Wolves guard Derrick Rose turned 30 today, and his highlight reel is amazing

Before Derrick Rose was a minimum-contract guard trying to resurrect his career with the Wolves … before he was undone by bad luck and worse knees … before all that, he was amazing.

He’s still pretty good, mind you — better for the Wolves than I ever thought he’d be when they brought him in near the end of last season — but in case you forgot there was a time when he was arguably the hardest person in the NBA to guard.

So on this day, Rose’s 30th birthday, I present to you a highlight package put together by NBA.com of the top 30 plays of Rose’s career. These memories are likely seared into Tom Thibodeau’s brain since many of them happened when the two were together in Chicago.

The man was a league MVP. Let’s take a look.

As Jimmy Butler trade talks continues, appearance of leverage becomes key

Welcome to the Thursday edition of The Cooler, where the long play leads to the upper hand. Let’s get to it:

*As we breeze into Week 3 of Jimmy Butler Trade Watch, there is an appearance of progress even without a resolution. Miami looks to be the clear favorite in the process, though Houston is still mentioned.

The Wolves are reportedly asking the Heat for Josh Richardson and Bam Adebayo — a pair of promising but nowhere near Butler-level young players — as well as a protected first-round pick and the ability to offload Gorgui Dieng’s contract. I don’t know if they’ll get all of that, but if they can get three of the four I’d take it (as long as one of them was Richardson).

Until a deal is done, though, the specifics don’t matter much.

What does matter — and what is most striking at the moment — is how the most recent wave of national reporting, led by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, is packed with both sides desperately clawing for leverage — almost like they’re passing notes back and forth to each other through an intermediary.

From the Miami side, you have the start of Woj’s piece, in which he says the Heat is pushing the Wolves to accept a revised trade offer. The Heat’s biggest piece of leverage is time. It’s hard to imagine the Wolves actually want this to extend much longer, considering the regular season starts in less than two weeks and their only Target Center preseason game is Friday and has the potential to be an uncomfortable environment. I’m trying to imagine Butler donning a Wolves uniform and taking the court, and all I’m hearing are boos.

From the Minnesota side, the attempt at leverage is two-fold: trying to convince teams that they’ll hold onto Butler if they don’t get a deal they really like (a dubious proposition given how uncomfortable it would make things) and engaging primarily with Miami and Houston, two cap-strapped teams that would need to get Butler before he hits free agency next summer to have any chance of re-signing him via his Bird Rights (a real bit of leverage, particularly with Miami).

Both sides have some leverage, so assuming Miami genuinely wants Butler — and its hard to imagine the Heat would have come this far if that wasn’t the case — the ingredients feel right for something to happen.

*Wild beat writer Sarah McLellan had a very good piece on the veteran core of the Wild and how this is essentially their last chance to go beyond just making the playoffs before a major shakeup takes place.

Indeed, recent history in local sports tells us Year 2 is often the time to look for major moves. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine didn’t do much in their first offseason at the helm of the Twins, nor did Tom Thibodeau and Scott Layden make many moves in their first year. Both executive duos were far more aggressive in Year 2 after spending a full year to evaluate the organizations, and Paul Fenton could be on the same trajectory.

*ESPN has an interesting piece on the history of “bullpenning,” which suggests that maybe the modern trend isn’t as newfangled as we might have thought.

*Has it really been 14 years since the Yankees and Red Sox met in the postseason? It has. That all changes in the ALDS starting Friday.

What the preseason lineups of Heat and Kings might tell us about a Butler trade

We’re a full two weeks removed from reports surfacing that Jimmy Butler wants to be traded from the Timberwolves.

The first week was an intense bit of posturing; the second week has been much quieter, which — and this might sound counterintuitive — could mean talks are getting more serious behind the scenes.

There have been plenty of scenarios and potential suitors mentioned for Butler, but the most plausible — and most consistently reported — possibility still seems to be a three-way deal involving the Heat and Kings.

The Heat are reportedly Butler’s new preferred destination and they have a good mix of assets to entice the Wolves, while the Kings have salary cap room that could give the Wolves some salary relief if they are able to include Gorgui Dieng in a Butler deal. The Kings are rebuilding and would theoretically want to recoup draft picks in the deal.

