Andrew Wiggins is on the cover of the new Slam Magazine

Star Tribune Sports - Wed, 05/13/2015 - 16:58
I’m not cool enough to know what Szn means. I had to look it up. It *probably* is just shorthand for season because you can confuse someone with three easy letters, why make sure they know with six? Still: Andrew Wiggins is on the cover of the new Slam Magazine. And they think his szn is coming and that someday he will rule the NBA. Sorry, Playoffs—we’re looking ahead to the day @22wiggins rules the @NBA. SLAM 189 is out now! http://t.co/Oek0McSZkx pic.twitter.com/BpdBeutGJv — SLAM Magazine (@SLAMonline) May 13, 2015
Categories: Local

Zimmer doesn't anticipate any issues if and when Peterson reports

Star Tribune Sports - Wed, 05/13/2015 - 16:57
Members of the Minnesota media got an opportunity to watch tape with Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer today. What Zimmer said during that film session was off the record, but he did speak on the record afterward. So of course Adrian Peterson came up. Maybe it was the clips from the 2014 season opener that reminded everyone that No. 28 is still on the team, and that Zimmer hadn’t been asked about him in, oh, at least a day or two. Zimmer has continued to talk with Peterson since meeting with the running back in Texas a couple of months ago, but he didn’t offer up any details. “I have,” Zimmer said. “I’m going to keep those conversations between us.” Asked if he expected Peterson to be disruptive if he is disgruntled if and when he reports to Winter Park, Zimmer basically dismissed the question. “There’s a lot of its and nuts and candies and buts there,” the second-year coach said before adding, “I don’t think there will be any issues, no.” Peterson isn’t required to show up at Winter Park until the mandatory minicamp next month. If he doesn’t, the team can fine him. Based on today’s film session, Zimmer seems much more concerned right now with fixing the flaws of his 7-9 team than he is with the Peterson saga.
Categories: Local

What if the NHL hadn't realigned and the Wild was in its old division?

Star Tribune Sports - Wed, 05/13/2015 - 14:36
In the not-so-distant-past, the Wild was in a five-team division with Edmonton, Vancouver, Calgary and Colorado. It made very little geographical sense, and fans were constantly griping about all of the late start times when the Wild played road games against division opponents — and they were teams Minnesota seemed to play every game (six times each during non-shortened years … so 30 of 82, which isn’t every game but felt like it). It was not perfect for fans. It was not ideal for the Wild, which had to travel all over North America into distant Canadian lands and time zones when there were teams like St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit and Winnipeg who were much closer. This lasted through the 2012-13 season and then the NHL got wise. It realigned its franchises into two divisions in each of the conferences, some with seven and some with eight teams. The Wild was matched up with St. Louis, Chicago, Nashville, Winnipeg, Colorado and Dallas — none more than a time zone away, most in the same time zone. It made sense, even if we could all see the inherent down side: that division had the potential to be a bear competitively, particularly with the implementation of a new playoff system that created in-division matchups in the first two rounds. In the final year before realignment, the Wild was a fringe playoff team, making it as the lowest seed before getting thrashed by Chicago in the first round in five games. Since realignment, the team has grown better — winning a playoff series each of the past two years before again being sent to the golf course by Chicago. The question now is whether the Wild can take the next step in the playoffs. And the hypothetical within that is: would Minnesota be better off competitively if the NHL had never realigned? The assumption is that the answer is “yes” because Minnesota wouldn’t have Chicago and St. Louis — two teams that figure to be somewhere between good and great for years go come — standing in its way. That said, I’m not so sure it’s cut and dried. If the old divisions were still in place in 2013-14, the Wild could have beaten up on Edmonton, Vancouver and Calgary, all of which finished toward the bottom of the conference standings. But Colorado had 112 points, second-most in the West, and would have been a formidable foe. Maybe the Wild — which was a No. 7 seed two seasons ago before upsetting No. 2 Colorado in the first round — could have moved up a spot or two in the seeding had it been in the old division, but it’s hard to imagine the Wild of two years ago making it any further than it did in the playoffs. This past year, Colorado slid back and missed the playoffs while Edmonton was again awful. But Calgary and Vancouver both made the playoffs with a similar number of points as the Wild. Maybe Minnesota would have been good enough to win the division and get one of the top three seeds under the old format. But it’s still questionable to think the Wild would have gone further than the second round. The future is where it gets the most interesting. On paper, I’d like to think the Wild — with a full season of Devan Dubnyk playing at least close to the level he played over the course of the last half-season — would be favored to win a division that included Colorado, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton next year. Then again, that doesn’t take into account the wear-and-tear of travel that has been at least somewhat abated by realignment. And even if Minnesota did win the division and get one of those top three seeds and got past the first round, the Wild would almost certainly be facing the likes of Anaheim, St. Louis or Chicago in the second round next year and for years to come. Long story short: the old alignment might be more favorable than the “division of death,” but that wouldn’t do the Wild muchg good when it came to the ultimate prize of getting to the Stanley Cup Finals (and winning it all). You still have to beat the best sometime. Even if it wouldn’t have meant a matchup with Chicago every year, which it feels like is set to happen as it stands, the Blackhawks and other great teams of their ilk still would have been significant road blocks. It’s less about the division and more about the conference, and in the old or new format that was going to be constant.
Categories: Local

