Popular sentiment these days is that the Timberwolves will take Kentucky big man Karl-Anthony Towns with the No. 1 overall pick in next week’s NBA Draft.
The thing is, most of the people saying it are likely either taking educated guesses or repeating what they’ve heard elsewhere. It doesn’t make it less true, but it’s also true that it’s hard to find authentic NBA Draft insight this time of year.
As such, when someone such as John Calipari — Towns’ college coach at Kentucky — starts talking about draft projections, it is worthwhile to pay attention.
And in a Kentucky Sports Radio interview on Wednesday, Calipari said of Towns, flat-out: “He will be the number one pick, unless something crazy happens. … I would say he’s earned it.”
It didn’t just sound like the random musing of a coach who hopes his guy goes first overall. Calipari is among the most plugged-in men in all of college basketball, and by extension he is plugged into the NBA because so many Kentucky players are drafted every year.
Now: The “unless something crazy happens” part softens the overall statement a little, but I take it to mean that based on Calipari knows from talking to other plugged in basketball folks and Towns himself, that is who the Wolves will pick.
Adrian Peterson has been back in Minnesota for the past three weeks. And while he may never regain the sense of normalcy he experienced before last year, Peterson feels his return to the Vikings and football went smoothly.
“I feel pretty good,” he said today. “It’s been good just to be out here with the fellas and get back in the swing of things and open my mind back to the playbook and what Coach Turner is asking us to do. It’s been pleasant.”
The Vikings wrapped their offseason workout program this afternoon, sending players giddily off to enjoy a few weeks of downtime. Despite being away from the Vikings for about eight months, Peterson said he returned to no surprises beyond a “couple of curveballs” with Norv Turner’s offense.
He credited Turner and running backs coach Kirby Wilson for helping bring him up to speed with the playbook. As for any physical rust he could have potentially experienced, Peterson insisted he “felt good from Day One.”
“I’ve had a long time to work out,” he said. “There’s nothing like coming out here playing football, so maybe like a day or so, after the first day I was a little sore — calves really. But after that, I could tell that I had really been working because I really didn’t feel too much soreness after that.”
As for life off the field here, Peterson said things aren’t back to normal yet.
“No. It is what it is. It’s normal but of course it’s different,” the 30-year-old running back said. “But I’m making it as normal as I can, you know. I’m surrounding myself with people who love me and I’m moving forward.”
Chris Parmelee enticed Twins fans in 2011 with a September audition during a lost season that seemed quite promising. In 76 at bats — a small sample size, as the kids like to say — Parmelee batted .355 with four home runs and an eye-popping 1.035 OPS.
From 2012-14, however, Parmelee essentially had the same season three times. He never fell flat on his face, but he never grabbed a starting job and ran with it. He played some outfield and some first base, occasionally DHing as well. Each of those three seasons he had between 192 and 294 at-bats, and every season he finished with an OPS between .663 and .691. He was an adequate extra player and a rarity as a left-handed hitter: someone who hit righties and lefties pretty much equally. That’s nice if you’re a starter; it almost works against you as a bench player since you don’t offer any true advantage — just the threat of being constantly mediocre regardless of who is pitching.
Three seasons was more than a reasonable audition. Last offseason, the Twins and Parmelee parted ways. He signed a minor league deal with the Orioles in January, one that included an invite to spring training. For some players, that’s the last gasp. If it doesn’t work out there, you either ride it out in the minors or hang it up for good.
Parmelee didn’t make the big league club to start the year, but he went to Class AAA Norfolk and started raking. He was hitting .312 with solid power numbers when Baltimore called him up earlier this week. Who knows if that call-up was Parmelee’s last chance to prove he can stick in the majors, but at age 27 he’s not exactly a prospect anymore. It was, at the very least, an important moment in his career.
And so far, Parmelee couldn’t really be doing more to justify he belongs.
On Tuesday, he crushed two home runs in his Orioles debut, starting the game 4-for-4 and getting a standing ovation from the home crowd in a rout of Philadelphia. He continued his surge on Wednesday, homering in his first at-bat to help another Baltimore win. (Please enjoy that surreal AP photo of Delmon Young hitting Parmelee with a pie in the face).
That’s three homers in two games, enough to prompt Baltimore fans to lose their minds and even joke about where to put a Parmelee statue.
Two games, of course, is the smallest of small sample sizes. Twins fans have been on this ride before, and logic tells us the hot streak will gradually give way to so-so numbers. Then again, it is also possible that after close to 1,000 major league plate appearances, Parmelee is starting to figure things out.
I’m not at all here to suggest the Twins should have kept Parmelee, even in light of their recent offensive woes. This is just the offering of kudos to a guy who could have been finished but instead is making the most — so far — of another opportunity earned.
Every year, NFL teams churn the bottom of their rosters, relying on draft picks, undrafted rookies and low-profile free agents to fill out their squads.
And every year, special teams coaches are tasked with taking all those new guys and integrating them with the returning special-teamers who haven’t performed well enough to become too valuable to risk in that phase.
So once again, Vikings special teams coach Mike Priefer has spent another spring sorting through the new faces and seeing how they can help out.
“That’s the nature of the beast in the NFL,” he said yesterday. “You’re going to have young players come in to replace some of the veteran guys. … [Last season] good football players and young guys stepped up and played really well in their absence. I would expect the same thing again this year.”
While Cordarrelle Patterson, Marcus Sherels and the return teams could not produce any touchdowns in 2014, Priefer thought they were a block away from popping one on a few occasions. The return teams also showed improvement. And the Vikings scored on two blocked punts in one game.
This year, Priefer is taking a new philosophical approach with his players.
“One of the things that we’ve been talking about all spring is going along with the identity of our team that Coach [Mike] Zimmer has established for us — the toughness, the passion for the game and being a smart football player. … What Coach Zimmer talks about as our identity, we are also taking on that identity as our special teams unit,” Priefer said. “We’ve talked a lot about it, I think our guys are buying into it and we’re excited about the end of spring going on into training camp next month.”
So far, Priefer likes what he sees from the group of new players that has come in this year. He mentioned tight end MyCole Pruitt and wide receiver Stefon Diggs as two draft picks who stand out. He also said that top picks Trae Waynes and Eric Kendricks can help if Priefer is allowed to use them.
Priefer also brought up rookie linebacker Brian Peters, who played in the Arena Football League and Canadian Football League before signing here.
“I think we’ve got a really good group,” Priefer said. “We’ve got a good, young group of guys that are bigger, stronger, faster than the guys that we’ve had here in the past. So I think we’ve got a good group to work with.”