan to help Taylor save his struggling franchise. Saunders made a deal that included bringing Garnett, the franchise’s greatest player, back to Minnesota.

Garnett was with the Brooklyn Nets at the time. He agreed to return to Minnesota to play even though it was clearly at the end of incredible career and with the intent to eventually transition into the front office as part owner.

As we all know, Saunders died three years ago of Hodgkin’s lymphoma cancer. Saunders’ sudden passing really hurt the franchise; Minnesota had lost its leader. Taylor hired Sam Mitchell as interim head coach, but after one year fired him. Moving away from Garnett and all that Saunders had put in place, Taylor hired Tom Thibodeau as president and head coach.

Taylor has never spoken about Garnett or why he was no longer around. Garnett never officially retired either as a Timberwolves player and never received the respect he deserved for what he did here as a player both times. Garnett said recently he wants to own the Timberwolves and did not want to be a partner with Taylor. That would indicate some issues or agreements that were not fulfilled.

I think Taylor owes us an explanation. He should consider opening up about how Saunders’ death changed the direction of the franchise. What was Garnett promised when he returned with Saunders? Garnett’s jersey has not been retired. He has never been recognized by this organization or Taylor for all he has done for all those years.

Why is that? I know it’s business, but both sides are not talking.

The Timberwolves are the only franchise with no players who have ever been recognized for contributing to the growth of the franchise — no ring of honor, no retired jerseys. Taylor needs to invite Garnett back and work through the issues and set the record straight on what happened after Saunders died. What ended Garnett’s return as a Timberwolves player so abruptly, and what had he agreed to with the team?

I know Garnett has made $300 million or more over his remarkable career, but we need to hear from Taylor what went down and why Garnett feels jilted. Taylor, you at least owe us all that.

 

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: T’Wolves color rush is a bold look

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By Eric Nelson
December 20, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

 

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from the North Star State…

 

•Bold North: The Minnesota Timberwolves unveiled their splashy new aurora green uniforms last week against the Phoenix Suns. The T’Wolves called the game Statement Saturday and the cutting edge threads generated a positive response – especially with millennials…

•Squint Zone: It was so bright inside Target Center that the T’Wolves should have given out sun glasses along with the souvenier t-shirts they gave away to the 18,109 fans who showed up…

•Color Rush: This glow in the dark look has its roots in the Pacific Northwest. The NCAA’s Oregon Ducks and NFL’s Seattle Seahawks started the trend and it’s beginning to catch on in other parts of the nation…

•Season’s Greetings: Don’t look for Green Bay fans to be in the Christmas spirit when Minnesota LB Anthony Barr shows up at Lambeau Field Saturday night. Packer Nation is still foaming at the mouth after Barr’s hit on Aaron Rodgers earlier this season…

•Boos Fest: Barr can expect the same type of reception Brett Favre received when he returned to Green Bay in 2009 with Minnesota. Favre was clearly not welcome and was greeted by a chorus of boos when he trotted onto the tundra…

•NFL Honors: Congrats to Barr and Vikings DE Everson Griffen – who were chosen to the Pro Bowl for the third straight season. CB Xavier Rhodes was selected for the second time and WR Adam Thielen will be making his first appearance…

•Safety Snub: Hard to believe that Minnesota S Harrison Smith did not make the NFC Pro Bowl team…

•Say What?: Last Sunday was theater of the absurd in the NFL. Did the LA Rams really pound Seattle 42-7 at CenturyLink? Did Referee Tony Corrente really take away a game winning touchdown catch from Pittsburgh TE Jesse James with 2 seconds left in the game against New England? Did referee Gene Steratore really slide an index card between a football and the chain during a crucial measurement and then give Dallas a first down against Oakland..?

•Immaculate Deception: The touchdown reversal at Heinz Field is the most controversial play in Pittsburgh since the Immaculate Reception in 1972. Of course, that one had a much better outcome for Steeler fans…

•Frustrated Fan Base: Derek Jeter’s honeymoon in South Florida lasted as long as a hiccup. After slashing Miami’s payroll by $265 million and trading star players such as Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Dee Gordon, the new Marlins owner is taking heat. Miami fans have seen this kind of fire sale many times before…

•New Beginning: Minnesota United open’s the MLS season on Saturday, March 3 at San Jose and the Loons first home match is Saturday, March 17 against Chicago. Minn U will play home games at TCF Bank Stadium for one more year until Allianz Field is finished…

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Timberwolves looking good!

