October 30, 2003
LEBRON JAMES DEBUT
THE WOLVES WIN AND THE
Last night, the Timberwolves opened their season with a 95-89 win over the Milwaukee Bucks at the Target Center. It was fun to be able to watch the Wolves again. It was a little disappointing to see so many empty seats in the arena though. I just donít understand that at all! Opening Night! A new and exciting roster, led by the best all-around player in the NBA! How do they not sell out every game?
Kevin Garnett was terrific again. 25 points, 21 rebounds and 6 assists in 41 minutes. But, you could just see the leadership. Normally the point guard is the floor leader, but you can see him coaching on the floor. The part I was most impressed with was the way he talked to Mark Madsen. First, he was encouraging after a missed free throw. But then, coming out of a time out, you could hear on the telecast, Garnett coach Madsen, but at the end he said ďI have a lot of confidence in you!Ē Thatís huge to any player.
Sam Cassell started off missing a lot of shots in the first quarter and ended the game 6 of 18 from the field. He hit his first shot 3 minutes into the 2nd quarter. But he distributed the ball well too, and he is very quick. Plus, he was 6-6 from the line. 18 points, 9 assists in 40 minutes.
Latrell Sprewell started out well. I knew he was a good defensive player, but I think Iíll appreciate just how good he is seeing him play more. Heís quick and has long arms. He hit some early shots, but didnít really have the touch much of the night. But heís able to do a number of other things and with this team, they can get scoring from other places. 15 points, 5 assists, 4 boards and a couple of steals in 41 minutes.
Those are the players we know what we can expect to see from night to night. But what about the question marks and role players?
Michael Olowokandi looked as though his surgically repaired knee was healthy. If heís not at 100% yet, it is exciting to think about how good he will be when he is. He has big size, good footwork and good shot, and he is aggressive when heís in the game, something that I donít think could be said of Rasho Nesterovich. Iím very encouraged by his performance. 27 minutes, 11 points, 9 rebounds.
Fred Hoiberg started at the shooting guard position. He didnít take a lot of shots (1-5), but he did a lot of the little things. Obviously, at some point, he will need to take and make more shots if he continues to start. When Wally Szczerbiak comes back, Hoiberg will be asked to do the little things off the bench. In 30 minutes, he had 3 points, 3 boards, 4 assists, a steal, a blocked shot, and some stitches.
Mark Madsen is awesome! No outside shooting ability, but what a force on the boards, especially on the offensive end of the court. Now even his numbers arenít staggering. 9 points, 4 rebounds in 28 minutes. But he was 4-5 shooting. He kept the ball alive on the offensive end so that other Wolves were able to get offensive rebounds. He plays an intense defense. And, well, Iím sure you saw The Dunk on all the highlight shows! That was impressive. Equally impressive was a low-post move for a reverse layup. Heís fun to watch!
Gary Trent is huge. Heís always been strong and a good rebounder. I think heís earned the right to take some shots too. When he was in there, he was aggressive, looking for his shot, and his teammates were looking for him. 14 points and 3 rebounds in 23 minutes.
Keith McLoud had an assist in his 9 minutes. No turnovers. Thatís good enough. Thatís all the minutes heíll play, and as long as he doesnít hurt the team, heís allowing Cassell some minutes of rest. Ervin Johnson played the final minute of the first half. Quincy Lewis, Ndudi Ebi and newly acquired Trenton Hassell all did not play.
The Bucks new coach is former Timberwolves player Terry Porter. Sam Mitchell is an assistant coach. Joe Smith had 14 points and 8 rebounds for the Bucks.
Keys to the win- The Big 3 all played well. Madsen, Olowokandi and Trent were all impressive. 15 Offensive rebounds including 5 by Garnett, 4 by Olowokandi and 3 by Madsen. Hit their free throws down the stretch.
Positives looking ahead - Sprewell and Cassell are capable of being better, which is exciting! Szczerbiak was put on the IR, so he wonít play for awhile. I really hope he can come back healthy. With Wally and Troy Hudson, this team could be an elite team even in the Western Conference.
