Column: The Gophers, Timberwolves & Twins

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 2, 2006

Jon Laging, Sports Columnist

Almost all have heard the following: “Speed up.” “I can’t. The engine has a governor on it.” Years ago the phrase was more common than it is now.

Governor may refer to the spring tension controlling the throttle opening and if the opening cannot be increased, additional fuel cannot be used and the engine speed will not be increased with the throttle. That, with other factors allow the engine to be governed. Those of you that have read this far, now know as much about governed engines as I do.

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Athletes that have played physical sports know that the fierceness with which you play is governed by self-preservation. That if you are a 97-pound weakling it is best not to hit a 260-pound fullback head-on. You will be injured and the fullback will not be affected. The same is true in basketball. When going after a loose ball there is a point where discretion is the better part of valor. Diving off the floor edge in Williams Arena will hurt, in fact a Gopher suffered a concussion doing just that last year. Some coaches ignore the big hurt factor and players are pushed into injuries.

It is possible to go the other way and be too cautious. The governor is set too low. There is little diving on the floor for loose balls and hustle slows down to what is acceptable, not what gets the job done.

Somebody put the Gopher governor on high in the Minnesota-Indiana game and Dan Monson’s basketball team out-dove, out-hustled and out-played the Hoosiers. It wasn’t even close and the win hopefully started the Gophers on the road back to respectability. Harvard transfer Zach Puchtel played a whale of a game for Minnesota. I didn’t know Ivy Leaguers were that tough.

There has been a great deal of discussion concerning the recent Minnesota Timberwolves-Boston Celtic trade. The Timberwolves giving up Wally Szczerbiak, Michael Olowokandi and others for the Celtics&8217; Ricky Davis, Mark Blount and others. Davis is not an all-star, Szczerbiak is, but Davis gives the team a slasher, much like Latrell Sprewell. In fact, he reminds me of Sprewell, hopefully with a better attitude. His governor is set on high. Mark Blount is no Shaquille O’Neal or even a Rasho Nesterovic, but he has to be an improvement over Olowokandi. The Wolves also received a point guard in Marcus Banks. That’s good, they don’t have one now other than shooter Troy Hudson. I’ll give McHale credit for doing something. It may improve the team’s chances of making the postseason. Playoff chances couldn’t have gotten much worse and there wasn’t a whole lot to lose in making the trade.

Perhaps the player that benefitted the most from the trade is Wally Szczerbiak. He is now close to home and on a storied team. The Celtics of Bob Cousy, Bill Sharman, Sam Jones, John Havlichek, Bill Russell, Larry Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale. However, he needs to produce. Celtic fans are not known for being Massachusetts nice.

Twinsfest is over and our Minnesota Twins will soon be headed toward Spring Training. Every new season brings hope and optimism. The anticipation of a good, possibly great year. The Twins will start with reasonable hopes for a pennant. They have the pitching and Terry Ryan has added some run producers during the offseason. Whether there will be enough hitting remains to be seen.

There have been some negatives about one of the Twins&8217; acquisitions. Tony Batista has been put down by almost all except Ryan. I don’t agree and we’ll get into this further next time.