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By Larry Fitzgerald
November 30, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD
@FitzBeatSr

 

Believe it: As we close out the month of November, the NBA has already played one quarter of their season. It’s not a Major League Baseball (MLB) 162-game marathon. It’s the next best thing — 82 games mid-October to late April.

This is the earliest start to an NBA season ever with not as many dreaded back-to-back games. The hometown Timberwolves are 12-8 at the quarter mark, their best start to an NBA season since 2005-2006. If not for a hiccup or two, they could be 14-6.

Yet many observers and critics locally are already complaining about this and that, saying the team should be playing better. Tom Thibodeau, the team’s second-year president and head coach, is doing his best to get this talented group to be more consistent, to play harder, smarter defensively, and above all to play for one another for 48 minutes.

Minnesota Timberwolves players congratulate one another as a foul is called

…all for one…

The new additions Jimmy Butler (16.3), Taj Gibson (9.6) and Jeff Teague (13.5) have blended in nicely with Andrew Wiggins (18.8) and Karl Anthony Towns (20.6). They have, however, struggled primarily against the Eastern Conference teams.

They have played eight games against the East teams and are just 3-5 while going 9-3 against the powerful Western Conference. That includes losses to NBA Champion Golden State and San Antonio on the road.

It’s been 13 straight very cold years of missing the playoffs, and I firmly believe that this group will make the playoffs in 2018 and challenge the big boys in the playoffs. Obviously, we have a long way to go. Talented Washington is in town this week (Tuesday) at the marvelously renovated Target Center.

From a business standpoint, business is good for the Timberwolves. Attendance is up; they average over 16,000-plus fans a game. The product is much better. This is an exciting team to watch, also frustrating at times, yes, because you see the potential is unlimited.

A Timberwolves fans enjoying the new look squad

Attendance and Winning Percentage are on the rise…

These are slam-dunk days for NBA owners. Team values are soaring thanks to media deals and sponsorships with TNT-ESPN-ABC networks to the tune of nine years and $24 billion. Every team in the NBA except Brooklyn made a profit last year. Average franchise value has increased to $1.25 billion per team. That’s up 13 percent from 2016.

Before renovating Target Center to the tune of $150 million, the Timberwolves franchise was worth $720 million. So that’s why all the smiles. Things are looking skyward for the league and the Timberwolves.

I stress patience — it all depends on the Timberwolves staying healthy and focused and continuing to buy into Coach Thibodeau’s unrelenting message and Butler’s and Gibson’s leadership. You read it here first: The Timberwolves are looking good and are on the come.

 

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 All Eyes North thanks to the Minnesota Timberwolves fast start

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By Eric Nelson
November 8, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

 

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from the capital of Timberwolves Nation…..

•All Eyes North: The Minnesota Timberwolves have played only 10 games this season, but already look like a completely different team compared to the inept squads who have struggled since 2004. Minnesota (7-3) has won five straight games for the first time in eight years and is four games north of .500 for the first time since 2007. The additions of Jimmy Butler, Jamal Crawford and Jeff Teague have taken the T’Wolves to another level…

•Instant Impact: With Butler in the lineup Minnesota is 7-1. Butler doesn’t have spectacular stats (15.1 points and 5.3 rebounds per game), but he elevates his teammates. Butler also plays lock down defense and is a winner. Butler could become a rock star in Minnesota…

•Sports Riddle: What do the Timberwolves and LA Rams have in common? Both are trying to make the playoffs for the first time since 2004…

•Giant Rout: The Rams crushed the NY Giants 51-17 on Sunday at MetLife Stadium. According to the LA Times it is the most points the Giants have allowed at home since 1964. With QB Jared Goff getting better, RB Todd Gurley bulldozing opponents, and a solid defense, the Rams are trending up…

•No Boos Allowed: The 8-1 Eagles have the NFL’s best record and are playing so well that normally cynical Philadelphia fans have nothing to boo about. In Philly quarterback Carson Wentz is now as popular as Rocky Balboa – except that Wentz is actually a real character…

•Carson by the Numbers: In just his second season Wentz has blossomed into a top-notch gunslinger. The North Dakota State product leads the NFL with 23 touchdown passes and has thrown just five interceptions…

