Eric Nelson

SPORTS NUGGETS: Magic Johnson sees playoffs in the Minnesota Timberwolves future

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By Eric Nelson
October 25, 2016
GAMEDAY GOLD

 

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from the North Star State…

 

•Magic Endorsement: NBA legend Magic Johnson thinks the Minnesota Timberwolves are trending up. The Former LA Lakers great – who now owns the WNBA Sparks and is part-owner of the MLB Dodgers – is high on the Wolves. “They have the pieces now,” Magic said. “Everybody’s a year older. You can never underestimate experience. Now everybody will know what to do and how to do it…”

•Playoff-bound: Minnesota has not been in the post-season since 2004 – the longest current playoff drought in the NBA. Magic is high on Andrew Wiggins and Karl -Anthony Towns, and believes the Wolves are ready to end their post-season dry-spell. “It’s a complete roster and a complete team,” Magic said. “You have to be complete to make the playoffs. I see a complete team and they are ready to challenge now…”

•Tom Terrific: Magic gave a glowing review of new Wolves HC Tom Thibodeau. “This dude can coach,” Magic said. “I love him and I’ve always promoted him because he’s so super smart. He’s one of the best in the game at making in-game adjustments. A lot of coaches can coach but they can’t see something ahead. He can see ahead and he can make great in-game adjustments…”

•No “D”… No Play: Defense is Thibodeau’s hallmark and Magic says anyone playing for him better be good in that phase of the game or they won’t get much playing time. “You don’t play d,” Magic said, “you’re going to be sitting down…

•Vin’s Void: Magic wants to see a statue of iconic broadcaster Vin Scully put up outside Dodger Stadium and hopes that Scully comes back someday to do a guest inning of play by play – no matter what the cost. “He is Dodger baseball,” Magic said. “The sweetest voice we’ve ever heard. He’s going to be so missed because the fan base associated Vince and the Dodgers. Now you just have the Dodgers and that’s going to be a rude awakening for our fan base. Even if our team was struggling, people would tune in just to hear Vince call the game…”

•Minnesota Makeover: The renovation of Target Center is underway. The $130 million project has been going on for 5 1/2 months and is expected to be finished in one year. The new video board is already installed along with some major upgrades to club/suite areas. Twin Cities-based Mortenson Construction is handling the renovation. Mortenson has built many sports venues, including Target Field, TCF Bank Stadium, US Bank Stadium and the Xcel Energy Center. Target Center is the first sports facility Mortenson ever built, so the company has come full circle…

•In Demand: Mortenson is currently working on 170 sports and entertainment projects totaling $9 billion, including the Milwaukee Bucks new arena…

•Eclipsed by success: The Chicago Cubs-Cleveland World Series match up takes some heat off the NFL teams who play in those two lakefront cities. The Cubs and Indians are generating plenty of attention, meaning that the woeful Bears (1-6) and winless Browns (0-7) won’t be getting ripped as much as normal. The Bears are anemic and the Brownies are baked…

•Windy City trip: The Bears might be just what the Minnesota Vikings need to get back on track. Minnesota and Chicago play next Monday night at Soldier Field. The Vikings (5-1) lost their first game of the season last week in Philadelphia, 21-10…

•200 Club: Miami RB Jay Ajayi gashed another defense on Sunday. Ajayi ran for 214 yards in the Dolphins 28-25 win over Buffalo, becoming just the fourth player in NFL history to log back-to-back 200 yard rushing games. Ajayi – who is in his second season – is a well-traveled guy. He was born in London, UK, played HS football in the Dallas suburb of Frisco, TX and went to Boise State…

•Crunch Time: Minnesota United lost at Carolina 1-0 on Saturday 1-0, dropping to 5th place in the NASL. Minn U (41 points) hosts the New York Cosmos Saturday night in the last game of the regular season. A Minnesota win combined with a Rayo OKC loss, would put the Loons in the playoffs for the third straight season…

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Larry Fitzgerald, Sr.

There are plenty of reasons to cheer for the Minnesota Lynx

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By Larry Fitzgerald
October 19, 2016
GAMEDAY GOLD

One of the greatest joys over my 38 years as a journalist who has weathered the test of time has been watching the growth of the WNBA and locally covering the Minnesota Lynx.

I have a great appreciation for the business of sports, and believe me it’s a business in which you find out who you can trust. You also find out in time how some in the business are quick to climb on the backs of dedicated professionals.

The Lynx keep climbing the ladder. They have established a standard of greatness, and all the other sports teams in town should be taking note.

Minnesota Lynx fans

Number 1 Lynx Fan!

