Adrian Peterson cleared to rejoin Vikings, but will he?

Star Tribune Sports - Thu, 04/16/2015 - 21:12
The NFL ended his exile, but pressing questions remain.
Categories: Local

Bill Webster, master of realistic wildlife art

Star Tribune Sports - Thu, 04/16/2015 - 20:48
Bill Webster captured the true beauty of game birds.
Categories: Local

Lynx trade picks, add guard on WNBA draft night

Star Tribune Sports - Thu, 04/16/2015 - 19:17
The Lynx traded their first-round pick (11th overall) and third second- and third-round picks to New York for guard Anna Cruz and the Liberty’s second- and third-round picks.
Categories: Local

Gophers' Zahui selected No. 2 overall by Tulsa in WNBA draft

Star Tribune Sports - Thu, 04/16/2015 - 18:19
The 6-5 sophomore All-America center opted to leave the Gophers early to enter the draft.
Categories: Local

Nate Pomeday promoted to assistant coach

Star Tribune Sports - Thu, 04/16/2015 - 15:22
The Northwestern graduate worked as an assistant at Oregon State for six years before joining Minnesota as the director of basketball operations before last season.
Categories: Local

Twins unleash offense, survive shaky finish to take series from Royals

Star Tribune Sports - Thu, 04/16/2015 - 15:20
Tommy Milone won his second start and the Twins had their best offensive game of the season in beating the defending American League champion.
Categories: Local

NFL announces that Peterson will be reinstated Friday

Star Tribune Sports - Thu, 04/16/2015 - 14:16
Well, that didn’t take too long. The NFL has just announced that Vikings running back Adrian Peterson will be reinstated from the commissioner’s exempt list on Friday. Here is the statement from the NFL: “Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings was advised today that effective tomorrow he is reinstated as an active NFL player and may participate in all scheduled activities with the Vikings. “In a letter from Commissioner Roger Goodell, Peterson was informed that he is expected to fulfill his remaining obligations to the authorities in Minnesota and Texas, as well as the additional commitments Peterson made during his April 7 meeting with the commissioner regarding maintaining an ongoing program of counseling and treatment as recommended by medical advisors. “Beyond the requirement to comply with his court obligations and plan of counseling, Peterson was reminded that his continuing participation in the NFL depends on his avoidance of any further conduct that violates the Personal Conduct Policy or other NFL policies. Any further violation of the Personal Conduct Policy by Peterson would result in additional discipline, which could include suspension without pay or banishment from the NFL. “Peterson was suspended without pay last November 18 for the remainder of the 2014 NFL season for violating the NFL Personal Conduct Policy in an incident of abusive discipline that he inflicted on his four-year-old son last May. Peterson pled no contest on November 4 in state court in Montgomery County, Texas to reckless assault of the child. The Vikings quickly released a statement, saying: “The Minnesota Vikings have been informed by the NFL that Adrian Peterson has been reinstated. We look forward to Adrian re-joining the Vikings.” Peterson has bounced from the commissioner’s exempt list to the suspended list and back again since being indicted on charges stemming from injuries he inflicted while disciplining his 4-year-old son last summer. Peterson was eligible to be reinstated on Wednesday, per NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s directive when he suspended Peterson last fall. The Vikings’ offseason training program starts on Monday. It’s unlikely that Peterson, who has expressed some reservations about returning to Minnesota, will participate in the voluntary workouts and OTAs. The first mandatory gathering is the team’s mini-camp on June 16-18. Peterson’s agent, Ben Dogra, has said he thinks it would be better for Peterson to play elsewhere. But the Vikings have no intention of trading the 2012 league MVP and are standing by a contract that has three years left on it, including an agreement for Peterson to make $12.5 million this season.
Categories: Local