•Moving Up: Despite a bye last week, Minnesota has gone from number 7 to number 6 in this week’s NFL Power rankings. Philadelphia is number 1 followed by the LA Rams, Pittsburgh, New England and New Orleans…

•Husker Invasion: The Cobheads are coming. Even though Nebraska has a sub-par 4-5 record, don’t be surprised if Cornhusker fans stage a coup d’état and take over TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday. Minnesota is also 4-5 and a good chunk of Gopher backers have already given up on the team. Husker Nation always travels well, which means they will flock to Minneapolis for some football and partying…

•Mission Miami: Minnesota Vikings legend Chuck Foreman is going to Saturday’s game in South Florida between number 3 Notre Dame and 7th ranked Miami. Foreman played college football for the Hurricanes…

•Just Asking: Have Hawkeye fans stopped celebrating yet? Iowa’s 55-24 battering of Ohio State last week in Iowa City was clear cut Hawkeye domination and one of the most convincing wins in school history…

•Gold Rush: Congrats to Minnesota CF Byron Buxton and 2B Brian Dozier for winning their first AL gold gloves. Buxton has a knack for making highlight plays and covers more ground than a tarp. Dozier is steady and sometimes spectacular in gobbling up ground balls, and makes turning a double play look easy…

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Eric Nelson

SPORTS NUGGETS: The future is now for the Minnesota Timberwolves

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By Eric Nelson
October 17, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

 

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from the land of autumn technicolor…...

•Playoffs or Bust: The Minnesota Timberwolves begin their 29th season Wednesday night in Texas against the San Antonio Spurs. The Wolves and Spurs are polar opposite franchises. Minnesota has a track record of mistakes, bad luck and losing. San Antonio’s resume includes savvy decision making, lotto success and five NBA titles. But, the pendulum might start swinging the T’Wolves way after significant off-season upgrades. Suddenly the bar of expectation is IDS Tower-high for Minnesota. Anything short of the post-season will be considered a lost season…

•Playoff Drought: The star-crossed Wolves have not made the NBA playoffs since 2004 – the longest current drought in the Association. That should change because Jimmy Butler has been brought in to team up with Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns

•Depressing Data: Once upon a time, Minnesota went to the playoffs for eight straight seasons (1997-2004). However, that run of success is a blip on the radar screen compared to the Wolves many years of ineptitude. Minnesota’s all-time regular season record is a dismal 878-1,370 (.391). The Wolves have been allergic to winning for most of their existence…

•Done Deal: Of course, it might not matter how the Wolves or any other NBA team not located in Oakland does this season. Barring injuries, or an unlikely catastrophe, the juggernaut Warriors look like a lock to win their third title in four seasons…

•Barr None: For the record, I am in the camp that believes Anthony Barr’s hit on Aaron Rodgers was clean. Now Green Bay has to regroup without one of the top gunslingers in the NFL. Backup Brett Hundley needs to grow into this job quickly. If Hundley and the Packers don’t overcome this huge loss, the balance of power in the NFC North could shift to Detroit and Minnesota…

•Purple Reign: Somewhere in the music heavens Prince will be smiling this Sunday. The Baltimore-Minnesota game at US Bank Stadium is a battle between the only two NFL teams with purple as a primary color…

•Sinking: PJ Fleck’s boat has sprung a leak. After a 30-27 loss to Michigan State, Minnesota is still winless in the Big Ten. The Gophers (3-3 / 0-3) mounted a second half comeback behind QB Demry Croft (who threw three touchdown passes), but came up short on a soggy Saturday night in Minneapolis…

•Weather Games: For the second straight week the Gophers had a game delayed by lightning. The Spartans-and Gophers began 44 minutes late because of lightning in the area. Lightning also delayed the Minnesota-Purdue game for 88 minutes in the fourth quarter on October 7 in West Lafayette, IN…

•Intimate Gathering: The crowd count at TCF Bank Stadium was 47,541, but there could not have been more than 15k in the house when the game finished…

•Tracy’s Take: I wonder what Tracy Claeys is thinking these days? The Gophers let him go after a 9-4 season – including a Holiday Bowl win against Washington State. Meanwhile, Fleck and the Gophers are sputtering in the Big Ten…

•Travel-Tested: The Minnesota Wild are getting used to airports and hotels early this season. The Wild play five of their first six games on the road. So far they have already skated on visiting ice in Detroit, Carolina and Chicago. On Friday Minnesota plays at Winnipeg, then travels to Calgary on Saturday. The Wild returns to St. Paul on October 24 against Vancouver, which is the first of six straight home games…

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Should Timberwolves acquire Kyrie Erving?