A trade where the Heat winds up with Butler and an expiring Sacramento contract … Dieng and draft assets wind up in Sacramento … and Hassan Whiteside and Josh Richardson wind up in Minnesota makes some sense for all three teams.

The Heat get the best player and a chance to compete in the East this year while also getting a jump on locking up a top-15 player long-term (albeit at a hefty price) while also moving on from Whiteside. The Wolves get a talented if enigmatic big man (Whiteside) but more importantly a cost-controlled potential Butler replacement (Richardson) and rid themselves of the final three years of Dieng’s expensive deal. The Kings get a useful player in Dieng and future assets to keep building.

Since I’m already deep in the weeds on this potential deal, I took a look at how both Sacramento and Miami have been handling the preseason so far to see if it offers any clues on a potential deal. I’d say there are a few things that are possibly interesting:

*Richardson, whom the Heat have reportedly been reluctant to include in any deal for Butler, has sat out the Heat’s first two preseason games. The official word is that Richardson suffered a thigh bruise in a scrimmage Saturday, but head coach Erik Spoelstra deemed him “totally fine.” It’s the kind of perfect short-term injury — kind of like Butler’s continued recovery from long-ago hand surgery — that a team can use to keep a player off the court if they worry a bigger injury could blow up a trade. (It’s also worth noting here that Bam Adebayo, a young center who could be coveted as part of a deal, has also sat out the first two preseason games with a shoulder injury).

*Whiteside, meanwhile, is a player the Heat would love to get rid of because of his up-and-down play and his huge contract. He has two years left (the second is a player option) at $25 million and $27 million, respectively. He led the NBA in blocked shots in 2015-16 and is an advanced metrics darling with a career PER of 24.2 and defensive rating of 98 per Basketball Reference. But he regressed last year and was awful in the playoffs. Personally, I’d love to see him as the Wolves starting center — their first true rim protector in forever — and Karl-Anthony Towns at power forward, but the Wolves don’t seem sold.

And so: Maybe the Heat are showcasing him in the preseason? Whiteside has played 50 minutes combined in their two preseason games. He had a monster 20-13 line in 23 minutes in the opener, following that up with 14 points, 15 rebounds and two blocked shots in a team-high 27 minutes Tuesday night against Charlotte. There’s even talk of Whiteside adding a three-pointer to his arsenal. He has attempted two in his entire career but let one fly (and made it) in the preseason opener.

*As for the Kings, Chris Sheridan notes that three of their four possible salary dump candidates — Zach Randolph, Kosta Koufos and Iman Shumpert — sat our their preseason opener Monday against Phoenix.

Koufos is said to have strained his hamstring Sunday at practice, with a report noting that he will be re-evaluated in 10 days. Shumpert has been held out of the early part of camp with what is being termed a sore left calf and is day-to-day. Randolph was a DNP-CD in the box score. It could be a matter of showcasing young players since Randolph doesn’t need to play, but it is worth noting that he started the Kings’ preseason opener a year ago.

The Kings could be wary of those players getting hurt in a meaningless game and blowing up a deal.

*The Wolves, it should be noted, played Dieng 19 minutes in their preseason opener and could be taking the Whiteside approach by continuing to show off his usefulness. He’s a solid player who started all 82 games in 2016-17 but had his role diminished with the arrival of Taj Gibson last year.

All of this could just be coincidence, but it could also be important subtext in the Butler Watch.

Survey of NBA GMs shows perception of Wolves has changed for the worse

Welcome to the Wednesday edition of The Cooler, where it’s important to remember that absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence. Let’s get to it:

*The Timberwolves were the darlings of the NBA’s annual anonymous survey of general managers a year ago.

Karl-Anthony Towns got the most votes as the player GMs would pick if they were starting a franchise from scratch and was voted most likely to have a breakout season. The Wolves as a team got a full 69 percent of votes as the team expected to be most improved.

This year’s recently released survey is notable for the far different — and less positive — predictions when it comes to the Wolves.

Towns, for instance, didn’t get a single vote as the player GMs would pick for starting a franchise. The Wolves, who got some votes last year in the question about the top four teams in the Western Conference, didn’t garner a single vote there this year.