NFL Draft Truth or Hype: DE/OLB Vic Beasley

Star Tribune Sports - Thu, 04/16/2015 - 14:13
We’ll take a daily look at some of the most talked about prospects in the 2015 NFL Draft and tell you whether they’re worth the hype or not. We shift our attention back to defense and another one of these defensive end/outside linebacker prospects in this draft, Clemson’s Vic Beasley. Listed at 6-3 and 246 pounds, Beasley was a consensus All-America selection two years ago as a junior. Beasley played basketball in high school, which seems to be a big plus in today’s NFL. His father, Victor, also played wide receiver and defensive back at Auburn from 1982-84. By The Numbers: Freshman (nine games): one solo tackle Sophomore (seven games): 14 tackles (12 solo), eight sacks, eight tackles for loss, one forced fumble Junior (13 games): 41 tackles (31 solo), 13 sacks, 23 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles Senior (13 games): 34 tackles (28 solo), 12 sacks, 21.5 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles Beasley broke Clemson’s career sack record with 33 in 48 games (25 starts). He also finished fourth in school history with 52.5 career tackles for loss. Not only could Beasley get in the backfield, but he also finished with seven forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries that were both returned for touchdowns and 11 pass breakups. NFL Combine/Pro Day results: 40-yard dash: 4.53 seconds Bench press (225 pounds): 35 reps Vertical: 41 inches Broad jump: 10 feet, 10 inches I wish I had emojis on this blog because we need flames for each one of Beasley’s measurements. He led all defensive linemen and linebackers with his 40-yard dash time, tied for the most reps on the bench press and finished in the top three with his vertical and broad jump at the combine. He’s freakishly athletic and fast at 246 pounds. These basketball players, man. The Film The speed shows on tape as well. Beasley is consistently one of the first players off the line of scrimmage and a key reason why he was able to get in the backfield so often in college. The other thing that stood was how, amazingly enough, Beasley was able to rack up so many sacks using the same exact move. Seriously, it’s the same exact move each and every time. It’s a credit to his speed and flexibility really, but that won’t work as consistently in the NFL. Beasley needs a counter move, particularly when he tries to bring inside pressure. There were so many examples where Beasley would get washed on the play trying to spin back inside. It just wouldn’t work, but that’s just how college football is today. There aren’t too many coaches teaching players properly, in my opinion, and they’re only trying to work around their flaws rather than actually improving their weaknesses. I’m excited to see which coach lands Beasley and teaches him how to use his hands. Outside of his pass rush, Beasley looked smooth dropping back into coverage against running backs. He needs to work on shedding tackles against the run. He was pretty inconsistent in that facet. Here’s an example against Georgia last year where Beasley got dominated on the touchdown run by Todd Gurley. Granted, that happened to a lot of people when Gurley was healthy, but it seems like Beasley surprisingly isn’t as powerful as the combine measurements would suggest. It’s one thing to rep 225 pounds with your back on a bench, and it’s another when there’s a 300-pound offensive lineman shoving you out of the way. Maybe it goes back to his hands again, but I’m not exactly sure. Having said all this though, I think he could honestly play either defensive end or outside linebacker in the NFL, unlike Nebraska’s Randy Gregory. His stock soared after the combine, and I’m buying into the hype. If Beasley can add a few pounds and develop counter moves as a pass rusher with his hands, he’s going to be a pretty good defensive player. On a side note, this honestly seems like a player Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer would love to have on his team. Imagine pairing Anthony Barr with Beasley and the defensive line the Vikings already have? The flexibility and athleticism with Beasley and Barr would keep Zimmer up all night in the summer scheming blitz packages. That would be scary. Verdict: Truth.
Categories: Local

Adrian Peterson reinstated; should the Vikings want him back?