Minnesota to host Clemson in Big Ten/ACC basketball challenge

Star Tribune Sports - Wed, 05/13/2015 - 13:57
The Gophers will play Clemson in one of 14 games in this year's series. Louisville coach Rick Pitino had hoped his team would play his son's Minnesota squad, but that won't happen.
Categories: Local

Better rookie season: Teddy Bridgewater or Derek Carr?

Star Tribune Sports - Wed, 05/13/2015 - 12:51
It’s been one of the most talked about debates around NFL circles during the offseason as everyone twiddles their thumbs waiting for the season to start. Who had a better rookie year – Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater or Raiders quarterback Derek Carr? Bridgewater has been one of the main reasons many are optimistic about the Vikings this season. He was named to the Pro Football Writers Association All-Rookie team and voted by the fans as the Rookie of the Year. While Carr didn’t receive those postseason accolades, he has brought on that same sense of optimism to the Bay Area. The second round pick was the only rookie quarterback last year to start all 16 games, and it appears the Raiders have also finally found their franchise quarterback from the 2014 NFL Draft. After watching every snap from Bridgewater and Carr (Yes, I sadly watched every single Raiders game this offseason), let’s settle this discussion once and for all. Stats: Carr (16 games): 348 completions, 599 attempts (58.1 percent completion rate), 3,270 yards, 21 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 76.6 quarterback rating Bridgewater (13 games): 259 completions, 402 attempts (64.4 percent completion rate), 2,919 yards, 14 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 85.2 quarterback rating One of the common arguments for Carr was he had better stats. Well, he played three more games and only threw for 351 more passing yards than Bridgewater. Carr had a better touchdown-to-interception ratio, clearly, but Bridgewater had a better completion percentage and quarterback rating last season. He also rushed for 209 yards and a rushing touchdown. Advantage: Bridgewater Personnel: Carr: The Raiders gave their rookie quarterback the keys to the franchise with very little talent surrounding him. Carr had a bunch of old veterans to work with offensively that were one step away from landing on injured reserve. His No.1 target was wide receiver James Jones, who was just cut by the team. If that doesn’t convince you that Carr didn’t have any weapons, Mychal Rivera and Andre Holmes finished second and third in receptions and targets. His backfield consisted of Maurice Jones-Drew, who retired this offseason, and Darren McFadden. Poor guy. Bridgewater: The Vikings offense looked good on paper at the start of the season. Well, that was before running back Adrian Peterson was placed on the Commissioner’s list and eventually suspended, before tight end Kyle Rudolph played just nine games due to injuries and before wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson was demoted in a disappointing sophomore season. Throw in injuries to three starting offensive linemen, Charlie Johnson, Brandon Fusco and Phil Loadholt, and it’s a pity party for both quarterbacks. Bridgwater’s top receiver turned out to be Charles Johnson, who started the season on the Browns practice squad, and his top running back was Matt Asiata. Advantage: In terms of doing more with less, Carr Film: Carr: Carr completed over 60 percent of his passes in his first four games with the Raiders mapping out a fairly conservative gameplan to help ease Carr into the NFL. You saw a lot of quick screens, slants, three step drops that Carr, for the most part, handled well. While a lot of that was still evident throughout the season, even after the Raiders fired head coach Dennis Allen after four games and promoted offensive line coach Tony Sparano as the interim, Carr become more comfortable throwing those intermediate passes. He has a good arm that made it capable to hit the back shoulder fade, particularly on the right sideline for the right-handed quarterback. Carr has always been a mobile quarterback, though he only rushed for 92 yards, and I thought he moved well outside the pocket. All of those characteristics have translated well for Carr from college. Carr’s biggest strength, his arm, was on display often with his nice touch on deep balls to stretch the field. Watch this touchdown pass to Holmes and how effortlessly he flicks his wrist. It’s also where many of Carr’s interceptions occurred because he forced a lot of throws. He had four interceptions over the middle of the field on passes ranging from 10-19 yards, per Pro Football Focus. Arguably his two worst performances of the season came against the Broncos, including this poor decision over the middle of the field.  The moments where I cringed the most watching Carr is when he tried extremely hard to make a play. Now, there’s nothing wrong with making a play. You can’t force a play though, like in the link above. In those moments, Carr has to learn to take care of the football. It was a terrible season for the Raiders, but I loved watching Carr’s toughness and leadership. He has some good tools and traits that can make him a very solid quarterback for that franchise. Carr just needs to be more consistent and has to handle pressure better. Carr had an 83.6 quarterback rating when he wasn’t blitzed and a 61.9 quarterback rating when he was blitzed. That all comes with time and experience. Bridgewater: Some quarterbacks, however, somehow handle pressure better than others. Bridgewater had an 87.4 quarterback rating when he wasn’t blitzed and an 80.6 quarterback rating he was blitzed. Surprisingly, he threw eight of his 12 interceptions when he wasn’t pressured. If you recall, some of those turnovers were due to balls deflected off a receiver’s hands. The two games that stood out to me, however, were Bridgewater’s performances against the Lions. One occurred in his third NFL game (his second start), while the other was the third to final game of the season. We often focused on Bridgewater for our Access Vikings Rewind series during the season to track his progress. Using some of those examples, Bridgewater’s decision making in both games against the Lions still stood out when you rewatched every snap. He was intercepted by safety Glover Quin in the first meeting for his first career interception. In the second meeting, Bridgewater had a strong first half up until he threw two interceptions near the end of the second quarter, including this one that was behind wide receiver Greg Jennings, that got the Lions back in the game. That doesn’t even include the Vikings’ final drive, which Bridgewater missed a wide open Jarius Wright that would’ve placed the Vikings in a better position to win the game. These are the moments Bridgewater needs to improve the most on the field. These plays can be very costly and eventually alter the course of the game. But once you watch his season again, it doesn’t even seem fair to call Bridgewater a rookie. We heard it often from his teammates, but Bridgewater just seemed at times like he’s done this before. The NFL wasn’t anything new. Take this throw on third down under pressure that Bridgewater drops in between the cornerback and the safety, these kind of plays you saw more often from Bridgewater than Carr. Conclusion: Both franchises should be pleased with the way the 2014 NFL Draft played out because they snagged franchise quarterbacks with the 32nd and 36th overall picks. However, once you watch the film on both quarterbacks, it’s clear Bridgewater had a better year. He was more consistent given the adversity both quarterbacks had to face all season. Again, that’s not a knock on Carr either. I came away impressed after watching what he did with the talent around him. He should continue to get better now that the Raiders drafted a No. 1 weapon like wide receiver Amari Cooper, who will be an immediate impact player. The biggest hurdle for Carr will be learning a new offensive system with the coaching change now that Bill Musgrave is his offensive coordinator. Bridgewater still has offensive coordinator Norv Turner, which will be huge for his growth in his second season. It’ll be fun to continue to track the progress of Bridgewater, Carr and the other quarterbacks in that class down the road. But the first round in this bout goes to Bridgewater. Round 2 is only 113 days away. Verdict: Bridgewater
Categories: Local