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By Larry Fitzgerald
August 2, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

Nobody has done more to improve their roster than the Minnesota Timberwolves since Golden State captured their second NBA title in June over Cleveland. After the team finished 31-51, missing the playoffs for the 13th consecutive season, Tom Thibodeau and Scott Layden took their time, rolled up their sleeves, and worked the system. Suddenly the Timberwolves look like a playoff contender.

Trading veteran Ricky Rubio to Utah for a 2018 first-round pick, releasing forward Nickalo Pekovic, making the blockbuster deal with Chicago for All-Star Jimmy Butler in exchange for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and Minnesota’s number-seven overall pick has set the tone for change.

That deal sent shock waves through the NBA community. It got players talking about Minnesota as the place to play.
All-Star guard Jeff Teague was signed as well as forward Taj Gibson; and the foundation for the future, Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony Towns, 21 and 22 years old respectively, is already in place. What Thibodeau has done is infused the organization because he has credibility as a coach around the league. Players know he’s about winning and want to play where they can see progress in the making.

Suddenly two weeks ago, after all the moves the Timberwolves have made, even signing veteran reserve guard Jamaal Crawford, All-Star Kyrie Erving, one of the NBA’s top point guards, wants out of Cleveland. After three straight years in the NBA Finals and helping Cleveland win their first championship of any kind in 54 years, he says he wants to go elsewhere. And he tells his agent and Cleveland he wants to go to Minnesota.

Does he have issues with LeBron James? Is he upset that Cleveland just fired their general manager, the guy who drafted him number-one overall out of Duke? Remember, he came into the league after a serious injury his last year at Duke. Whatever his reasons are now for wanting out of Cleveland, if I were the Timberwolves I would not make that deal.

Erving’s body has taken a beating going deep in the playoffs three straight years in a row and logging deep minutes. Cleveland would want Wiggins in exchange, who the Wolves acquired in the Kevin Love deal three years ago.

As talented as Erving is having won a title already, Wiggins I feel has not yet hit his growth ceiling. He is still evolving as a player. I like his game and his mental approach to the game. I hope the Timberwolves are patient and pass on dealing for Erving and allow this current group they have now to grow together.

Erving has a history of getting hurt. It’s part of the game, but he plays with the ball a lot in creating contact in the lane. I want to see Towns, Wiggins, Butler and Teague together. I think the Timberwolves, with Butler’s leadership and Teague’s ability to push the tempo, are ready to go.


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: Minnesota is no longer the North Pole of the NBA

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By Eric Nelson
July 25, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD
@Ericinminny44

 

MINNEAPOLIS -Sports Nuggets from Timberwolves Nation...

•Trade Demand: Kyrie Irving has had enough of Cleveland. The superstar PG is tired of being solar eclipsed by LeBron James and wants to leave the King’s galaxy. Irving’s goal is to force a trade to one of four teams – Miami, Minnesota, New York or San Antonio…

•Hot Spot: By simply listing the Timberwolves as one of his fab four, Irving gives the franchise legitimacy. Apparently Minnesota is no longer the North Pole of the NBA…

•Butler Bounce: Of course, the T-Wolves can thank Jimmy Butler for this perception change. Once Minnesota acquired Butler from Chicago, the Wolves got instant street cred…

•Young Talent: In the last seven days the Minnesota Twins have gone up against two of the most prolific rookies in recent MLB history. Last week the Twins faced Aaron Judge and the NY Yankees in a three-game series in Minneapolis. This week it’s phenom Cody Bellinger as the Twins and LA Dodgers play three in So Cal…

•Dodger Dinger: On Monday night the Twins found out just how good Bellinger is. Bellinger slugged a three-run home run in the 9th inning to give LA a 6-4 win. Bellinger has 28 taters and 67 RBI this season..

