I don’t know Jim Souhan.
Never met him. Never read any of his work.
If he’s in attendance at tonight’s Thunder-Wolves game inside Target Center, I suspect he could use a friend.
If you’re not familiar with the name, Souhan is a sports columnist for the Star Tribune. In this morning’s paper, he wrote a scathing column titled, “Will the Wolves ever matter again?” The piece took aim at everyone in the organization, owner Glen Taylor, GM David Kahn, coach Kurt Rambis, leaders Kevin Love and Micahel Beasley, point guards Jonny Flynn and Luke Ridnour and young gun Wesley Johnson. Souhan left no stone unturned.
A few snippets.
I fear that the Wolves’ losing culture is so pervasive that everyone in the Wolves’ organization, from owner Glen Taylor on down, has lost sight of what it takes not only to win, but to function in a competent workplace, that they have all become comfortable with the dubious concept of barely visible, incremental improvement.”
They’re better in many ways, but they still fail to play — or attempt to play — defense. They still lack basketball intelligence. They still choke in close games. They still, after drafting three first-round point guards and signing two more in the past two years, lack a starting-caliber point guard, and their current backup, Jonny Flynn, seems to lack even one above-average NBA skill.”
A mediocre Rockets team came to town Monday night without franchise player Yao Ming, and demonstrated a dramatic edge in basketball intelligence over our Wolves. With the underrated Rick Adelman orchestrating offense from the sideline and the basketball genius Shane Battier making everyone around him better, the Rockets made the Wolves look slow and stupid all night. Which is just business-as-usual at Target Center.”
Why does this matter?
Because the Thunder could be about to walk into a buzzsaw.
Souhan seemingly has provided the perfect measure of bulletin-board material. It just so happens that the Thunder is in the Twin Cities.
The Wolves, losers of four straight and nine of their past 10, appeared just about ready to roll over and play dead in the last half of the season. But tonight, they’ve got a reason to show up. Players always say they don’t read the paper. Yet somehow, anytime a writer pens anything critical they seem to always know about it. Expect tonight to be no different.
The Thunder, though, doesn’t seem too concerned.
Thunder coach Scott Brooks says he doesn’t believe in bulletin-board material. Says if he’s Rambis, he doesn’t have the Star Tribune’s sports page posted to the locker room’s dry erase board, greeting his players as they make their way to their cubicles.
“I don’t think that works in the NBA,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “There’s so many games that for an 82-game season I don’t think that affects the way teams play. I think in football, you have one game a week and all the crazy emotions that it takes to be a successful football player, I think it works there.
“My philosophy is you focus on your team and you focus on doing things the right way,” Brooks said. “You control the things that you can control and I think things will work out.”
Can’t say that I believe Brooks. I believe him when he says he hasn’t used bulletin board material and has no plans on doing so. But Brooks enjoyed an improbable 10-year NBA career. More than anybody, Brooks has had to find fuel from somewhere. He has to know players get fired up when slighted. Heck, I’ve written bulletin board material. Not intentionally, but I know for a fact that teams were more inspired because of something I wrote. I know because players on those teams told me.
Kevin Durant, one of the Thunder’s three captains, said his team has no reason to have its guard up tonight. The Thunder, Durant says, should play with purpose every night. And so should the Wolves.
“They should be fired up anyway,” Durant said of Minnesota. “This is the game of basketball, and they want to come out and win every game. A team like this is always fired up, no matter what people in the paper say. There’s always going to be critics of everything we do as basketball players so that shouldn’t even matter.”
I think I’ll mosey on into the Wolves locker room before the game, check the dry erase board and see for myself.
(Souhan can be heard weekdays at 2:40 p.m. on 150oESPN. I suspect today’s column will be a talking point.)