Janel McCarville won't play for the Lynx this season

Star Tribune Sports - Wed, 05/13/2015 - 11:08
The team has already added former All-Star Asjha Jones to replace McCarville.
Categories: Local

Lynx get negotiating rights to center Asjha Jones

Star Tribune Sports - Wed, 05/13/2015 - 10:32
The Lynx announced today they have acquired exclusive negotiating rights to the 6-foot-3 center from the Connecticut Sun.
Categories: Local

Aaron Hicks' mission: Prove he belongs in the big leagues

Star Tribune Sports - Wed, 05/13/2015 - 00:02
How long his latest Twins stint lasts depends on his focus, production.
Categories: Local

Len Boogaard still searching for answers in the death of his son

Star Tribune Sports - Tue, 05/12/2015 - 22:03
Four years later, Len Boogaard still seeks answers to his son’s death
Categories: Local

NHL is winning a playoff mismatch against NBA

Star Tribune Sports - Tue, 05/12/2015 - 21:59
The NBA’s clutch-and-grab tactics have hurt the sport while hockey has soared.
Categories: Local

Twins fall to Detroit 2-1 in 10 innings

Star Tribune Sports - Tue, 05/12/2015 - 21:22
Twins starter Kyle Gibson held the Tigers to one run
Categories: Local


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