Star Tribune Sports - Thu, 04/16/2015 - 14:11
Adrian Peterson’s reinstatement by the NFL, assumed to be a formality, has become a reality. He was eligible to be reinstated Wednesday; the team announced it received word Thursday that he has, in fact, been reinstated. There has been a lot of chatter about whether Peterson wants to play for the Vikings, but let’s get to the heart of the matter: unless Peterson wants to hold out, which I can’t imagine he does after missing almost a full season last year, the Vikings hold the power. He’s under contract. The Vikings can keep him or trade him. It’s as simple as that. So the bigger question is: should the Vikings want him back? On that end, there are a few things to consider: *He is 30 years old and has a cap hit of $15.4 million in 2015. That’s over $6 million more than the cap number of any other running back in the NFL. That doesn’t mean much as long as the Vikings can handle his number and salary, but it is still prudent to ask if a team in the midst of a rebuild should be devoting that much time, energy and money to a veteran running back. *Fans: There is a segment of the fan base that was done with Peterson the minute it became known how he disciplined his 4-year-old son. Another segment of the fan base has lost interest or faith in Peterson as this process has continued. That’s not to say minds can’t change, but it is reasonable to think a good chunk of Vikings fans simply don’t ever want to see him in purple again. Maybe that won’t matter to decision-makers, and maybe it shouldn’t. But it’s there. *Team identity: In the absence of Peterson last year, rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater was asked to take on a “face of the franchise” role. He embraced it and handled it beautifully. After playing a year without Peterson, should Teddy and co. be asked to drift back into the shadows, even just a little, if Peterson resumes a larger role? These are questions for the Vikings to answer, not me. But make no mistake: Peterson’s return was never going to be as simple as being reinstated. Really, this is just the beginning.
Categories: Local

Wild-Blues more than ready for Game 1 of the playoffs tonight

Star Tribune Sports - Thu, 04/16/2015 - 14:06
Sean Bergenheim gets the fourth-line left wing spot for Game 1. His 12 goals and 17 points in 23 playoff games is the reason, coach Mike Yeo said.
Categories: Local

Adrian Peterson reinstated by NFL

Star Tribune Sports - Thu, 04/16/2015 - 13:16
Categories: Local

Twins-Royals: Arcia sits, Milone goes for second win

Star Tribune Sports - Thu, 04/16/2015 - 12:16
The Twins have a chance to win their three-game series against Kansas City today at Target Field.
Categories: Local

