It’s May and perhaps one of the top sporting weekends of the year already in play.
The three day monster that has become the NFL Draft captivates the fan, from hard core to passing, with its intrigue, suspense and eventual payoff. The Kentucky Derby rolls, baseball’s 162-game marathon is in deep into the first half of the season. There are the NHL and NBA playoffs too. Here in Minnesota, we’re locked with all our teams for sure.
So figure this. How does a basketball team with the league’s worst record to finish the NBA season manage to even a blip on the sporting radar on a weekend like this?! Answer. You have a kid like Andrew Wiggins.
By now you know (if you’ve been with me all season, I told you it’d happen back before Christmas…so yes, please call me the “Gift that keeps on giving” J) that #22 has been named the NBA’s Rookie of the Year. This delightful Toronto native is the Wolves first ever RoY and upon thinking about it, I had to scratch my head because of Kevin Garnett. Despite turning collective heads and going on to this amazing career out of Chicago high school, KG was not bestowed the honor. It went to Toronto’s Damon Stoudamire. Yeh, right?! Damon…WHO? Stoudamire was the Rip City point guard out of Arizona and ready for this, KG was SIXTH in the balloting. Hind sight is screaming in my ear right now…much like my daughter when she was 3 years old. What is THAT?!
Whatever the case (and back on point here), leave it to Wiggins to continue showcasing the future of the Wolves even long after his teammates have emptied their lockers and gone their separate ways for the season. At 19-years old, Wiggins only set the table for future moves to be made by the Wolves but he has charted the course. I won’t repeat the stats you’ve already heard or know. Just know this, Wiggins IS the best player move Executive/Coach Flip Saunders has ever made (and maybe will ever). Flip’s basketball lottery ticket was cashed that night. And I’m not making light of his work.
When it became “official”, Wiggins road to Minnesota got me thinking. Isn’t it funny how fate, timing and some ol’ good fortune can run together at the same time. I refuse to call Flip “lucky”. There was no luck, not a drop, in the move that brought Wiggins to Minnesota for Kevin Love’s move to Cleveland.
Give Mr. Saunders a little credit and leave this team’s recent record outside the door. He knows players in the NBA. His years of experience have created a sort of memory “spread-sheet” that plucks any player, any decade, any future kid super star and juggles ‘em’ all together so he can assess future possibilities better.
He’s seen every style, temperament and “game”. I don’t know this but I imagine Flip grew up watching Wilt and Bill Russell, a splash of the flash of Elgin Baylor, the soaring glide of Connie Hawkins, a handful of Hondo Havlicek, the shake-and-bake of Archie Clark and the razor sharp passing of Providence’s Lenny Wilkens. Flip, in his mind, likely grew up assembling players on the team he’d eventually coach. His bench had guys like Wes Unseld, “Big E” Elvin Hayes, maybe Walt Bellamy, perhaps “Pistol” Pete Maravich (which would explain Ricky Rubio) and Willis Reed. Flip’s entrance in the game gave him a front row seat to greats like (yes…“back in the day”) KG to Michael Jordan, the mid-range jumpers like Jim Peterson’s to Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, the Jerome Kersey’s (RIP) to Love and every player, A-to-Z and in between. That Basketball Education class 402 prepared Flip for the move of his career. Securing Andrew Wiggins and guiding him through every game of an 82-game grind. Brilliant. Wiggins’ first year is one for the books. Yes, he put up great numbers but the most important thing this talented kid learned is this. Wiggins absorbed how much losing sucks. Wiggins is a winner and his game and his impact on his teammates will only get better. As a local hoopaholic (and a award winning journalist who also hates to lose), I’m grateful Wiggins is here but even happier that Flip has a steady poker hand. I’m glad Flip can call on that mental rolodex of his to draw conclusions on players. Make no mistake, Flip knew KNEW Wiggins was the one. And for fans, forget about failing to win 20-games this season. What’s to come will make it all better.
It was also noticeable how fans reacted to the Wiggins RoY honor. In looking through my e-mail, faithful reader D.R.jotted to me, “ Like you, through thick and thin, I was with the Wolves all season. I’m hoping Wiggins is better than KG (Kevin Garnett) but I worry about putting that team around him. I’m not as confident as you are”.
DR, thanks for the note and your honesty. I get being nervous and concerned. Keep the faith.
