It's October 1 and I'm sitting here watching the Bears intercept a Tony Romo pass for the fifth time tonight, essentially ending my fantasy football chances for the week. It's hard to be in a good mood when that kind of thing happens, but there are a few things I am excited about right now. Here they are in no particular order.
The Vikings are 3-1. And in first place. Granted, it's early, but still. The winning is fun, of course, but so is the collection of talent on the roster. Percy Harvin turns me into the sports fan equivalent of a fawning school girl every time he makes a play. He has a way of continually surprising me with how talented he is, and it doesn't get old. He's a little like Dwyane Wade that way. Obviously a tremendous talent, but somehow still sneaky good.
And then there's Adrian Peterson. He's a physical freak (in a good way) and every time he touches the ball, he might do something you've never seen before. The strength and speed he has give him that man-among-boys appearance, only he's doing it in a league full of super strong/fast guys. Kind of reminds me of one of Wade's teammates in that sense.
Also, with the hot start they've gotten off to, it's hard not to be excited about the potential of Kyle Rudolph, Christian Ponder, Matt Kalil, and even Blair Walsh. Throw in the veterans like Winfield and Allen and Greenway and, well, I almost forget how exasperating Vikings games can be. Will the winning last? I don't know. (Actually, I already called it, they're going to the Super Bowl.) Either way, it's exciting, so I’m going to enjoy it.
Next topic! The NBA season is about to begin. I'm not sure when, but it's gotta be soon at this point. Am I intrigued? Sí, Sí, very intrigued, very intrigued!
For starters, the LeBron James era of the NBA has officially begun. It was actually well underway already, but people were slow to embrace it. At this point, all but the most stubborn of detractors has acknowledged it. LeBron's historical playoff run kind of forced the issue. Still, I don't expect the sentiment toward James to change drastically; he'll still have plenty of people cheering against him. But I think we can finally move on from the same old questions and debates that have dominated the coverage to this point.
As great as LeBron's performance was last season, it won't stop other players from making their case for NBA alpha male. Dwight Howard may have spent the last two years lowering his Q-rating, but the final result is that he's now at the heart of an all-star caliber roster heading into the peak years of his career. Whether they can all play together is yet to be seen. But if they can play together, it will be almost unfair what Howard's teammates can do for the shape of his career and what he can do for the remaining years of theirs. It's truly an interesting situation developing out there. It's too bad we'll all be sick of the coverage by the All-Star break. But we're not there yet, so for now, it's a great story to watch heading into the new season.
Of course, everyone has heard, and will hear, plenty about the Heat and the Lakers. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Timberwolves are primed to make a serious impact again this year. For those paying attention, this shouldn't be a huge surprise. But I'm not sure how many pay attention to the Wolves, so it might turn some heads. I think the national fan base knows Kevin Love is a legitimate star. I'm not sure how many realize he's a top 10 player. And I really wonder how many realize that, numerically speaking, Kevin Love was a top 5 player in the entire NBA each of the last two seasons. In fact, according to NBA.com statistics, Love was second only to LeBron James in efficiency per game both years. Let that sink in. He beat out Durant, Howard, Chris Paul, and all the other perennial MVP also-rans. Love topped all those guys. For two straight years, only LeBron was better. If you prefer John Hollinger's PER stat, which measures efficiency per minute, Love still lands in the top five both years, finishing fourth in 2010-11 (behind James, Howard, Wade) and fifth in 2011-12 (behind James, Paul, Wade, and Durant). No matter what set of numbers you choose, Love has been brilliant the last two seasons and Minnesota fans are hoping he picks up right where he left off.
And while the team finished last season on a down note due to injuries, they established themselves as a legitimate playoff caliber team when healthy. Sure, Rubio will miss significant time. And really, I hope they don't rush him back too soon, because even in a season shortened by the lockout, then injury, Rubio pretty much validated the hype surrounding him last season. He has the talent to be good for years to come.
But don't sleep on the rest of the roster. I mean, sure, Nikola Pekovic isn't quite a household name. In fact, when I mentioned him as one of the key players for the Wolves, a couple of my friends thought I might have made the name up. But if this guy played for the Knicks or Lakers, he'd probably have his own "30 for 30" by now. OK, that’s a stretch, but the point is, people would know his name and know how good he is. Even if the fans don't all know him yet, opposing players and coaches know him. They probably even fear him. Partially for his play and partially because he has a scary tattoo.
The Wolves also acquired some serious talent this offseason, even if it does come with question marks. Just three seasons ago, Brandon Roy was averaging over 20 points a game. He missed all of last year after retiring due to injuries, but he's giving it another go. Andrei Kirilenko is a few years removed from his best seasons, and spent last year playing overseas. Both players will suit up for the Timberwolves this season and could prove to be valuable pieces on a winning team. Neither will be asked to be "the guy" in Minnesota, but at the same time, there should be plenty of opportunities to contribute. Other notable acquisitions include Chase Budinger, Greg Stiemsma, rookie Robbie Hummel, and a Russian guy. OK, he has a name. Alexey Shved.
Returning players JJ Barea and Luke Ridnour impressed me at times with their play last year and I think they can keep the Wolves solid in the backcourt while Rubio is out. They should see even better looks once Rubio is back. Also, Derrick Williams will be back for his second season in the NBA. I heard that he is in great shape after working with the fitness guy Kevin Love worked with. Williams showed very brief flashes of potential last year, so hopefully the fitness improvement gives him the edge he needs to be a consistent contributor.
OK, so I probably didn't need to give a roster breakdown, but the point is the Timberwolves are a competitive NBA team again and we should appreciate that while we can. I'm excited to see how far they can go.
And finally, who doesn't love a blast from the past? Well, there's going to be a Bo Jackson "30 for 30" documentary at some point in this new batch of releases. He's one of those athletes from my youth that I'll probably always find intriguing. Plus, he seems like a pretty cool guy. Looking forward to the film.
There you have it. That's what's got me excited in the world of sports these days. I bet you didn't even realize you wanted to know all this. Well, you're welcome.
-Jon is excited to be done with this article.