And perhaps most telling of all: In the question about the most surprising offseason move, Jimmy Butler’s trade request ranked a distant fourth with just 6 percent of the votes — topped by DeMarcus Cousins going to the Warriors, the Kawhi Leonard trade and Paul George staying in Oklahoma City. Maybe that’s indicative of how stunning those other moves were. Maybe it’s indicative of how other GMs saw Butler’s request coming.

You can read the entire survey here.

*Speaking of shifting expectations, only one NHL.com contributor out of 18 picked the Wild to make the playoffs this season. Minnesota has made it each of the past six years and has reached 100 points in both of Bruce Boudreau’s seasons as coach.

I use it for motivation,’’ Boudreau said. “I don’t know if the players really care what they think. I’ve always been a guy that if you tell me I can’t do something, I want to do it.”

*In the litany of troubling Vikings-related developments of the past few months, don’t forget the saga of Mychal Kendricks, brother of Vikings LB Eric Kendricks. Mychal, also an NFL linebacker, has been suspended indefinitely by the NFL after pleading guilty to insider trading charges and recently lost his league appeal.

While Eric Kendricks has not been connected to the scandal in any way, it’s hard to imagine the fate of his brother isn’t a source of personal stress. The Vikings hosted Mychal on a free agent visit in late May, but he ended up with Seattle after being signed and released by Cleveland.

*The decision by Derek Falvey and Thad Levine to fire manager Paul Molitor can be viewed as either extending or tightening their leashes, depending on how you look at it.

On one hand, they seem to be signaling that they’re going all-in on a youth movement, which theoretically gives them several years to prove they know what they’re doing.

On the other hand, they will now have their hand-picked manager in place, and any failures to develop young players will reflect poorly on everyone — including Falvey and Levine.

Why was Paul Molitor fired as Twins manager? Don’t blame analytics

In explaining why the 2017 American League Manager of the Year is no longer managing the Twins, Twins Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey spun a few memorable phrases Tuesday that provided some insight.

Falvey said the decision to move on from Paul Molitor as manager was a “complex decision,” adding that “a lot has transpired” in the last 12 months since Molitor won the award while also putting an emphasis on “growth and development” that fell flat in 2018.

Truth is, it’s hard to know the specific reasons without crawling into the minds of Falvey and general manager Thad Levine – spaces that some Twins fans have increasingly become convinced are filled with something other than baseball knowledge.

Where we should take Falvey at about 100 percent face value, though, is with this: When asked if the new Twins manager will need to embrace advanced numbers and analytics, Falvey said yes.

But he added: “I will say this: Paul in particular was incredibly open-minded to things.”

Indeed, this is perhaps the most interesting part of the equation. While we might not know exactly why Molitor was fired, we should believe that analytics was not the reason.

While that might have been the biggest question about the marriage of the sides given that Molitor was already the Twins manager for two seasons under Terry Ryan before a radically new brain trust arrived, the Twins under Molitor were among the most forward-thinking in baseball in multiple areas.

The 2016 Twins, for instance, employed an infield shift — defined by Baseball Savant as having three infielders on one side of second base — on 12.6 percent of all plate appearances. By 2018, that number had grown to 28.4 percent, the third-most of all teams in MLB.

Molitor managed both teams, but he was nimble enough to recognize both the changes in the game and the wishes of his new bosses in order to alter his philosophy.

The Twins were also among a handful of teams this season to experiment heavily with the concept of an “opener” — having a relief pitcher throw the first inning before bringing in a “primary pitcher” to work the next four or five innings under less duress.

Molitor is a Hall of Fame player. In his rookie season of 1978, there were 1,034 complete games thrown in the major leagues. In 2018, his fourth year as Twins manager, there were a total of 42. He could have looked at the opener trend as an absurdity.

Instead, a few weeks ago, he said this: “We think it has merit. We’re trying to see how it plays out.”

Falvey and Levine insisted the decision wasn’t about wins and losses this season, though it’s hard to imagine Tuesday playing out the way it did had the season played out with 10 more wins.

To that end, Molitor might be culpable of not squeezing the maximum out of his teams. He finished 22 games under .500 in one-run games as Twins manager, including 15-21 this year; Ron Gardenhire’s Twins teams, by contrast, were a combined 30 games over .500 in one-run games in his 13 seasons.