Next Game - Friday night at New Jersey at 7 oíclock on ESPN.
Any thoughts on the Wolves, last nightís game or anything. Send me an e-mail and letís discuss it.
LEBRON JAMES - GAME 1
The hype was incredible! The Nike commercial set the stage. The new Sprite commercial was launched, and by the way, it too is hilarious! So, did Lebron James choke or freeze (As his Nike commercial mocks)?
Not at all! He was remarkable from the start. Unfortunately, the Orlando Magic and New York Knicks had to go to overtime, so the ESPN broadcast had to stay with that game for those 5 extra game-time minutes. By the time we could watch Lebron, 2/3 of the first quarter was done. But Lebron had already made his mark. In the first quarter alone, James had 12 points, 2 rebounds, 3 steals and 3 assists. For the game, James stat line looked like this: 43 minutes, 12-20 from the field, 1-3 from the line, 25 points, 9 assists, 4 steals, and 6 rebounds. 20 shots is a lot, considering that technically he started as the point guard, but nothing was really forced. He passed well. He defended. He even made outside shots. Quite an impressive debut under serious media scrutiny. Will he perform like this every night? Probably not, that isnít realistic. That said, the Sacramento Kings (oh, did I forget to mention that is the team that Lebron and his teammates played against) are a very good team, so that makes the numbers even more impressive.
So how did other rookies do? The Nuggets Carmelo Anthony, the third pick, scored 12 points and had 7 rebounds, but was just 4-15 in his 29 minutes, but the Nuggets surprised the Spurs, winning 80-72. Second pick, Darko Milicic didnít even play in the Pistons season opener. 4th pick, Raptors Chris Bosh had 24 minutes, 5-8 from the field, 11 points and 4 boards. My choice for Rookie of the Year was Dwayne Wade, formerly of Marquette. Well, last night he played 34 minutes and shot 2-12 for 5 points. He added four assists. However, his debut was on Tuesday night and in that game he played 41 minutes, was 8-18 from the field, with 18 points, 4 boards and 4 dimes.
So, what did you think of the Lebron James game? What are you thoughts on how heíll perform this year? Heck, what do you think of his commercials? That new Sprite one cracks me up! E-mail me!
Iím sorry to say this. OK, Iím not! Why does anyone talk to Jim Gray? I donít understand it. I remember when he first got on my nerves. It was when the All-Century Team was announced at the World Series a few years ago. Pete Rose was named to that team. Following an incredible, emotional ceremony, Gray interviewed Rose. Did he ask him about how exciting the night was, or what it meant to be named to the team? Did he talk baseball at all? No! He grilled Rose trying to get him to admit something. I was impressed with Pete Roseís constraint. I donít know how he didnít just level Jim Gray. I was also impressed that Chad Curtis, after hitting a big home run in that World Series, refused to do an interview with Jim Gray because of it.
If it werenít for Craig Sager, Jim Gray would be the worst NBA courtside interviewer. He asks terrible questions. He sucks up to the players. He usually talks for about a minute before he even gets a question out.
Now, Kobe should not have even taken Jim Grayís call. But, do you think when he call Kobe Bryant last week that he said, ďHey Kobe, talk to me, tell me everything so I can go on ESPN and look smartĒ??
Am I the only one that canít stand Jim Gray? And Craig Sager? Who else donít we like asking questions? Cheryl Miller is bad too, but nowhere near the level of incompetency shown by Gray and Sager. Send me an e-mail with you thoughts.
This really is a baseball site, as much as a basketball site, so I best discuss some baseball topics too!
Lew Ford broke his thumb playing winter ball in Venezuela. He will be out at least a month.
Here is JD Durbinís new journal from Team USA as they plan to head down to Panama for the Olympic Qualifying tournament. As he has done in his previous journals, Durbin answers a number of great e-mails. Durbin is joined on the USA team by fellow Twins prospects Jesse Crain and Joe Mauer. Justin Morneau made the Canadian National Team, which will take part in the same tournament.
