Mavs beat the Nets …
The Mavericks have dished out a lot of joy to their fans during their 16-game winning streak and by winning 35 of their last 37 games.
On Tuesday, they dished out love, too.
Jason Terry kept throwing in jump shots, and when he finally missed one in the fourth quarter and went flying into the crowd for the ensuing loose ball, he made up for it by pecking the cheek of a gray-haired fan in the front row.
With these Mavericks, you can actually see and feel the love.
That came only after they inflicted some mean defense on the New Jersey Nets, resulting in a 102-89 victory at American Airlines Center. It was the 23rd consecutive home win and sent the Mavs into a joyful four-day break between games.
"That's my lady," Terry said of the woman. "She's there every game, so I had to make sure she was all right.
"They tried to get me to kiss her husband, too, but that wasn't happening."
Elias tells this amazing story …
The Mavericks made history on Tuesday night -- not just team history, not just NBA history, but major North American pro sports history. With their 102-89 victory over the Nets, the Mavericks became the first team in NBA history to earn 51 wins in a 56-game span within a single season.
No team in the NHL or in Major League Baseball has done such a thing, either. (And
in the NFL, no team has ever amassed 51 wins over any multiple-season stretch of 56 regular-season games.)
Spurs win their 10th straight …
Meanwhile, in issues I am extra interested in, here is Tim Cowlishaw on what to do with Teixeira …
General manager Jon Daniels said he hopes signing Young through 2013 would encourage
Teixeira, Young's close friend, to stay in Texas.
Teixeira said that the signing of Young is great for the shortstop and great for the Rangers. And we'll talk about staying another day.
"Michael and I were in different situations," Teixeira said.
Rangers fans hear those words and panic. They know that Teixeira is represented by agent Scott Boras, who tends to direct his clients toward the greenest pastures, wherever those may be.
They know that Teixeira is in the final year of a contract, earning $9 million this season and eligible for arbitration next year before becoming a free agent.
They see the writing on the wall.
And you know what?
For the most part, the writing just isn't there. And where it is, it's largely irrelevant.
Here's what is important.
Along with second baseman Ian Kinsler and third baseman Hank Blalock, the Rangers have built the best American League infield this side of the Bronx (and maybe Chicago), and it's intact for 2007 and for 2008 and, Teixeira aside, for 2009.
So let's see what they can do now and worry about what Tex does later.
If that sounds like a head-in-the-sand approach, it's not. There's no reason to fear the consequences of letting Teixeira reach his free-agency year.
It's almost certain to happen, so why not reap the benefits?
Daniels talked about the A's knowing that pitcher Barry Zito probably would not re-sign with the club and general manager Billy Beane's decision not to deal him. Zito went to San Francisco this off-season.
"People say the A's didn't get anything for him," Daniels said. "I say they got to the ALCS with him. They definitely got something."
For Zito to land that crazy $128 million contract with the Giants, he had to produce an impressive 16-win season for Oakland last year.
The same will be true of Teixeira.
His numbers declined in 2006. He had eight home runs the day before the All-Star break. Using the best measuring stick there is for offense, OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage), Teixeira ranked 41st in baseball last year.
Over the last three years, he ranks 18th. Besides being a Boras client, the reason he is often viewed as the poster child for baseball's second $200 million contract is that Teixeira, except for Florida's Miguel Cabrera, is younger than the 17 hitters ranked ahead of him.
For now, Teixeira said he's not interested in or bothered by any distractions, and that he is determined to raise his numbers after last season's slide.
"I haven't really gotten off to a good start in my four years here," he said. "I'm focusing on peaking on April 1 this time around."
The Rangers have not finished higher than third in their own division the last seven years, but there are realistic hopes of an AL West title. That's from within the clubhouse and beyond.
Evan Grant shocks us all …
This column should come with the following warning from the Surgeon General:
IF YOU ARE PRONE TO ATTACKS OF DOUBT OR FEAR THE POSSIBILITY OF A JINX, DO NOT READ THE NEXT 500 OR SO WORDS. GO IMMEDIATELY TO THE QUESTIONS. IF YOU DO CHOOSE TO READ AND DIZZINESS ENSUES, CONSULT YOUR NEAREST RANGERS RECORD BOOK FOR A GOOD, OLD-FASHIONED DOSE OF REALITY.
