And the words have begun …
There's a basic dislike, if not hatred, that has replaced the respect factor.
"And that's good," Stackhouse said. "That means the feeling's mutual."
What the Mavericks hope is that this era in the NBA won't remember them as the Phil Mickelsons of the hardwood. In golf, Tiger Woods has no equal in this generation. Mickelson is one of the best players ever. But because the prime of his career has hit squarely during Woods' wheelhouse, Mickelson will never be acknowledged as the
best of his time.
In this era of basketball, the Mavericks are loaded and have had a terrific decade of success. They own the second-best record in the NBA since the start of the 1999-2000 season, but are well shy of the Spurs' total. And the scoreboard that counts reads: Spurs 3, Mavs 0. That's the number of championships won since the 1998-99 season.
The Mavericks won the West last season but fell short of the NBA championship. In that respect, they are still fighting to gain equal footing with the Spurs.
"We just don't like them," owner Mark Cuban said. "They had what we wanted for so many years. And we took it from them last year. They have had former Mavs, and Avery [Johnson] is a former Spur, which has raised the intensity. Plus, we feel like one of their players is more than a little dirty."
But enough about Bruce Bowen.
"There's not a lot of love between these two teams," Stackhouse said. "Obviously, they got some factors – us putting them out of the playoffs – and they're going to be ready to go. And we got to find a way to deal with this new so-called bull's-eye on our back. But we feel we can deal with it."
Cowlishaw wonders if the Mavs are really better than the Spurs …
But better than the Spurs? That's a tough one.
Was last season a changing of the guard or more a case of the Spurs as defending champions being a bit run down? A team that's already been together for two titles (Duncan has been part of three) is going to take a year off now and then.
And surely the Manu Ginobili that we saw last year was nothing like the player we had seen in those championship years.
Not winning last year will make the Spurs a more formidable foe this year. How do the Mavericks counter?
Winning no longer will be a novelty for this team. The doubters from around the nation that remembered the Mavericks from the years of Nellie and No Defense understand that this team does play at both ends of the floor now.
The core of a team that should have beaten Miami but didn't returns. The good news is that Nowitzki, Josh Howard and Jason Terry, the team's three premier players, are locked into long-term contracts.
The bad news is that Nowitzki, Howard and Terry are locked into long-term contracts.
A year ago, these players were doing more than taking a franchise where it had never been. They were playing for contracts that they have now received.
It's always good for a team to have a star or two with that contract carrot still dangling out there, but Johnson said he's not worried about satisfaction settling in.
"Jason Terry has made good money in this league before," he said. "Dirk has made good money before. Josh Howard is so young that he would play this game for free. What I'm saying is I don't think it's going to change the way we work."
But winning changes things, even if they fell short of the ultimate goal.
"You've really got about six teams capable of winning the championship," Jerry Stackhouse said. "The other teams are trying to figure out where they are. And they figure out where they are by beating Dallas or beating San Antonio."
It's a new journey for the Mavericks, different from anything they have encountered in the past. In that way, tonight begins another opportunity to make history.
Robert Horry slaps back …despite having very little in his bag right now, when it comes to rings he knows a little something about it…
Horry attributed Stackhouse's comments and Cuban's conduct to "a little bit of jealousy."
"They're the only team in Texas," Horry said, "that doesn't have a championship."
By advancing to the Finals last season, the Mavericks have become, in Finley's words, "the team to beat" in the Western Conference. Duncan even expects tonight to feel "more like 50 games into the season than an opening night."
But the Spurs also realize that one game against Dallas signifies nothing more than the start to another season. Regardless of the outcome, each team will have another 81 games to play.
"We just know there's a team in our way to try to win the championship," Horry said. "They have nothing we want. The only people that have something we want are the Miami Heat.
"All these other banners ... Western Conference champions ... that don't mean nothing. That's just like winning a medium battle in a big-ass war."
Bill Simmons with a great season preview column …but, he puzzles me with his following paragraph:
San Antonio: Because Dallas would have lost to the Spurs if Ginobili didn't stupidly foul Dirk on that three-point play in Game 7. And that wasn't a great Spurs team -- poor Duncan was hobbling around on one foot. Now he's healthy, he's in great shape, and he's ticked off. And that's all I need to know.
Now, I would certainly not offer debate to someone who thinks the Spurs will win it all. That is still the smart choice I would assume. But, let’s not revise history. Sure, the Mavs may have benefited by the Stupidity of Manu. Hey, guys make poor decisions on every possession of the season. But, if we are going to say the Mavs would have lost the series there, shouldn’t we also point out that if Jason Terry hits a 15 footer at the end of Game 5 or Dirk puts the rebound home at the buzzer the series is over in 5 games? That’s right. Dirk had the ball under the hoop at the end of Game 5 down 1 point and it didn’t work out. But IF it did, the series is over 4 games to 1. So IF we can use the word IF as in “IF Ginobili didn’t stupidly foul Dirk” then we should look at a few other IF situations. OK?
I hate the Spurs. Really.
