Merry Merry and happy holidays and holy days to you! Whatever you want to call it, however you choose to celebrate….Christmas is here and I for one am hoping the holiday vibe brings cheer, and certainly, more wins.
This time of year never fails to bring me new found “hope” for the New Year to come. As a huge hoops fan, I’ve been eager to get here because it’s a very special season with the Wolves now front and center on the NBA’s popular Christmas TV schedule. Playing at Oklahoma City is never easy but for the Wolves, the spotlight is going to help them, on and off the court.
For starters, this first quarter-season has been tough. I’ve been at odds, in a good but contentious way, about how the Wolves will place after what they’ve endured. My basketball buddies and media colleagues think I’m nuts. Seriously gone coo-coo. They have been arguing with me for weeks that the team the NBA scheduled in the off-season for this Christmas showcase (the Wolves) is simply not the team we’re seeing on the court right now. 9-wins in 28-games will spur those arguments. I don’t care.
So, sitting in that mermaid coffee shop directly across from the Arena, watching the construction and renovation work at Target Center before a game the other day, I found myself in a hoop chat with a 25-year-season ticket holder. Dick admitted
He was still trying to figure out the Wolves. Are they the team that got punched by the Pistons, Spurs and Warriors at home then hit the road to beat Charlotte, Chicago and just recently Atlanta?
Dick and so many other fans, including Wolves players and coaches, are clearly frustrated how the season has played out to this point. Dick says he’s had it. He’s tired of the dark chatter all around the team. “You can’t escape the negative, man. It’s everywhere.” Dick added, “I thought when the Vikings started out and won five straight games, it was all coming together. The Vikings would win and the Wolves would start up and do the same. I actually allowed myself to get caught up and get excited. My wife says that I got carried away with optimism. I think I might have carried it over to the Wolves too. Now, the Vikings won’t make the playoffs and my Wolves could lose too many to get in the playoffs too. So, seeing them on national television Christmas night, yeh, it makes me nervous”.
That’s real and how fans are rolling these days. Can’t blame ‘em. Dick also got it right, the negative is as thick as Minnesota’s January cold too. Anywhere you turn these days, you can’t miss the electronic body blows the Wolves are taking with fingers and key strokes. Twitter, Facebook, e-mails to me and even on the blog site reddit. The verbal harpoons on talk radio and TV are a dime a dozen. Jeez.
As I write this and now that I come to think of it, therapy may be needed and in my future. Since I’m still a newspaper reader there are some days I just do a quick scan of headlines and move on. Then the other day, I turned for the box scores and saw that Utah…yes, UTAH, has improved to the point of jumping into the lead of the Northwest division. No surprise with the Spurs and Warriors continue to be the best in the West and Toronto and Cleveland own the East. But Utah? The thought that pops into my head is this. If that Jazz team can hit its stride and turn heads, the Wolves certainly can.
I figure there is no better time than on the Christmas TV stage. With Sir Charles and Shaq, Kenny and Ernie stammering on about how the Wolves have underachieved to start the season and how the glass is full for the future. I’ll be honest with you, as much as this season has hammered me so far, beating Atlanta to make it two straight and then a win against triple-threat Russell Westbrook’s Thunder would be sweet and one gigantic step forward.
Seriously, over the past few years I’ve been called every kind of name when writing about the Wolves. From “homer” to “hype-ster” and many many names not suitable for print. I’ll give the naysayers the 19-losses. But I insist that play, on the road, locking down wins as the Wolves did in Charlotte, that impressive game in the Windy City when Coach T returned to Chicago and then grabbing a “W” on the road in the 4-0-4 is a solid jump start.
It’s cliché but true. In this situation, the Wolves have to lock down what’s right in front of them. Where the Wolves sit now is nothing a nice long winning streak won’t fix. I’ve seen it firsthand. Coach T has his players focused on improving and getting better one game at a time. Watch. You won’t see the Wolves focused down their schedule and getting over their snowshoes. They won’t spend a second dwelling on the Rip City visit this New Year’s Day or Team Harden and Houston again January 11 or even that four game road trip at the end of February. When games are days or weeks away, it does no good. Put it like this, the Wolves will get better in the slow cooking fashion. And the Wolves will improve and show tangible improvement before the All-Star break. All the new systems, coaches and players meshing and getting on that long road back to W’s will be visible.
Speaking of that, one of the players making adjustments is the point guard. And that brings me to my first letter, long time GameON! watcher Jeremy who writes: “I love your GameON show and appreciate you sticking with the Timberwolves through thick and a lot of thin. Win or lose, you talk about the Wolves and fans like us appreciate it. it was nice to meet you at the Spurs game too. My question, are you still a Ricky Rubio fan? So many are not and the fans who sit near me at games want Rubio gone. Your thoughts”?
Jeremy, thanks for watching and remembering some of my past SimonsSays calls on Rubio. I am still and will be a Rubio fan. He’s a savvy veteran and even though he may never be the scorer some want him to be, I’m one who thinks his leadership and distribution is good enough for me. I want Rubio to get the ball to Andrew Wiggins, KAT and our scorers. I expect Rubio to be one of the league’s elite passers. And he’s a solid defender. It’s easy to jab.
I like Rubio’s numbers against the Hawks. 33 minutes, shoots 3 for 5 and has 8-assists in a game where all five starters score in double figures. Better man than me, Coach T, knows what Rubio brings to the team. Jeremy…thanks for the note and your loyalty. Happy holidays! Keep your GameON!
Jeremy’s note makes me think of what I’m putting on my list. Santa’s gonna’ be a busy fella and when his work is done and he sits down with a cold one on Christmas evening, I’m confident Santa will have delivered nice tidings to T’Wolves fans.
On my list to the Jolly one, I’ve asked:
a winning streak. In any denomination. Preferably 6, 8, 10 and maybe 13 games.
those winning streaks delivered separately.
A solid second half of the season “Fix-it kit” so leads are safe and wins easier to lock down.
Patience for fans.
A winning season for the Wolves baseball neighbors at Target Field.
Peace and “hope” for everyone in 2017.
Here’s hoping you continue to enjoy the holidays and remember that the season –is- still young. Lots of basketball to play. Heck, we’re soon to be ringing in 2017, that contentious election season is in the rear view mirror and it’s now officially OK to have a little optimism. Perhaps even, a little hope.
Get some tickets in those stockings. Get out to a game….and say hi if you see me. Let’s do this! It’s time to watch a winner grow right before us. They’ll get there. Mark my words.
Keeping Sid in our thoughts! His statue sits outside Target Center. He’s lived over 90-years and still goes stronger than many of us. As legends go, Sid Hartman is one of Minnesota’s largest and he’s on the mend. Sid is healing after falling and breaking his hip. Sid had surgery the next day and then, 24-hours after that, he was gently back on his feet.
Add Sid to your thoughts and prayers this holiday season. Truly, he is one of a kind. Feel better Sid! You got your GameON!
Say What Rod?!
I’d love to get your feedback and your thoughts? You know, communication is a two-way street. So let me know what you think. I’ve always loved your notes and we’ll be engaged…ready to talk Wolves and the NBA! You can e-mail me your comments, just send it to rod@gameonTVmn.com
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