TFD: A modest proposal to fix the NBA draft lottery system

Star Tribune Sports - Thu, 04/16/2015 - 11:52
We talk about tanking in sports. Most teams deny they do it because it’s not polite or competitive to say you are trying to lose. Rather, they just do everything in their power not to win — like, say, go with a youth movement, rest veterans and, when particularly desperate, make sure scads of good players are ultra-cautious when dealing with injuries. Don’t come back to soon, fellas. Take your time. We talk about tanking as it relates to the draft. We talk about it in the NFL, though in that case it’s harder to prove — and harder to improve by leaps and bounds with just one good player. Tanking might be an issue there, but unless you end up drafting a once-a-decade quarterback, it probably won’t do you a ton of good to pick No. 1 instead of, say, No. 3. We talk about tanking in the NHL and MLB a little, but in both of those sports prospects often take so long to develop that it’s hard to say there are sure things at the end of the losing rainbow. The league in which tanking really seems to be a problem — be it in perception, reality or both — is the NBA. It’s a sport where one star player can completely transform a franchise (see: Tim Duncan, LeBron James, Anthony Davis and maybe, just maybe, Andrew Wiggins, all number one picks). It’s a sport of finely tuned athletes, guaranteed contracts, tendinitis, sprains, strains and pulls. It’s easy to hide guys on the bench and invent injuries. It’s easy to go young. It’s easy to lose. Almost too easy. And the incentive, as noted above, can be great. Now, the lottery ensures that teams don’t just get to draft players in the reverse order of their finish (unlike the NFL and MLB, which do go that route), but it’s not enough of a disincentive to keep teams from at least giving the appearance that they are intentionally losing. The Timberwolves, as long as they lose tonight, will pick no lower than No. 4 in the draft as the team with the worst record in the NBA. They will have the best chance at landing the best prospect, and regardless they will get a great prospect. Giving the worst teams the best new players is a very fair notion. If college teams did this, the top recruits would go to the worst teams in the Big Ten and so forth. College sports have no such competitive balance. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and it takes a special set of circumstances to break decades of history. But while I love the idea of the lottery helping teams get better, I hate the idea that there is an incentive for losing. As such, I had an immediate distaste for Five Thirty Eight’s proposal for changing the NBA draft lottery formula: Here’s how it works. Take each team’s number of losses. Subtract 41 (41-41 represents a breakeven record in the NBA). Then square the result. That’s how many ping pong balls a team gets. (OK, one more provision: A team gets a minimum of 10 lottery balls, including if it has a winning record). Once you get past the math (which really isn’t that hard), the intent is to keep teams from trying to get the worst record by making the difference between one win or loss in the standings not that meaningful. It works this year because the Wolves, Knicks and 76ers are so close together. In general, though, it still offers incentive to lose. In fact, it offers greater incentive to lose. The year that Charlotte was 7-59 (the labor-shortened year of 2011-12), it would have had nearly a 40 percent chance of getting the top pick under this system. So you’re saying to teams: don’t just lose. LOSE MORE. Tankers would go all out. You might have teams winning 7-10 games a season as the norm. This solves nothing. It only makes things worse by increasing the lottery odds of the really bad teams and decreasing the odds of the marginally bad teams who might actually be trying to make the playoffs and win. As such, I have a different proposal. It’s one I’ve thought about for way too long. It’s also probably crazy, but it’s time. Here is what I would do to try to eliminate tanking: 16 teams make the NBA playoffs, and 14 do not. At the end of the regular season, the 14 teams who didn’t make the playoffs engage in a series of one-game loser playoffs to determine lottery order. Here’s how it works: Each conference is seeded 1-7, with the No. 1 seed being the team with the worst record in the conference and No. 7 being the best. Each No. 1 seed gets a bye. The 7 plays the 6, the 5 plays the 4 and the 2 plays the 3 (going against tradition in which the best would play the weakest in order to keep like teams grouped together in this case and not give an undue edge to the best of the worst). Then the winner of 2 vs. 3 plays the 1; the 7 vs. 6 winner plays the 5 vs. 4 winner. Then those winners face off. Then the conference winners face off to determine the losers’ champion. All of these are one game, single elimination. Assuming arena availability would be there, all of the games are on the home court of the higher-seeded team (the one with the worse record). All of it is solely to determine lottery order, not draft order, and the current breakdown of odds would essentially remain in place. The tournament champion gets the most ping pong balls (25 percent). The runner-up gets the second-most (19.9 percent). Those who lost in the finals in each conference split the difference of the third and fourth best odds (13.8 percent each). The four teams who lost in the conference semifinals — by virtue of getting a bye the teams with the worst records in each conference would at least get this far — would split the existing odds of the 5-8 spots in the lottery (5.5 percent each); and the six teams who lost in the first round would split the existing 9-14 odds (0.9 percent each). For order purposes, the teams knocked out at each stage would still be slotted from worst to best record (for example: the 9-14 teams, if none got lucky and jumped into the top 3 of the draft during the lottery, would pick in order of worst record to best record; the worst would pick 9th and the best would pick 14th). Advantages: It’s no longer cool to lose. It’s cool to try to make the playoffs, and if you miss the playoffs, it’s still cool to win. There would only be a marginal incentive to be the worst team (the bye and guarantee of no worse than a 5.5 percent chance of getting the top pick, while also picking no worse than 8th since the 5-8 teams would be slotted in reverse order of finish if none won the lottery and a team can only fall three spots from its lottery position). Basically, the 3 or 4 worst teams would still likely pick in the 5-9 range even if they didn’t win a game in the loser playoffs or get lucky in the lottery. But they wouldn’t be guaranteed the higher picks they are now. As such, they could still improve but they wouldn’t have the incentive to stink. It also would make it more possible for fringe playoff contenders to improve. Wolves coach/President Flip Saunders recently said, “In this league, you either have to be real good or real bad. If you’re in the middle, it’s tough to improve.” He’s absolutely right, and that’s absolutely unfair. But if you miss the playoffs by a game, steamroll the losers’ bracket and suddenly have a 25 percent chance at the No. 1 pick and a guarantee of picking no lower than fourth … that can change your fortunes in a hurry. (And no, a team wouldn’t tank to barely miss the playoffs in order to get a high pick. If you have a chance to make the postseason, you go for it because anything can happen once you’re in). It would make it slightly harder for teams that are legitimately bad to improve, though it wouldn’t make it impossible. Lottery odds guarantee nothing (just ask the Wolves). Maybe it’s asking a lot of teams to play as many four games after an 82-game season, particularly if your roster is comprised of impending free agents who don’t care about your future . But: 1) how much fun would those games be? and 2) If you’re in the real playoffs, you might play 20-plus extra games. Maybe it’s a lot of work just to determine lottery order. But if this was happening this year, the Wolves would get a first-round bye in the West and then have a conference semifinal matchup against the winner of the 2 vs. 3 game (Lakers vs. Kings) at Target Center. And outside of KG’s return and maybe Wiggins’ debut, that game would be the single most-anticipated Wolves game at Target Center this season. It would be far better than any game in the past month, when the Wolves were (sadly) better off losing. Bottom line: If you wanted to get better, you would be best-served trying to win. That is, after all, what it’s all about.
Categories: Local

