I cannot imagine there has been a game in the regular season that has had this much importance placed on it before today. But here we are. The little, doubted Mavericks are being heavily discounted nationally, and now in front of Chuck and America, they must put up a good fight tonight. The outcome is important, especially for those of us that believe that for this team to win the NBA title, it better grab the #1 seed first, but let’s not get too carried away. There will be another day if the Mavericks fail tonight, but to hold off the Spurs in the final 25 games, they must not get swept in their remaining 2 visits to San Antonio. Now whether they win tonight, or Friday, April 7th, may not matter, but since we all live in the now, let’s see what the Mavs have tonight.
The doubters are waiting to pounce.
Buck Harvey examines the #1 seed importance …
Smart sportswriters armed with NBA Guides have deciphered the import. Over the last 10 years, for example, six No. 1 seeds and three No. 2s have represented the West in the Finals. The exceptions were the 2002 Lakers, seeded third, who were merely the two-time defending champs.
When Dirk Nowitzki repeated Wednesday that there's a big difference between the No. 1 and No. 4 seed, everyone nodded. What chance would a No. 4 seed have?
This season, a great chance. There's a reason that top seeds have won the West over the past decade. One, top seeds are logically better, and, two, this three-division format in each conference was implemented only last season. To put it another way, there hasn't been a 60-win fourth seed before.
Last year, Dallas, with 58 wins, was the one that dropped to No.4. Less was said about it then, because the Mavericks fell only one spot lower than they would have under the old format.
Our old buddy, Nick the Quick, lives in San Antonio …He doesn’t call anymore…
"People ask me if they can still call me 'Nick the Quick,'" Van Exel said recently. "It's definitely not that any more. That's just reality."
At 34, Van Exel is more like "Nick the Slightly Faster Than Average."
Reality for Van Exel and the Spurs also is a Thursday game at the AT&T Center against the Dallas Mavericks, who have the best record in the Western Conference and lead the Spurs by one game in the Southwest Division. Since the regular-season division winner likely will earn the No. 1 playoff seed in the West and the division runner-up the No. 4 seed, Thursday's game is considered important.
Van Exel understands this better than most, which helps explain his recent offensive fire. It is time, Van Exel said, to reconnect with his longtime persona.
"Definitely," Van Exel said. "I know I can help the team out more if I'm a little more aggressive. Basically, throughout this season I've been playing not to make mistakes, playing not to hurt the team."
Van Exel's aggression and precision in the 2003 Western Conference finals appealed to Spurs coach Gregg Popovich when the team pursued him last summer. In the Spurs' 4-2 series victory, Van Exel averaged 17.5 points — Steve Nash averaged 14.8 — and was Dallas' most reliable clutch shooter.
Van Exel spent more than a few afternoons in the months that followed playing golf with his then-Mavericks teammate, Avery Johnson. The two lamented a missed opportunity and relished the chance for another shot at the NBA Finals. In mid-August, each was traded to the Golden State Warriors, who have been absent from the playoffs longer than any Western Conference team. The move was tough for both, but Van Exel took it especially hard.
"There's two NBAs," Van Exel said. "There's one with teams that are used to winning and making the playoffs. And there's one with teams that lose a lot."
No need to ask which categories the Spurs and Warriors occupy in Van Exel's view.
"It's nice to be back in the real NBA," he said.
Cowboys must decide on Glover …
Jerry Jones knew the day was coming, and the Cowboys owner and general manager did his best to put off a decision regarding defensive tackle La'Roi Glover.
One of the best free-agent signings the Cowboys ever made, Glover finds himself in position to be released today because the Cowboys owe him a $1.5 million roster bonus Friday.
The Cowboys have until 3 p.m. today to come up with a deal to delay Glover's bonus or 11 p.m. to restructure the contract. The team was in talks with Glover's agent, Tom Condon, at the NFL scouting combine.
If the Cowboys release Glover, they would save $6 million against the 2006 cap. He is scheduled to count $7.2 million, but if he is let go, they would be on the hook for just $1.2 million.
"I really have no idea what's going to happen, but I know that's just part of the business," Glover said. "I would like to stay, but if they feel like they have to go in another direction, that's OK."
The NFL Cut list keeps growing …is today Bloody Thursday?
With negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement stalled, teams are readying for what one general manager suggests will come to be known as "Bloody Thursday." A number of teams are up against the projected cap limit of $95 million to $96 million for 2006 and the lack of a CBA extension means there are few options for relief. The result is that a number of big-name players will be jettisoned by Thursday, when teams must be in compliance with the spending limit.
The moves have already started, with several teams sending players to the chopping block Wednesday.
Bucs keep Simms …
Quarterback Chris Simms agreed to a one-year, $2.1 million contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Wednesday, ESPN's Chris Mortensen reports.
The signing comes two days before Simms would have become a restricted free agent and allows the Bucs to keep the quarterback who started the last 10 games in the 2005 season after Brian Griese went down with a knee injury.
Simms, drafted by the Bucs in 2003, won six of his 10 starts and led the team to an NFC South championship. He completed 191-of-313 passes for 2,035 yards, 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Thanks to Randall A, here is the cap status of every NFL team Thanks to John Clayton …
Scientist discovers coaches are too conservative …
Romer found that when faced with fourth-and-goal on the 2-yard line early in the game, going for a touchdown is the much wiser choice. While the field goal is a near certainty, getting a touchdown in that situation has about a 43 percent chance of success, he calculates. And failing to score a TD at least leaves the opponent deep in its own territory.
But in nine case studies of this situation, the teams booted against the odds.
After doing a whole bunch of complex math, and considering things like momentum and field position in more than 700 real NFL game situations, Romer concludes that whenever the chance of a touchdown is statistically 18 percent, that's the better choice.
The study used data only from the first quarter of games, when the contests were still close and the outcome uncertain.
Julio Franco keeps doing what he does ….
Franco has known no other way for the last 15 or so years. He is this way not only because he plays baseball for a living. He also wants to stay alive as long as possible. In December, the 47-year-old Franco, who began his professional career in 1978 as a Phillies minor leaguer, signed a two-year contract with the Mets that will expire after his 49th birthday.
Part Methuselah, part Incredible Hulk, Franco is, by 4 years 2 months 26 days, the oldest player in the major leagues. But he has the sculpted muscle definition and trim waist of an athlete half his age.
If, as Franco wishes, he plays until he is 50, he will not diverge from a regimen that includes ingesting about 5,000 calories daily; lifting weights six days a week; and attending weekly sessions with his chiropractor and massage therapists to align his spine and restore his balance.
A religious man, Franco obeys the Ten Commandments, and he also has three personal rules, in increasing order of importance: eat well, work hard and get proper rest.
"There are no magic pills," Franco said.
Witness: the gay soccer ref …
Now this is a promotion: Uncle Rico gets work! …
Make Bill Guerin Dance …
Our Friend, Skin’s project …
Acie Law hits the shot; Dave South goes wild? …
UT wanted to stop the drive and force the Aggies to shoot a contested jumper. It was probably only inches of separation Law created between himself and Daniel Gibson, but it was just enough to drain the long 3 over his outstretched arm.
Three times earlier this season, the Kimball graduate had attempted a potential game-winning 3-pointer in the final seconds: once at Oklahoma State and twice at Kansas State. He'd missed all of them.
Law, A&M's leading scorer, was 2-of-10 shooting for 5 points before his final attempt. It would have been his worst outing of the season.
The teams combined for 34 second-half points. Aldridge had just five points and three rebounds.
With their sixth consecutive win, the Aggies (19-7, 9-6) clinched their first winning Big 12 record and the No. 4 seed and a first-round bye in the conference tournament. They have previously been seeded as high as No. 7.
"Coach told me earlier in the game that it was going to be my game and I was going to make a play to win," Law said. "Gibson played great D. I just made a better shot."
If you watched the game, you saw PJ Tucker go “Derek Harper” as he dribbled out the shot clock and allowed the Aggies last chance. Since this was 10 seconds after a timeout, it has to rank as one of the top “brain-dead plays of the year”.
Then we shall credit ESPN with finding the ESPN sign of the night:
Now that Hockey is back, I will readily admit my college basketball viewing is minimal, but I have watched the Longhorns plenty this year, and I switch back and forth between being really impressed and really unimpressed with that team. They have “early round exit” written all over them, I think.
Aggie Forward Chris Walker strikes again with another shirtless music video …dude is really a nice player, too. I wish I knew what got into him…
Look who got a haircut!
Finally, Here is a review of Amazing Race 9.1 …It is back with quality…although sadly, the overly gay duo has been bounced already…