What’s up, Minn.?

Published 8:31 am Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Column: Second Thoughts

Let’s face it; we’re cursed. And if Tubby Smith can’t exorcise our demons who can? Jerry Kill? Leslie Frazier? Ted Mondale?

Monday was the final straw. I read an article on how Ricky Rubio doesn’t want to play for the Timberwolves. How he’d rather play for the Knicks, Celtics or Heat and that he’d rather stay in Spain than play elsewhere.

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I had to deal with Packers sympathizers. I had to watch my boss strut around in his Packers coat and tie as I stared into the vacant eyes of my Vikings bobblehead and asked “why?” Why did they do what we couldn’t last season. Why did Favre throw across his body? Why didn’t we just run the ball and kick a field goal? How is it that in 50 years we haven’t won the Big One while the Packers are going for No. 4 and the Steelers No. 7?

I had to deal with news that the Gophers’ starting point guard Al Nolen, the heart and soul of the team, broke his foot and is likely out for the season. Isn’t it enough that Mo Walker ripped up his knee and Nolen’s backup Devoe Joseph transferred? I was dreaming of the Sweet 16. Now I’m having nightmares.

But who am I kidding, I was prepared for yesterday. My grandpa has been prepping me my entire life:

“It’s hard being a Minnesota fan,” he said.

Ricky Rubio must have been watching weather reports. Twenty below zero is hard to fathom for any Spaniard but how can a 20-year, who’s never played a second in the NBA, decide which team he wants to play for?

He shouldn’t, but Rubio has the leverage other rookies don’t have: He’s already playing professionally and making millions in Europe. While Rubio hasn’t been playing up to hype overseas, the Timberwolves need him to bring fans to the Target Center. I’m not calling Rubio’s bluff, though, if he really doesn’t want to play for the Timberwolves he may be soaking up the sun on Spanish beaches for years to come.

I’ve had a hard time figuring out who the most valuable member of the Gophers basketball team is. I believe it’s Trevor Mbakwe and Blake Hoffarber’s lethal shot helps us upset opponents, but Al Nolen, the only experienced point guard on the team, challenges for team MVP. Over four years, he’s grown into one of the most competent ball handlers and passers in the Big Ten and is a Defensive Player of the Year candidate. His offensive play has improved this season, too.

As one of only two seniors on the team, Nolen was a crucial part of the Gophers’ potential Big Ten and NCAA tournament success. Without him, the Gophers are still a near-lock to be selected into the Big Dance but it could be another one-and-done tournament for the maroon and gold.