Another reader was even more vocal about putting players around Wiggins. George writes, “Thanks for being one of the only voices outside the negative when it comes to the Wolves. I do not share your optimism for bringing in great players around Wiggins. These days, with finicky players, salary cap restrictions and luck of the draw, it’s a crap shoot at best. Your opinion on what’s going to happen?
George, I hear you and believe it or not, your thoughts are shared by many. The upcoming draft will help, the Wolves have financial flexibility to work with and Flip’s already in his Wolves War Room drawing up his Basketball Big Fix. George, thanks for the kind words. It’s kinda’ cool to be one of the few on the wagon. One of these days, we’ll get the band back on it.
One more question. Paul writes, Who wins the NBA Finals and your feelings on Kevin Love’s injury. Paul, thanks for dropping in. I still like San Antonio (they could be bounced in Game7 by the time you read this) and in the East, Cleveland without KLove. As for Love’s injury, I saw it flagrant. And quite frankly, I’m bummed for Love. That team was in a groove and I enjoyed watching the Cavs. I still see them going deep even without Love.
Before we wrap, this note regarding that KG/Rookie of the Year voting back then. We mentioned Stoudamire won the honor beating Portland’s Arvydas Sabonis, Joe Smith was third (gulp), tied for 4th was Michael Finley and Jerry Stackhouse then KG. Wow. Remember those cats?! Good stuff.
Next week, an interesting take on analytics and team attendance from an East Coast basketball AND SimonsSays fan. True enough. Until then, keep your Game ON! And do not be a “casual fan. Stay on board. Keep the faith! See you on TV!
What’s on your mind?!
If you are a serious Timberwolves fan (and even the casual fan is allowed), drop me a note with your thoughts. Write me at rod@gameONtvMN.com.
Here come the Lynx!!
The Lynx get one preseason home game to launch its 17th season of professional women’s basketball and it will be against Center Janel McCarville’s old team, the New York Liberty at Target Center on June 1.
This is cool! The Wolves have launched a new mobile app that gives fans instant access to exclusive Wolves content and live game coverage. Fans can download the free app on iOS and Android devices by visiting Timberwolves.com/mobile.
The official Timberwolves app offers fans the ability to follow live game content including the score, stats, shot charts and related social media conversations via the Game Tracker. The app also allows fans to seamlessly check the team’s schedule, roster and conference standings. Fans on the go can stay engaged and updated with the team by accessing Wolves articles, photo galleries and original videos through the app. New features including ticket sales integrations, fan experience modules, exclusive membership content and more will be added to the app in the near future. The app is another step the Wolves have taken to accommodate the continued growth of mobile web use. Last season, the Wolves launched their re-designed website that is optimized for mobile viewing.
SimonsSays on TV/PODcast:
GameON! and Rod Simons are winners of a 2014 Emmy award for show host! It’s exciting news as GameON! starts its new season and continues to showcase the Timberwolves like no other broadcast show in the region. GameON! is powered by Budweiser and is broadcast in High Definition and can be found on ITunes, on demand via our new GameON! App (free and available for Apple/Android) and online @ www.gameontvmn.com. There is always a Wolves update on my TV show, GameON! Don’t miss an episode of the Emmy winning GameON! @ 10am this Sunday morning on FOX’s My29 and throughout the weekend regionally on MidCo Sports Net.
GameON! offers in-depth interviews with the top players, great food, sports newsmakers and we get you inside your favorite teams (including the Wolves). We’d love for you to “like” us on Facebook @ GameOnTvMN. Drop me a note, Rod@go963MN.com
GameON! is also seen in North & South Dakota and Western Minnesota on MidCo SportsNet several times a weekend. We reserve the right to use your e-mails here in SimonsSays @ Timberwolves.com. You can now get SimonsSays in new PODcast form with insight/input from fans just like you and exclusive player interviews! Keep an eye out for SimonsSays PODcast @ Timberwolves.com each and every week.
And last but not least, please catch Rod throughout the day on GO96.3 FM. Rod keeps you inside the team with This Is Twins Territory & the signature Prep Playbook which can also be found @ www.go963MN.com.
We talk Wolves. Every day. High’s & lows. We’re there because we’re fans, just like you! Keep your GameON! See you soon!