Thursday (Good start from Gibson, but more needed) edition: Wha' Happened?

Star Tribune Sports - Thu, 04/16/2015 - 11:01
Quality starts, as a baseball statistic, is flawed. Most people agree on this, yet most reasonable people also recognize that the reasoning behind it is at least somewhat useful. If a pitcher throws at least six innings while allowing three or fewer earned runs, it is deemed a “quality start.” Doing the bare minimum would result in a 4.50 ERA, which would not be a quality season. But within the context of a single game, the idea of a starter going 6 and giving up 3, with the way modern bullpens are constructed, reasonably gives way to the idea that the starting pitcher at least gave his team a chance to win. In 2014, the Twins received just 66 such starts out of 162. It’s another way of saying their starting pitching was awful, since that quality start number ranked 29th of 30 MLB teams, but it is still useful. As a percentage, that works out to 40.7 percent of starts were quality for the Twins last year — two of every five, a handy number since there are five pitchers in a rotation. A full 22 teams had at least 81 quality starts — half their games or more. So far this year, the Twins have received exactly three quality starts: one very good one from Tommy Milone, one pretty good one from Kyle Gibson last night and one of the 6/3 minimums from Phil Hughes. That’s 3 of 8, or 37.5 percent — an exceedingly small sample size, but the best explanation for why this team is 2-6. The Twins’ only wins came in the starts by Milone and Gibson, proving once again that baseball becomes so much easier with good starting pitching. Last year’s Twins, plagued by bad pitching for most of the year, were also plagued by inconsistency — the inability to string together even a handful of decent starts to get on any kind of sustained roll. Gibson — one of many noted RandBall lookalikes —  was a chief culprit in that; he had a 1.42 ERA in his 13 wins and an 11.04 ERA in his 12 losses, an astounding split. This year, of course, he was bombed in his first outing and solid last night. Long story short: last night was a good sign — a good start. But nobody can be excited about pitching (or Gibson) until we see a lot more of it.
Categories: Local

Hopeless Wolves season ends on a (yes) hopeful note

Star Tribune Sports - Wed, 04/15/2015 - 23:47
Ugly as the Wolves have been, they are in an enviable position moving forward.
Categories: Local

Wolves season ends with loss to Oklahoma City, NBA's worst record

Star Tribune Sports - Wed, 04/15/2015 - 22:11
Thunder superstar Russell Westbrook won the league’s scoring title with a 37-point performance during which he scored 34 of those by halftime against the Wolves, who fijnish the season 16-66.
Categories: Local

Arcia's home run helps Twins knock off Royals 3-1

Star Tribune Sports - Wed, 04/15/2015 - 21:52
Thanks to Oswaldo Arcia’s two run home run, the Twins won 3-1 and vanquished baseball’s lone undefeated team in the Kansas City Royals.
Categories: Local


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