I realize I’ve spent a lot of time whining in my last couple of posts, so here are some things that actually make me feel good:
- Al Jefferson is going to be a star
He probably would be one already if he played for anyone else but the Timberwolves. Jefferson has been a scoring machine, he’s already racked up 1,077 points in 47 games this season, averaging 22.9 PPG. He put up 34 points last Friday against the Lakers, and another 34 against the Celtics on Sunday. And even though the Pacers effectively shut him down in last night’s game, his presence on the court forced them to double-team him and allowed teammates Randy Foye and even Brian Cardinal to come up big.
Fans had high expectations for Jefferson ever since he came over from Boston in the Kevin Garnett trade. He was replacing the most beloved player in Wolves history, a superstar who used to carry the team to respectability all by himself. Big Al has been winning us over since he arrived as he, like Garnett, is the type of player who just makes everyone around him better. And although he was robbed of an appearance at the All-Star game this season, he’s already making himself much more difficult to ignore.
- I like Cal Clutterbuck a lot, too
The rookie right wing has been a hitting machine, leading the league with 180 hits as of today. I don’t recall another Wild player who finished his checks so often or so enthusiastically as this kid. Even our beloved goon, Derek Boogaard, only has 43 hits so far this season. At 5’10” and 210 lbs. Clutterbuck isn’t really a big guy, but he’s absolutely fearless when it comes to both hitting and fighting (despite what Don Cherry would have you believe). Here is some of his best work:
He doesn’t score a lot, but he always crashes the net and makes the most out of every scoring chance he gets:
Plus his name is just really fun to say.
- Okay, I’ll even say something nice about Bill Smith
Smith has been smart enough to realize that he should give contract extensions to the core talent of the team. Last year, he locked up Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, and Joe Nathan into multi-year deals. This season he locked up Jason Kubel on the cheap (I don’t care what Dave Cameron says, this is a very good move for the Twins. I respect Cameron and ordinarily I would agree with him, but the Twins have struggled to find a good DH since releasing David Ortiz. Now that they have one, it makes a lot of sense to keep him). Smith took a lot of criticism at the time for the Nathan deal (since the team was not expected to contend) but now looks like a genius for signing one of the best closers in baseball for a relative bargain. Actually, the most questionable deals he made were to Michael Cuddyer and Nick Punto, but even those aren’t really terrible. Cuddy was signed for 3-years and $24 million, while Punto got 2-years and $8 million, so neither deal will break the bank if either one ends up being a bust.
I know that Smith didn’t draft or acquire any of these guys, that was his predecessor Terry Ryan, but at least he was wise enough to realize that he should try to keep them around through their best years. That he managed to do so and still come in under budget means he’s not the worst GM in baseball (despite what I might have said in my previous post.
I admit that t may have overreacted just a little).