Hey Wolves fans. I just got back from Thanksgiving in Zumbrota, Minnesota (yes that’s right, the original home of Jacksonville Jaguars coach, Gus Bradley.) As the lead picture shows, I was digging through some of my old prized possessions sitting in my parents’ storage. More on that below.
The Wolves are in Dallas today where tonight they face the Mavs (7:30 CST, FSN North, 830 WCCO Radio). Dallas is 10-7, slightly better than Minnesota’s 8-9, but they boast a home record of 8-1. That’s why I was surprised to see that the Wolves are currently two-point favorites in tonight’s game. I mean, the Wolves are 2-6 on the road and have lost 5 of their last 6 games. Even if they have extra days of rest, I expected Dallas to be favored. Digging deeper, I then noticed that the Mavs might be without starting point guard Jose Calderon, who sprained his ankle last night in Atlanta, in a game the Mavs lost despite leading 70-55 when Calderon left the game.
Through 17 games, the numbers show the Mavs to be a slightly net-positive (+0.9 per 100 possessions) team in the 31.1 minutes that Calderon registers, per game. This is because of how well their offense plays with him. With Jose running the show, the Mavs score 107.8 per 100, and allow 106.8. It’s an offensive game. When he’s off the court, the Mavs score 102.6 per 100, but allow a much-better 98.3. In pretty small sample size, then, the Mavs have been better with Calderon on the bench than with him on the floor playing. I tend to side with Vegas here in believing that rookies Gal Mekel and Shane Larkin will struggle to replace Calderon when faced with greater responsibility and starting-level competition. I guess we’ll find out tonight.
One last thing about the Mavs: Monta Ellis. He’s playing his best ball since the We Believe, pre-moped accident days. Credit probably goes to Rick Carlisle whose reputation for maximizing production from raw talent is well established. Check out Kirk Goldsberry’s Grantland piece for more about Monta’s early-season success. I should add that Ellis shot a combined 8 for 31 in his last two games, perhaps signaling some regression to the mean. If Calderon can’t go tonight, expect a more ball-dominant Monta to replace the missing offense initiation.
Okay, on to more important things like the other jerseys I found when I was home for the holiday. I wasn’t a huge jersey kid, but I found five of them that span from 5th Grade through sophomore year in college. I suppose it only makes sense to do this Jersey Power Rankings style, because all internet lists are to be power ranked.
Without further ado…
#5 – Jalen Rose, Michigan, Champion
This is the first jersey I ever owned and, frankly, it pains me to rank it in last place. Rose was my favorite player for a long time, obviously beginning with his Fab Five days. The combination of reading Mitch Albom’s book (four times) and seeing the freshmen play at Williams Arena (a game they actually lost to Voshon Lenard and company) made a big impression on my early basketball views and style. I suspect there are tens of thousands of others my age that feel the same way. In any event, the cheapness of the silk-screened Champion jerseys combined with no name on the back (which at the time I didn’t realize meant Rose was seeing none of the money my parents paid for this) make this one fifth out of five. Still, a pretty cool jersey.
#4 – Jalen Rose, Denver Nuggets, Champion
Rose again. Now he was in the NBA and I could have his name on my back. That was cool. What wasn’t cool was how he struggled to live up to his potential whilst playing for Dan Issel’s Nuggets team (that was underratedly cool, at times). Rose eventually moved on to Indiana and played close to All-Star caliber ball on great teams coached by Larry Bird. For whatever reason I never bought that Pacers jersey. The obscurity factor of a Jalen-Nuggets shirt makes this one pretty cool.
#3 – Kobe Bryant, LA Lakers (#8 Version), Nike
Somewhere along the line, Kobe became my favorite player. In college, buying jerseys became “a thing” again. This was mostly due to Nike making authenticky-looking ones that were way more affordable than the *actual* authentic ones of the old days (when every normal person had to buy Champion). Buying jerseys was also something my college buddies and I did for funny party wear. This is Thing Number 289798729857937872 that I miss about college. In any event, the Lakers jersey is pretty sweet, no matter what you think about the franchise in general, and Number 8 represents the days when Kobe was jaw-droppingly talented in certain ways distinguishable from anyone I’ve ever seen. I love this jersey. I even remember wearing it for a huge Madden Super Bowl against my college roommate. Again, college is better than real life.
#2 – Michael Finley, Dallas Mavericks, Nike
This was my other college-era jersey purchase. I put it ahead of Kobe in the power rankings for a couple of reasons:
First, the Mavs jerseys were (and are) really cool. At least I think so. While the Lakers have a classic purple and gold that better resonates with fans, I think these Mavs actually have the sharper look.
Second, Michael Finley has just the right combination of “good player” and under-the-radar obscurity that make this a cooler jersey than Kobe’s. Everybody gets a Kobe jersey. Well, everybody that loves Kobe anyway, and that’s still a huge number of bball fans. Finley is wayyyyy less famous than his Mavs sidekicks Steve Nash (mostly due to Nash’s Suns career, but still) and Dirk Nowitzki. But he made two All-Star teams while playing for Don Nelson’s wildly entertaining Dallas teams of the early aughts.
#1 – Chris Webber, Michigan, Nike
This authentic Webber jersey is so cool that I’m racking my brain for socially-acceptable ways for a 31-year old to wear it around. It’s a little tight, but I think I could pull it off with a t-shirt underneath.
Webber’s career has taken some notorious ups and downs. He was the top high school player in the country and best player on the coolest
sports college basketball team of all time. Then he called timeout against North Carolina. Then he went pro and was awesome on the Warriors. Then he feuded with Nellie and got his self traded to a sorry situation in Washington. Somewhere along the line he got in trouble with the law, and he’s disassociated himself with Michigan. Then he found Rick Adelman and became (for the second time) the coolest player in basketball. Now he’s on TNT and is arguably the best analyst on TV. It’s weird for a Fab Five fanatic to have Rose and Webber both now in leading NBA commentary positions. I like both of em for different reasons. This is the better jersey though, because it’s authentic and has the name which (I hope?) Webber got paid for.