Mainstream media throw much of their attention at the Vikings-Twins-Gophers-Wild and Timberwolves in that order. They have larger followings, and more macho men go to their games. In many ways the Lynx are treated and covered by some as if they are the secondary story.

We are in a unique time. It’s an election year, and we are about to potentially elect a woman as U.S. president for the first time in history to lead the most powerful nation on earth. Women at one time could not vote and had no rights in this country, and Black women were treated unfairly due to both race and gender. But as the old saying goes, “They’ve come a long way.” The WNBA, a platform that allows women, and predominantly Black women, an opportunity to compete and shine, is now in its 20th year.

The Lynx are trying to win back-to-back WNBA titles. Sunday’s remarkable 85-79 win at Los Angeles was a test of character and the will of this great team.

With four Olympic starters and the WNBA Coach of the Year Cheryl Reeve, they are indeed a talented group. Superstar Maya Moore excelled with 31 points and nine rebounds, while Lindsay Whalen made back-to-back buckets to break a 69-69 tie.

Sylvia Fowles and her game-high 13 rebounds, Seimone Augustus slashing inside, and Rebekkah Brunson doing all the dirty work grabbing loose balls and rebounds — what a team. What heart they have collectively. I know something about winning championships. You have to impose your will and desire to win for it to happen.

The Lynx have beaten Los Angeles four times in seven regular season meetings and Finals. Thursday night, at the construction site called Target Center, the Lynx will try to grab another piece of history by going back-to-back as champions.

Good luck, Lynx, and thanks for showing the big boys how it’s done.

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: Idle times equal good times for the Minnesota Vikings

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By Eric Nelson
October 18, 2016
GAMEDAY GOLD

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from the land of 10,000 fall colors…

•Bye week bonus: Idle times equal good times for the Minnesota Vikings. Things are going so good for the Purple that even when they don’t play, their lead in the NFC North increases. The Purple had a bye week on Sunday, but saw their North lead grow to two games as Dallas rolled over Green Bay 30-16 at Lambeau Field. The Packers (3-2) have lost their offensive mojo and the Vikings (5-0) are the class of the division so far…

•QB homecoming: Minnesota is back in action this Sunday against Philadelphia at The Linc. It’s a return to Philly for ex-Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford – who was dealt to the Vikings before the season started. Rookie QB Carson Wentz is the new Eagles starter. Philadelphia (3-2) lost to Washington 27-20 last week and has dropped two straight games…

•Draft bonanza: The Cowboys (5-1) continue to get great production from rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. Prescott (a fourth round selection from Mississippi State) is the steal of the 2016 draft. He threw for 247 yards and three touchdowns against the Packers. Elliott (a first round choice from Ohio State) gored Green Bay on the ground as he ran for 157 yards. Elliott leads the NFL with 703 yards rushing…

•4-score: How ironic that on a day when the Packers put Brett Favre’s number 4 in their ring of honor, another number 4 – Prescott – was the star of the day…

•Dairyland downers: It was a rough weekend for football fans in cheeseland. In addition to the Cowboys win over the Packers, number 2 Ohio State squeaked by eighth ranked Wisconsin 30-23 in overtime on Saturday night in Madison…

•Fastballs and spirals: The folks who run the athletic department at Highland Park HS in Dallas have to be beaming. Clayton Kershaw and Matthew Stafford – who were teammates at Highland Park – both had impressive games on Sunday. Kershaw pitched seven shutout innings and gave up just two hits in the LA Dodgers 1-0 win over the Chicago Cubs in Game 2 of the NLCS. Meanwhile, Stafford threw for 270 yards and 4 touchdowns in Detroit’s 31-28 win over the LA Rams…

•Carolina blues: Clearly the most disappointing NFL team is Carolina. The Panthers (1-5) are in free fall mode after a 41-38 loss at New Orleans this week. Carolina was 15-1 in 2015 and lost Super Bowl 50 to Denver…

•Cut up: Move over Curt Schilling you have company. Cleveland P Trevor Bauer is now part of MLB’s bloody history. In Game 3 of the ALCS Monday night, Bauer left in the first inning with a cut on his right pinkie finger that was dripping blood. It was a graphic visual. However, the Indians lights out bullpen came to the rescue and six relievers combined to shut down Toronto 4-2. Cleveland leads the series 3-0…

•C-town success: Hard to believe, but once title-starved Cleveland, could have two championship teams in the same year. The Cavs are the NBA champs and the Indians are five wins away from winning the World Series. Another confetti parade through downtown Cleveland is a definite possibility…

•Hoops showdown: It’s only fitting that Los Angeles and Minnesota will play a Game 5 in the WNBA Finals on Thursday night. The Sparks and Lynx have been the top teams all season. With the series tied at 2-2, this is for all the marbles and a Lynx win would give them back-to-back titles and four in franchise history…

•Goal-oriented: Minnesota United soccer star Christian Ramirez scored two goals in a win against FC Edmonton last Saturday and leads the NASL with 51. Ramirez is three goals shy of breaking the league record, set by former Minn U player Pablo Campos. This week Minn U travels to Carolina…

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The NBA Makes A Stand with Its All-Star Showcase

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Segment 2: The NBA has held good on their threat to move the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte because of opposition to North Carolina’s HB2 law.  How might this impact the city, along with Hornets owner and native Carolina son Michael Jordan?  Then, is it a good idea for a professional sports franchise to make their home in Las Vegas?  The guys make their statements.