•Fun is Good: The St. Paul Saints continue to be one of the best sports bargains in the Twin Cities. Scenic CHS Field is a gem, the ball club is highly successful (34-27 and 1 game behind Winnipeg in the AA North) and the goofy, in-game shtick is comical. The Saints hallmark is baseball mixed with entertainment and they pull that off that better than anyone…

•Lowertown Boom: This is year three for the Saints at CHS. They are part of the reason why Lowertown St. Paul is now a hip spot. There are cool parks and trendy restaurants near CHS and a good vibe in the area…

•Oh Maya: Not many athletes have a trophy case with more hardware than Minnesota Lynx G Maya Moore. On Saturday Moore collected another trophy after being named MVP of the WNBA All-Star game in Seattle. Moore scored 23 points to lead the West to a 130-121 win over the East. It’s the second straight season Moore has been ASG MVP…

•Vanishing Act: There are plenty of things to focus on as the Minnesota Vikings begin training camp this week in Mankato. One focal point is second year WR Laquon Treadwell – who had just one catch last season. Treadwell was persona non grata as a rookie and the Vikings need to get much more from their 2016 first round draft choice…

•Done Deal: Even though this is just the start of training camp for all 32 NFL teams, one thing is certain – New England will win the AFC East. The Patriots have won eight straight East titles and 14 since 2001…

•Name Game: Golden Valley, MN-based Allianz Insurance Company has acquired naming rights for Minnesota United’s future stadium in St. Paul. Allianz Field becomes the 1st Allianz-sponsored stadium in North America and 8th in eight countries on four continents. The soccer specific venue opens in 2019 and will cost $200 million. Capacity is 19,400…

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Eric Nelson

SPORTS NUGGETS: The bar of expectation is sky high for Jimmy Butler and the Minnesota Timberwolves

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By Eric Nelson
June 27, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from the new home of Jimmy Butler...

•The Savior: Timberwolves Nation has gigantic expectations for newly acquired superstar Jimmy Butler. Minnesota fans expect him to walk across Lake Minnetonka in July, fix the state’s crumbling roadways and lead the Wolves to the playoffs…

Jimmy Butler meets the Minnesota media at Mall of America

Jimmy Butler meets the Minnesota media at Mall of America

•Instant Impact: The Wolves loyal and patient fan base is tired of waiting for the team to become relevant. Minnesota hasn’t been to the NBA playoffs since 2004 – and has only gone eight times in the franchise’s checkered history. That is not good considering that the Wolves have been part of the Association since 1989. The future is now for Minnesota, and Butler is expected to turn this this team into a winner ASAP…

•Impressive Resume: Minnesota gave up a boatload of talent for Butler, but he is worth it. In Chicago, Butler was a three-time All-Star and made the NBA’s all-defensive team three times. He’s a no nonsense guy who can close out games and is obsessed with winning…

•Trending Up: With a new logo, a $150 million Target Center renovation and the acquisition of Butler, the T-Wolves finally appear to be on the rise…

•Tray Time: The Wolves have $19 million of cap money to spend. They should use some of that to get a legitimate three-point shooter. Free agent JJ Redick is a good option. Redick has spent the last four seasons with the LA Clippers and can sink the three-ball…

•Tidal Wave: Or, Minnesota could make another tsunami-like splash and go after free agent PG’s Chris Paul (LA Clippers) or Kyle Lowrey (Toronto). Bring one of those guys on board and Target Center would be filled to capacity every game…

•Gulp, Gulp: I’m drinking the Twins blue Kool-Aid. Minnesota is hardly a polished product but I believe the Twins can make the MLB playoffs…

•Iconic Bruin: According to the LA Times, Jackie Robinson is getting a statue at the Rose Bowl. Robinson – best known for becoming MLB’s first African-American player – was a running back at UCLA. Robinson grew up in Pasadena, CA, which is where the Rose Bowl is located…

•UCLA Trailblazers: Robinson’s teammate with the Bruins was Kenny Washington – who became the first African-American player in NFL history with the LA Rams in 1946. Robinson broke MLB’s color barrier in 1947 when he signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers…

•Fab Four: According to the University of Michigan, the Wolverines are the only NCAA program in the country to have athletes chosen in the 2017 MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL drafts…

•Michigan Embargo: Just a hunch, but I am guessing the Wolverines draft data won’t get much attention on the Ohio State campus in Columbus…

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