In case you forgot, My Review of Game 5 from May …
more of Bill Simmons season preview genius …
At the Nuggets-Clippers preseason game on Friday night, there was a level of serenity that I hadn't remembered. Both teams were just playing ball. So I'm watching and watching and thinking to myself, "All right, what's different about this game?"
Then I figured it out: Thanks to the new "Rasheed Wallace" rule, players weren't bitching and moaning after every foul call.
By coming up with this wrinkle, was David Stern hoping to divert attention away from the fallout from last season's playoffs, when the brutal officiating brought back memories of the Allies-Nazis game in "Victory"? Yeah, probably. Still, you have to admit, players were whining and fussing in epidemic proportions. Nobody believed he could actually commit a foul. Even some of the better character guys (like Tim Duncan and Tayshaun Prince, to name two) were reacting after fouls like somebody had just stuck a parking ticket on their car. It was a disgrace. It seemed like they felt obligated to protest every call, like the one moment during the Spurs-Mavs series when Brent Barry was whistled for a foul and ran a few steps in disbelief, but you could tell his heart wasn't really in it, like he was doing it on autopilot.
Watching old games on NBA TV this summer, well before this rule was announced, I found myself admiring a random Portland-Philly game from the '77 Finals: Not the quality of play as much as its businesslike nature. Players were just playing hard and doing their jobs. It was a revelation. So that got me thinking, "When did this crap start? Who's to blame?"
For the rest of the summer, I kept an eye on the player-referee interactions as much as the old games. Rick Barry and Dave Cowens were famous for complaining about calls in the '70s, but much to my horror, two members of my beloved Celtics made bitching an art form in the mid-'80s: Danny Ainge and Kevin McHale. If you want to blame anyone, blame them. Barkley took it to another level, followed by Chuck Daly and the Bad Boy Pistons, Gary Payton and Sam Cassell and, ultimately, Rasheed and Antoine Walker in the mid-'90s (the Pacino and DeNiro of this discussion). By the middle of this decade, thanks to everyone in this paragraph, everyone felt obligated to protest every whistle. The incessant complaining looked bad on TV and even worse in person -- just play after play of guys getting called for fouls, hopping around like little kids, then debating with the referees like an attorney haggling with a judge. Like everyone else, I hated watching it.
Now? The refs have been given authority to whistle technicals on anyone who pulls that crap. The league will be better for it. You will see. Maybe the level of officiating will even be better for it. If last season's performance was a collective D-plus -- and that's being kind -- we might end up with a C-plus this season simply because the refs won't have to worry about being shown up every other play. And if that's not enough, watching 'Sheed and 'Toine internalizing their emotions could end up being the funniest ongoing subplot of the 2006-07 season.
Well, other than the Knicks.
In quite a tussle, the Stars beat the Blues with Big E involved…
Eric Lindros wasn't exactly lighting up the goal column.
It's not like he wasn't trying; entering Wednesday's game, he was averaging about four shots on goal per game. But while his assist tally continued to grow, the goals weren't coming.
Against St. Louis, however, Lindros hit paydirt. Then hit it again.
Lindros scored two goals, giving him 370 for his career, and the Stars looked as if they had regained their moxie in a 4-1 victory over the Blues at American Airlines Center. The Stars improved to 10-2-0, their best record in team history after 12 games.
And no one exemplified that recharged effort more than Lindros. He took five shots, dished out four hits and threw in a fracas with Dan Hinote late in the third period for good measure.
"He was physically involved in the game and taking shots on the net," Stars coach Dave Tippett said. "[If] he does that for us, he'll be a very good player for us."
Evgeni Malkin rules the world …
It was a record-setting night for Penguins rookie Evgeni Malkin, whose second goal of the night punctuated a 4-3 overtime win against the Los Angeles Kings.
Malkin got a rebound of defenseman Sergie Gonchar's shot on a power play and swept it past goaltender Dan Cloutier from the bottom of the right circle at 2:45 of overtime.
Malkin's goal in the first period gave him one in each of his first six NHL games, setting the modern-day mark.
The win pushed the Penguins into first place in the Atlantic Division, a point ahead of New Jersey and two ahead of the New York Islanders.
The Penguins won their first four road games in a season for the first time since 1994-95 and their first four in a row away from home at any point in a season since Nov. 15-Dec. 10, 1997.
Malkin, fresh out of the penalty box after being called for tripping, put the
Penguins ahead, 2-1, with his record-tying goal at 8:29.
Malkin's forehand from the left hash marks beat Cloutier on the far side.
Malkin had been tied since Saturday with Boston's Dmitri Kvartalnov, who got his goals in each of his first five games in 1992-93.
The all-time record was set in 1917 -- the first year of the NHL and the year of the Russian Revolution in Malkin's home country.
On this side of the world that winter, Montreal's Joe Malone had a goal in each of his first 14 games, Ottawa's Cy Denneny scored in each of his first 12 games, and Montreal's Newsy Lalonde's streak was eight games.
Catching up with the Chase for the Nextel Cup …As it comes to town, my dad’s favorite, Matt Kenseth is in the “driver’s seat”. Rock me.
Click For Unintentional Comedy …Told you.
Mavs – Spurs 2006
Robot Dance of Excellence