Brian Wolfe also has a new diary entry now for you to read. In it, we find out more about Wolfe and the type of pitcher he is.
The list of Twins free agents grew by three yesterday as Rick Reed and Kenny Rogers became free agents. Reed wasnít healthy much of the season, which meant that he didnít pitch the necessary number of innings for his 2004 option to be picked up. The Twins chose not to pick up the $1 million option on utility infielder Chris Gomez, making him a free agent as well. The other Twins that are now free agents are Eddie Guardado, LaTroy Hawkins, Shannon Stewart, Denny Hocking and Jesse Orosco. Players eligible for free agency can file for free agency until November 9th. They canít talk with other teams until November 10th. What are my thoughts on these free agents?
Rick Reed - I hope the Twins have zero interest in bringing him back, even for a low salary. I canít see him making more than $1 million next season. My guess as to the team that he may end up with would be the New York Mets. Thatís where he had his best years in the big leagues. Theyíve got problems and theyíve got money.
Chris Gomez - I could see him coming back to the Twins, but not for a million bucks. Maybe heíll be back for $600,000 again. Heíll definitely surface somewhere. Heís not a great player, but he warrants a shot at a starting role, and that wonít happen (even if it should) with the Twins.
Jesse Orosco - I donít think he will, or should, be back with the Twins. I think we may have seen the end of the career of Orosco. However, my guess is someone will offer him a deal to pitch for them next year, at least in spring training.
Kenny Rogers - I would love to see Kenny Rogers come back as the 5th starter. His veteran presence is great, even if his Ďstuffí isnít anymore. That said, if he doesnít come back, the Twins have plenty of other options for the spot. The Twins only paid Rogers $2 million for the 2003 season. Would he take less than that? If not, I donít know if heíll be playing at all in 2004.
Denny Hocking - Heís a great utility player for any team. I think that if he were even willing to take a pay cut down to about $750,000, he would be worth keeping around. But, I think we all know that ideally, he would sign for a couple years with the Anaheim Angels.
Shannon Stewart - Many Twins people and fans want the Twins to resign Shannon Stewart so he can play LF and lead off for the team. I donít see that happening. First, he was a spark plug, but he has been injured in the past, and wasnít as head-and-shoulders above others that heís worth overpaying. Heíll be courted by a lot of teams, including Oakland, Anaheim, and probably most teams that can afford a $6-$8 million LF.
Eddie Guardado/LaTroy Hawkins - They have said all the right things, that they want to play on the same team. I really donít see that happening unless it is with the Twins. But, are there teams that could use both of them, and could afford both of them. Definitely. The Mets have mentioned Hawkins as a closer and could use a veteran like Eddie. But I think there are three teams that 1.) could afford and 2.) could use both pitchers. The Yankees. The bridge from the starters to Mariano Rivera was not solid for the Yankees this whole season. They both could set up Rivera, or be insurance for injury, or just to keep Rivera fresh. The Braves had one of the worst bullpens in baseball last year. Again, they would be setting up John Smoltz, but with the elbow situation of Smoltz, they would both provide insurance. The third team, in my mind, that could land both, is the Chicago Cubs. They have the money. Theyíve got the solid young starting staff, but either Hawkins or Guardado could take the closer role from Joe Borowski, or the three could be a very strong bullpen by committee. Now, all that said, I think that Hawkins will go to the Cubs, but I think the Twins will retain Guardado, just because I think his market will be more in the Twins price range.
What should the Twins do? When the Twins season ended, I wrote this posting about my thoughts on the 2004 Twins roster. The next week, I asked you to tell me what you thought the Twins should do in the offseason, and you definitely did a good job. What do you think the Twins should do with these free agents? Here is the list of free agents. Who should the Twins go after? E-mail me.
Thatís it for today! I hope you have a great Thursday! Donít forget Must-See-TV and Survivor are on tonight! E-mail me on anything youíd like to know!
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