Then again, Gardenhire had the benefit of great bullpens led by lights-out closer Joe Nathan in many of those seasons. Molitor was mostly handed bullpens-by-committee, particularly in his two years under the new regime.

On balance, Molitor had two surprisingly good years as manager (2015 and 2017), one shockingly awful one (2016) and one disappointing one (2018).

Maybe the closest thing to the truth is that Falvey and Levine never became fully comfortable with Molitor at the helm and want to make their own hire.

And maybe no amount of adapting to analytics on Molitor’s part was ever going to spare him.

After two years and a team record for goals, Wild is ditching ‘Let’s Go Crazy’

Welcome to the Tuesday edition of The Cooler, where I hope you wanted to hear a lot about music. Let’s get to it:

*After two seasons, the Wild is ditching “Let’s Go Crazy” as the song played after goals.

The team paid tribute to Prince by playing the song after goals during its final playoff game of the 2015-16 season, and season-ticket holders liked it enough that they voted to permanently change to “Let’s Go Crazy” from Joe Satriani’s “Crowd Chant,” which had been the goal song for a decade.

Now it seems those same fans have had another change of heart. Fans surveyed this offseason favored another switch, according to a letter emailed to season ticket holders. The Wild will either go back to “Crowd Chant” or roll with “Glass House” by Kaleo.

There seemed to be a strange unease among the Xcel faithful with having “Let’s Go Crazy” as the goal song, so I’m not terribly surprised by the switch.

Then again, the Wild scored the most goals in franchise history (266) when it went with Prince full-time two years ago, and it had the second-most in franchise history (253) last season.

I’d say the smart money is on a return to “Crowd Chant” because of familiarity — and because fans probably never had a chance to get tired of it because they rarely heard it.

*Speaking of music, it struck me the other day that a weird offshoot of Joe Mauer’s likely retirement is that we won’t be hearing his trademark walk-up music anymore.

Mauer has almost exclusively used T.I.’s “What You Know” since the 2006 season, the vast majority of his career.

Those who follow his walk-up music more closely than I do say he briefly mixed in Finger Eleven’s “Paralyzer” around 2007, and he walked up a handful of times to “The Joe Mauer Theme Song” and its sequel, performed by local musician A&R, in both 2008 and 2009. And Twins writer Phil Miller tells me that sometimes in late game situations a walk-up song isn’t played.

But I count close to 3,600 home plate appearances for Mauer since the start of the 2006 season, and it’s safe to say that in well more than 3,000 of them, fans heard the first 10 seconds or so of “What You know.”

It was surely a comfort to Mauer, who won three batting titles and an MVP award with that song and who — as Michael Cuddyer revealed in a 2009 Star Tribune story — at one point dabbled in rap and recorded his own tracks that he put on his iPod.

The vast majority of fans probably don’t know that the rest of the explicit version of the song is, um, not even close to suitable for playing at Target Field.

But if you went to every Mauer home game, you’ve heard the equivalent of more than 8 full hours of the clean start of the song since 2006. And not hearing it any more would be strange.

*Case Keenum is going to have nightmares about this missed throw for a while. It would have given the Broncos a late go-ahead TD, but instead Denver lost a 27-23 thriller to Kansas City.

From best to worst: Vikings getting torched by long passes at alarming rate

The Vikings did a lot of things well on defense in 2017, when a unit ranked No. 1 overall in both points allowed and yards allowed was the backbone for a 13-3 regular season.

One thing Minnesota did particularly well a year ago was avoid allowing opponents to make big plays in the passing game. The Vikings allowed 35 pass plays of more than 20 yards a season ago — fewest in the NFL. And they allowed just five pass plays of 40 yards or more — one of only six teams that allowed five or fewer.

Limiting big plays went hand in hand with other strengths, such as getting off the field on third down at an historic rate.

Conversely, though with the same sentence structure, the Vikings have done a lot of things poorly on defense so far in 2018, with a unit ranked in the bottom half of the NFL in both yards and points allowed contributing to a 1-2-1 start.

And one thing Minnesota has done particularly poorly this year is that the Vikings are allowing a ton of big passing plays.

