Mid-summer edition

-          Whenever there is a change in regime of any kind of organization, the new leader is given both the authority and the benefit of putting in his own personnel in key positions.  The Milwaukee Bucks hiring of Jason Kidd as it new coach might have made a modicum of sense if Kidd was given complete and total control of all basketball operations, which is what he wanted at Brooklyn, was refused and thus he left.  Instead, Kidd was hired as head coach by the Bucks new owners Marc Lasry and Wes Edens and GM John Hammond had to read all about it in the news.  Hammond hasn’t been replaced, yet. But if he stays on for any period of time one wonders what possible good he can do for the Bucks other than sort the office mail since now he has about much authority as team team’s postal clerk. It is usually the GMs who hire the coaches but in this case the owners added GM to their title and purview as well, something the often-accused-of-meddling Herb Kohl never did.  Some will say at this point any publicity for the Bucks is a good thing but I don’t think it a good sign if the new owners are going to start hiring coaches they would waste their money keeping on board GM who has nothing to do.

-          Speaking of nothing to do, former Bucks’ head coach Larry Drew will not only have nothing to do for the upcoming NBA season, he also get paid for doing nothing, millions of dollars of nothing. One shouldn’t feel sorry for Drew, given all the poverty in the world, that he will be well-paid for his unemployment for the next two seasons. But still you have to feel he was unfairly made a pasty for the Bucks’ failures last season.   Drew may not be the most brilliant coach on the planet but even Dean Smith couldn’t take a garbage line-up designed to get a draft lottery pick and make something out of it. And even if he did, it would have screwed up the whole long-range plan. At least give Drew credit for making the team bad enough to draft Jabari Parker. Of that, at least, he should be remembered for.

-          And speaking of NBA franchise dysfunction, it makes a statement when a promising young coach decides to stay with the dysfunctional situation he’s well versed in rather than take a gamble on the dysfunctional situation he doesn’t know.  Thus, Memphis coach David Joerger will stay with the Memphis Grizzlies and continue to battle with owner Robert Pera instead taking over the uncertain situation surrounding the Minnesota Timberwolves. That Flip Saunders had to make himself head coach along with being GM shows how unattractive the T-Wolves job is right now with Kevin Love all but out the door after next season due to free agency and all the questions that abound as to what comes next. Saunders’s tenure will be a temporary deal as soon as the team rebuilds itself (again) after the departure of its best player. Saunders smartly didn’t trade Love away during the draft and will wait until the T-Wolves can exercise its maximum leverage, which will be at next season’s trade deadline, to get players and draft picks for the new Timberwolves. However, the new Timberwolves may not be much of an improvement if they continue to draft players with “good upside” like Zach LaVine who averaged exactly nine points per game while a freshman at UCLA last winter. There are a lot undrafted players who did better than that and Minnesota passed over Michigan State’s Adrien Payne to get the kind of player who has burned them in the past.

 -          Unbelievable the difference winning close baseball games and not having bullpen pitchers blow saves isn’t it? Thus the Milwaukee Brewers have one of the best records in the Majors because of this and they lead the NL Central as well. It also helps to have a healthy team, which the Brewers weren’t last season, and have all your players eligible to play, as Ryan Braun is currently showing. If he keeps it up, Brewer fans will be asking “what steroids?” when it comes to Braun.  Mad as they may have been about his lying, he’s also the club’s franchise player and has demonstrated his value enough not to be kicked to the curb.

-          After hovering around the .500 mark for much of the season, the Twins are showing signs of being unable to sustain it. A recent losing streak has pushed them to the bottom of the weak AL Central and with Joe Mauer on the DL until the All-Star break; the situation may get even worse. The Twins have shown themselves to be modestly improved over what they’ve offered fans for the past three seasons. The pitching is better but once again the Twins simply don’t have the sluggers to take advantage of it. And wasn’t Mauer’s move to first base designed so he could avoid long stretches on the DL?  The Twin Cities sports media can talk about front office moves or lack of them for the past few seasons Terry Ryan wasn’t around all they want. The bottom line is the Twins set aside a lot of money on Joe Mauer to be their franchise player and franchise mainstay and, unlike Ryan Braun in a similar situation; he hasn’t produced up to those kinds of expectations.

-            The Minnesota Wild picked up free agent Thomas Vanek to help improve their offense for the upcoming. The Wild are going to need a lot more goals this season given how unsettled they are with their goaltenders. Given the Vanek signing and their recent draft selections, the Wild are going to settle for either hoping young Darcy Kuempfer can handle the job for a full season or hoping Josh Harding is healthy enough to be between the pipes for a full season. If that’s the case, at least the fans will be entertained by more 5-4 and 6-5 contests at the Xcel Energy Center. 

-           If not for Tim Howard, the U.S. national men’s soccer team could have been smoked by Belgium in the World Cup. An average goalie could not have made the saves Howard did. Belgium was the better team by far. Yet many soccer experts not only appreciated the USNMT’s heart and grit, but also the fact they played more like quality World Cup team than they had in the past or at least making progress towards doing so. The difference still is having the quality forwards and strikers to play strong game on offense and until some of the U.S’s best athletes start playing soccer, as is true in the rest of the world, that difference will remain.  Soccer has established a solid sports niche in the U.S. but to me more than just that requires such a change.

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