Gameday Gold Part 2 / 7-22-16

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The Best, The Brightest, and The Quiet Legend

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Segment 6: The world of sports and entertainment collided once again, with the ESPY Awards taking place this week.  Larry rejoins the program to discuss some of the show’s highlights with Eric, including the speech made by some of the NBA’s biggest stars.  Then, how do our hosts remember the great Tim Duncan, whom has called it a career after an outstanding, 19-year NBA campaign.

Gameday Gold Part 6 / 7-14-16

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SPORTS NUGGETS: Kudos to the Minnesota Lynx for taking a stance

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By Eric Nelson
July 12, 2016
GAMEDAY GOLD

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from the North Star State…

•Courageous stance: If you don’t take a stand, you take a fall. The Minnesota Lynx took a stand before Saturday night’s game against the Dallas Wings when they sported black warmup jerseys that said, “Change starts with us. Justice & Accountability.” On the back of the shirts were the names of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling – two African-Americans shot by police in Falcon Heights, MN and Baton Rouge, LA – a Dallas police symbol and the phrase “Black Lives Matter. The Lynx have taken some heat for this, but that is to be expected. I applaud the Lynx for standing up and making a statement. They had every right to voice their opinions on an explosive topic. Their message will hopefully get the ball rolling on positive change that is long overdue between police and African-Americans in the United States…

•Learning lessons: In the department of global affairs, sports is the toy department. But, these games that we passionately follow, also offer us valuable insight into teamwork and how to get along. In these incredibly polarized times, the USA can learn something from sports. Athletes of all races and backgrounds find a way to come together in the NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB, MLS and other sports. They rely on each other for success or failure. Color, religion or sexuality rarely comes into play. They are links in a chain with one common objective – winning games. Let’s hope the real world can take a cue from the toy department…

•Model of success: Sports is definitely not perfect when it comes to race relations and there are things that need to get better to foster more harmony and fairness. But, sports is far ahead of other things in the US when it comes to equality and learning to co-exist…

•New hire: The Timberwolves and Lynx have hired Ethan Casson as the franchise’s new CEO. Casson begins his duties with the organization on August 8. Casson comes from the San Francisco 49ers where he was their COO. Before that Casson was with the Wolves and Lynx for 11 years…

•Trending up: It’s been mostly gloom and doom for the Minnesota Twins this season. However, there have been some bright spots recently. The Twins just took three of four in Texas, and have won 7 of their last 10 games going into the All-Star break. Minnesota (32-56) is still a last place team in the AL Central, but the Twins are 5-2 against the Rangers (54-36), who lead the AL West…

•Power ball: Two guys who have fueled the Twins recent run are Max Kepler and Kennys Vargas. Both Kepler and Vargas began the season at Triple A Rochester, but since getting called up have made an impact. In 46 games, Kepler has eight home runs, 11 doubles and 33 RBI . In six games, Vargas is batting .471 with 3 taters and 4 RBI…

•Mid-season vacay: Except for Twins All-Star Eduardo Nunez, the rest of the team has a few days off. Minnesota’s next game is Friday against Cleveland at Target Field. The Indians (52-36) are on top of the AL Central…

•Homecoming: NY Jets CB Marcus Williams conducted his youth football camps last week in the Twin Cities. Williams, who played for Hopkins HS, had six interceptions for the Jets in 2015. Williams also was a star at North Dakota State…

•Mr. Dependable: Of all the qualities Tim Duncan had in his remarkable NBA career, the most impressive was durability. Duncan, who retired on Monday, played 19 seasons and was as much of a fixture in San Antonio as The Alamo. Duncan did not have a lot of flash and dash, but he could play. Game in and game out, Duncan showed up and performed at a high level. He is a two-time MVP and three-time NBA Finals MVP, who was a pillar on the Spurs’ 5 title teams…

