Before the NBA season started, Bovada and other Las Vegas casinos set over-under win total lines for all the teams. The Wolves’ number was 26.5, which seemed quite reasonable and even tempted those with optimism to make a sprint to Sin City to bet the over.
Anyone who made that bet needs the Wolves to win at least 27 games. We are halfway through the season now, and we can report this much: Minnesota has taken care of the crooked number, the seven. Now all that remains is the 20.
This is not exactly impossible — the Wolves going 20-21, basically .500 ball over the season’s second half — but it is improbable enough that we wouldn’t pay anyone more than 1 cent on every dollar bet to buy them out of their over tickets.
The reasons are many, but the primary one is simple: as the season has gone along, a franchise that nearly perfected losing has somehow gotten even better at it.
The Wolves were 2-2 in the season’s first four games; the two losses were by four points at Memphis and by one point at home against the Bulls. In their fifth game, Ricky Rubio hurt his ankle early on. They wound up losing in overtime, and they have only won five times since then. Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin quickly followed Rubio to the injured list, with Pek being the first of the three to finally return Wednesday in a blowout loss to the Mavericks.
Rubio, Martin, Pekovic, J.J. Barea (bought out before the season) and Ronny Turiaf (two games played) combined to play just 26 games in the first half of the season. Put them in a 5-on-5 game against any other 5 on the Wolves’ roster and they probably win 8 of 10 times. Add to the mix that Corey Brewer was traded after 24 games, and you have an almost foolproof losing cocktail.
A 19-year-old (Andrew Wiggins) is the only player to have started all 41 games, while second-year center Gorgui Dieng is the only other player to have played all 41 games. Rubio and Martin will return at some point (your guess is as good as ours as to exactly when), but it also wouldn’t surprise us if those gains are somewhat offset if Thad Young and/or Mo Williams are traded to contenders for more young pieces or salary flexibility.
Our best guess is this Wolves team will at least be somewhat improved in the second half, meaning it won’t stay on the same pace and finish with 14 wins — which would make this the worst team in franchise history. Where it falls on that spectrum — 10 Wolves teams in full 82 game seasons have won between 15 and 26 games — remains to be seen, but if you are still clinging to that betting slip and it says “over” on it … well it is, indeed, over.
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer is a no-nonsense guy who doesn’t look for a lot of excuses when it comes to winning and losing. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that Zimmer — when asked Wednesday at the Senior Bowl about the ball deflation controversy that has emerged in the wake of the Patriots’ AFC title game thrashing of the Colts — wasn’t buying it.
“I think it was like 41-7, right?” Zimmer said, according to NFL.com. “I don’t think the balls had a lot to do with it.”
Well, 45-7, but point taken. That said, the Vikings were EMBROILED IN CONTROVERSY over a somewhat similar ball situation earlier this season (and by that we mean it passed with barely a whimper aside from a warning and reminder from the league), when sideline attendants were shown heating footballs against league rules during Minnesota’s freezing 31-13 win over the Panthers.
Forbes Magazine annually compiles sports franchise value data, and the numbers for the NBA came out this week. The league — which announced a massive new TV deal in October, jumping from less than $1 billion per year to more than $2.6 billion per year — figured to see some large gains in franchise values.
But the numbers that came out Wednesday are eye-opening even when accounting for expectations. The average value of franchises jumped a whopping 72 percent from last year to this year, per Forbes.
The Timberwolves’ increase wasn’t quite that dramatic, but it is still quite sharp: a 45 percent increase, from $430 million in 2014 to $625 million in 2015. While that value puts Minnesota 29th among the 30 NBA franchises (only the Bucks are valued lower), it is the continuation of a sharp upward trend for the Wolves.
For most of the mid-to-late-2000s, the Wolves hovered around a $300 million value mark. The recession and NBA work stoppage dropped the Wolves to down to $264 million in 2011 (their lowest value since 2004) and it increased only modestly to $272 million in 2012.
From there, though, it jumped to $364 million in 2013, $430 in 2014 and now $625 million. That’s a 130 percent increase in just three years, which certainly brings a smile to the face of team owner Glen Taylor (who also owns the Star Tribune).
Of course, the valuation doesn’t mean much unless it moves the needle on a potential sale price for the team. Kevin Garnett better start saving his money.