Minnesota will play without its starting power forward and center against the Thunder. The Wolves are citing Kevin Garnett's sore knee. Nikola Pekovic said before the game the pain in his ankle is still "bad" after he played just eight minutes Wednesday in Phoenix.
Bill Musgrave and Christian Ponder, two of the central Vikings offensive figures in recent years who made purple fans SHOUTY with ANGER, are reportedly going to be reunited in Oakland.
Musgrave is the offensive coordinator with the Raiders. That much is certain. And Ponder is apparently going to sign a one-year deal in Oakland. The two of them spent three years together, from 2011-13, with the Vikings.
The results were, to put it politely, mixed. The Vikings made the playoffs in 2012; they won eight combined games the other two years, though it should be noted: The 2014 Vikings ranked 27th in total offense, 28th in passing yards per game and 20th in points per game under new OC Norv Turner, while the 2013 Vikings under Musgrave ranked 13th in yards, 23rd in passing yards and tied for 14th in points per game.
Anyway: How are folks on the Raiders side handling the news? Well, let’s check out the Silver and Black Pride SB Nation blog. Here’s writer Levi Damien’s take, which was written when the Raiders were merely reported to be bringing Ponder in for a visit. While noting that Ponder is “worth a look,” he also said:
“Ponder will likely gain the ire of many fans who think he’s terrible. Well, if he were greatness, he probably would be starting somewhere instead of looking to sign on as a backup in Oakland.”
And while some commenters see this for what it is — a move for QB depth and not much else — there are also comments like this: “Raiders need to get their priorities in order. Are we being sabatoged.” (sic)
Ponder is a good guy, and maybe a change of scenery to be a backup will prove to be a nice career transition. We should probably just move on and not pay attention to any of this, but it’s so hard to turn your back on something so familiar.
Christian Ponder has reportedly found a new team, and if so, the Vikings will see him in 2015.
According to multiple reports, Ponder is visiting the Raiders today and plans to sign a one-year contract there. The offensive coordinator there is Bill Musgrave, his former OC here in Minnesota.
The Raiders have a young starting quarterback in Derek Carr, who was drafted four picks after Teddy Bridgewater last spring, and backups Matt Schaub and Matt McGloin on the roster. Schaub, however, may be deemed expendable if Ponder does indeed sign with the Raiders.
The Vikings had no interest in Ponder, their first-round draft pick in 2011, returning as a backup to Bridgewater this season. And honestly, a change of scenery will probably be a good thing for him.
The 27-year-old was 14-21-1 as a starter with the Vikings. During his four years here, he completed 59.8 percent of his passes for 6,658 yards and 38 touchdowns. But he threw 36 interceptions and lost 11 fumbles.
Ponder started the 2014 season as the third-string quarterback, but due to injuries to Matt Cassel and Bridgewater, he started in a blowout loss to the Packers in Week 5. He threw two interceptions, including a pick-six, in the second quarter and the game was all but over at halftime.
Still, Ponder, despite that disappointing performance in his only start last season, was able to find a new home with the Raiders, who are on the Vikings’ 2015 regular-season schedule.
This time last week, we spoke with Gophers men’s basketball coach Richard Pitino one-on-one for a Q&A heading into the final regular-season game of the season against Penn State.
The Gophers have played three games since then — the Penn State game, which was a bad home loss; a victory over Rutgers in the Big Ten Tournament’s first round on Wednesday; and a loss to Ohio State in the second round Thursday.
The season still might not be over, as there is a chance that Minnesota will get the opportunity to defend its NIT championship (which no team really wants to do).
Point being: during that session, we asked Pitino who the Gophers’ MVP is this season because, frankly, we were having a hard time thinking of who it would be.
And even though there have been three games since the question and there could be more coming, we don’t think the answer is any different right now. Here’s what he had to say last week — after a pause to think for more than 5 seconds:
“Well, it’s been funny. They’ve all kind of gone through phases. I’m not sure if I know. It was Mo (Walker) at one point. It was Andre (Hollins) at some point. It’s been Nate (Mason) at some point. Even DeAndre (Mathieu) has been solid, and Joey (King). I don’t think we really have an MVP. And that doesn’t mean we’re not a good team. But I don’t think — and I’ve always said it, and it’s not a knock on Andre — that we have one guy who is the clear-cut guy on the team. That doesn’t mean we can’t have a good team, but I don’t think we have that.”
Pitino is right in that having a clear-cut team MVP is not essential for success. A number of players from undefeated and very balanced Kentucky, for instance, play massive roles but it’s hard to pick one who always stands out. It’s nice to have different players who can step up.
That said, Pitino’s answer does speak to the problem of inconsistency that plagued the Gophers for so much of the season. Not to pick on Hollins, who overall had a similar season to what he had as a sophomore and junior, but if there is one player outsiders expected to shoulder the scoring load (even if Pitino says he doesn’t think of him as “the guy”), it’s him.
During the middle of the Big Ten schedule, when the Gophers went 5-3, Hollins scored at least 17 points in seven different games and was deadly from three-point range. In the other 12 games – an 0-5 start to the Big Ten season, plus the final five regular-season Big Ten games and two in the conference tournament (2-5 record combined) — Hollins was held to 7 points or fewer six different times and shot a combined 19 for 73 (26 percent) from three-point range.
The lack of a go-to player/MVP could also be a factor in so many close losses in crunch time. When you don’t have one dominant player in end of game situations, it can be challenging to score — or at least to have an offensive identity.
Maybe the answer for future Gophers success under Pitino isn’t having one clear-cut MVP, but rather more good players in general. This year, though, the lack of an MVP seems to be part of the downfall.
We couldn’t name one, and neither could the coach.