•Low-key star: Duncan was the polar opposite of Kobe Bryant. Duncan played off the grid in central Texas, while Bryant achieved his greatness in Los Angeles – the entertainment capital of the USA. Duncan goes into retirement without any fanfare, while Bryant had going away parties in every city the Lakers played in last season. Duncan stayed out of the spotlight, while Bryant was always in it. They were two superduperstars who played at the same time, spent their entire career with the same team and won the same amount of championships. Both guys will be missed a lot…

•HOF-bound: Next stop for Duncan is the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA. Duncan is one of the NBA’s all-time greats and deserves every accolade he gets…

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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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SPORTS NUGGETS: A stormy night turns into delayed gratification for Minnesota Twins fans

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By Eric Nelson
July 7, 2016
GAMEDAY GOLD

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from the stormy Twin Cities…

•Delayed gratification: Because of powerful storms that battered the Twin Cities,Tuesday’s Oakland-Minnesota game did not start until 9:52 pm CT. Most fans chose to ignore Target Field that night because it was two sub-par teams playing at a very odd time. However, curiosity got the best of me, and I showed up – just to see who would show up for a game that started on a Tuesday and finished on a Wednesday. I quickly discovered that not many fans shared my enthusiasm for late night baseball. The ballpark was practically empty and the event seemed more minor league than major league …

•Cozy gathering: The announced crowd for the A’s-Twins matchup was 16,938. That was tickets sold. My guess is there were no more than 2,000 fans at Target Field. Most of those hard-cores were clustered into the first and second decks of the venue. Ushers let fans roam freely and sit where ever they wanted. I glady took my three boys to the first row behind the Twins dugout where we camped out for most of the game and had lots of fun. It was literally possible to hear other fans talking, and anyone who cheered or booed loudly, stood out. The crowd was so small almost every couple in attendance got on the kiss cam…

•Two for one: The Twins initially received heavy criticism for playing the game after a marathon rain delay. Many fans either left the ballpark or never showed up, and it appeared they would be eating their tickets. However, Minnesota reversed the tide of criticism by letting anyone with a ticket to the game also use it for free admission to a future contest. Once inside, the Twins did their best to make the sparse gathering feel welcome. Ball boys, players and coaches tossed baseballs into the stands like candy. If you were sitting anywhere near the Oakland or Minnesota dugouts, odds were good you got a souvenir ball…

•Closing time: For the record, the game did not end until 1 am, which meant the smallish turnout still had one hour of bar time left in the Minneapolis Wherehouse District. The Twins won 11-4, as Kennys Vargas, Max Kepler and Miguel Sano, hit home runs for Minnesota…

•Sports-saturated: The Twin Cities is a cluttered sports market. Rarely does a day go by when one of Minnesota’s teams are not in action. July 4th was a good example. The Twins lost to Oakland in a day game at Target Field and St. Paul defeated Joplin in a night game at CHS Field. I was at both events and it made me realize how lucky we are to have so many options in a metro area that has morphed into the sports capital of the USA…

•Baseball snapshots: When you see two games, in two cities, in one day there are bound to be some cool takeaways. At the A’s-Twins game, I saw a fan wearing a Tony Oliva jersey catch a foul ball off a carom early in the ballgame and just miss getting another one a couple innings later (the odds of getting one foul ball in a crowd of 23,100 are not good, getting two is practically astronomical). Another highlight was seeing Brian Dozier make a spectacular play at second base – laying out for a one hop grounder, then flipping the ball with his glove to Eduardo Nunez to start an amazing double play. It was also a bonus to drive into downtown Minneapolis on a Monday afternoon and not deal with the usual hassle factor – and park for free on the streets. Yup, it was a treat being at trendy Target Field on a 75 degree day as the USA celebrated birthday number 240…

•Explosive night: Meanwhile in lowertown St. Paul, scenic CHS Field was jumping as 9,973 fans jammed into the ballpark. The Saints blasted the Blasters 9-2 as pitcher Mark Hamburger (8-0) remained perfect and Alonzo Harris slugged a grand slam. The Saints sported patriotic red, white and blue uniforms and dazzled fans with a post-game fireworks show…

•Top dog: St. Paul is 32-15 this season, the best record in the American Association. The Saints have won four straight and lead Fargo-Moorhead by seven games in the North Division…

•Bitter divorce: Just a hunch, but I am guessing that Dwyane Wade and Pat Riley won’t be exchanging Christmas gifts this year…

•Goal-oriented: Christian Ramirez is the NASL player of the week after his three goal and one assist effort in Minnesota United’s 5-1 win over Carolina Saturday night. Ramirez leads the NASL with eight goals this season. Minn U is at Indy Eleven on Saturday night…

•Kicks and punches: Ramirez took up boxing in the off-season to improve his footwork and stamina. It is obviously paying off as he has become one of the top players in the NASL…

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