They’ve already been gouged for 17 pass plays of at least 20 yards — close to half as many as last season in one-quarter of the games. That’s tied for fifth-most in the NFL. And they’ve already allowed five pass plays of 40 yards or more — tied for most in the NFL and the same number they gave up in 16 games last season.

While I don’t have a definitive answer as to why this is happening, we batted around plenty of theories about the defensive struggles in general this week on the Access Vikings podcast.

One common refrain: Dating back to the playoffs last year, when the Vikings allowed eight passes of 20 yards or more and three passes of 40 yards or more in their two playoff games, teams seem to either be exploiting matchups, changing philosophies or a little bit of both.

On the second point, the Vikings have been so solid and so hard to sustain drives against — here again that third down toughness comes into the equation — that quick strikes and big plays might be a better method by which to attack them.

The Rams, for instance, had four touchdown drives that were five plays or less on Thursday. They didn’t face a single third down on any of those drives and never had anything longer than 2nd-and-5 in second down situations.

It will be interesting to see how — and if — Vikings coach Mike Zimmer can schematically correct what is going on.

His next chance will come Sunday against the Eagles, who in some ways gave other teams the blueprint on how to beat the Vikings.

Sunday was a catharsis for Joe Mauer

Welcome to the Monday edition of The Cooler, where sometimes you have to just tip your cap. Let’s get to it:

*Plenty of people have already said what a perfect ending Sunday was for Joe Mauer if, indeed, that was the final game of his career. What struck me, in particular, was the emotional catharsis that seemed to be taking place throughout the day — and particularly in the ninth inning, when Mauer donned catcher gear one last time for one pitch.

When Mauer came out to catch the first pitch of the ninth, touching off a five-minute ovation that had Mauer fighting back tears, the full scope of what was taken away by concussions finally came into view.

We’ve tended to think of his transition to first base — brought on by concussions, with the last game he caught coming on Aug. 19, 2013 — in the context of the cold calculus of wins above replacement and other such things.

For Mauer, the emotion Sunday reflected how much losing that piece of himself meant to his identity — and that perhaps neither he nor fans had ever fully and properly grieved what that loss meant.

Someone like Mauer — who was 30 when he caught his final full game — had lived a life to that point with very few, if any, limits. Everyone who knows him swears he’s the best athlete they’ve ever met — as amazing and competitive at baseball, football or basketball as he is at ping-pong and other hand-eye games.

Suddenly, he was not just facing the erosion of skill because of concussions but also he was being told there was something he should no longer do: play catcher, the physically demanding thing he had always done, and had always done exceptionally well.

Mauer in the catcher gear one more time was a reminder of all that — and maybe a way for he and Twins fans to finally heal.

Perhaps that was a contributor to Mauer’s emotional state throughout the day, where he presented himself as unburdened — as authentic and emotionally genuine as I’ve ever seen him, particularly as the day moved into his postgame news conference.

Things just seemed to slow down for him as he talked about the day. He was suddenly without the burden of expectations. His eight-year, $184 million contract was officially done. He was emotionally free and unguarded.

Perhaps the anticipation of such things contributed to some vintage Mauer performances over the last few weeks. In his final 17 games, Mauer hit .358 with an .876 OPS.

Maybe he’ll think about how well he played in these final weeks and get the urge to play again. That’s his choice, and like he said he has no bad ones: either play or stay home with a wonderful family.

But regardless, everyone will be better off for the way Sunday played out.

*It doesn’t mean a ton in the grand scheme of things, but the Twins ended the season on a six-game winning streak to finish the year 78-84. That’s only a handful of wins away from advanced projections and Vegas over-under lines from the start of the year.

Some of it is just window dressing on disappointment, but I think the record does accurately reflect the overall theme of the season: disappointment, for sure, but not disaster. This was not the Total System Failure of 2016, when the Twins went 59-103. This was just a year when too many things went wrong — particularly the chemistry from the mix of players at the start of the year.

*Adding to the head-scratching 27-6 loss to Buffalo a week ago: Green Bay shut out that same Bills team 22-0, making rookie QB Josh Allen look exactly how everyone expected the Vikings would make him look. Chicago, by the way, sits atop the division with a 3-1 record after putting up 48 points Sunday. What if the Bears are the best team in the NFC North?