OK, here goes: The Rangers are going to win the AL West this year.
Quick, take a deep breath. Remind yourself – and me – that the Ides of March have not yet even arrived.
But after three weeks around this camp, I'm convinced that there is a momentum building the likes of which the Rangers have never seen. It has been building for nearly six months now. Each day it seems to pick up a little more speed. One day, it's a big signing, the next it's hearing about more injuries and problems for the other West teams. When you sit back and process it all, it just seems like things are moving rapidly in the right direction.
Eric Gagne is fine …sure….No doubt about it…
After a 34-pitch session in the bullpen Tuesday, Rangers closer Eric Gagne said he'd be ready for opening day.
And the day after. And the day after that.
Gagne, who is returning from elbow and back surgeries that have wrecked his last two seasons, went through his most rigorous throwing session of the spring. He threw breaking balls and change-ups.
It came a day after he had ramped up his throwing program by putting more intensity into his sessions of playing catch.
"I expect to be ready; that's why I'm upping my throwing program," Gagne said. "When I'm active, I'll be ready to throw at least three days in a row."
The first step is to get him in a game. Gagne is expected to throw another bullpen session Friday and could be available to pitch in a "B" game as early as Monday. An "A" game appearance is unlikely before March 15.
It's also unlikely he'd pitch in back-to-back games in spring training. But if he's healthy, doing that and more in the regular season is not out of the possibility.
Brad Johnson’s thoughts on his future …
Quarterback Brad Johnson is 38 years old and may never be considered a "starter"
again, but he's not crazy about the term "mentor."
"I never agreed with that terminology -- mentor," Johnson said in a Tuesday teleconference the day after he agreed to a three-year, $7.5 million contract with the Cowboys.
The Denver Broncos envisioned him as a mentor for 2006 first-round pick Jay Cutler.
With the Cowboys, Johnson sees himself as the backup behind Tony Romo. Not to be an assistant coach with a helmet.
"My role is to be ready to play at any moment, and my role will be defined in time," said Johnson, who had 2,750 passing yards, nine touchdowns and 15 interceptions for the Minnesota Vikings in 15 games last season.
Johnson visited with the Cowboys and Broncos before choosing Dallas. He feels after 16 years in the NFL, he can still play, but that he's ready to be in a support mode behind Romo.
"Tony knows football. We already have a quarterback coach, he doesn't need another coach," Johnson said. "I want to see Tony succeed. But I'm not there for my health. My big thing is to be prepared in case something happens."
North Texas to the Dance …
Shootaround was over Tuesday morning and the bus was waiting, but Calvin Watson wasn't ready to leave the court.
North Texas coach Johnny Jones wasn't about to make him, and even encouraged him to test his range.
"I was just playing with him to make him relax a little bit and said, 'back up, you can shoot it a little deeper than that,' and he was already behind the 3-point line," Jones said. "I love to see hard work pay off for people and I think that's what happened."
Watson hit six 3-pointers and scored 24 points to help North Texas get to its first NCAA tournament since 1988 with an 83-75 victory over Arkansas State in the Sun Belt Conference tournament championship on Tuesday night.
Watson, the Mean Green's season and career leader in 3-pointers, had lost his range lately, going 4-for-23 on 3-point attempts in his previous four games.
He rediscovered it at the right time, hitting his first five against the Indians and finishing 6-of-7.
"I put in the work, so I knew my shot would eventually go down," Watson said. "My teammates ... I looked them in the eyes and I told them I was going to be ready for this game. I looked coach in his eyes and I said, 'Coach, I'm ready.' So he called some quick plays for me and I was able to knock down some shots.
"You get in a nice rhythm as a shooter and you never know what might happen," Watson said. "You might go 6-for-7."
It made the difference for North Texas (23-10), which held only slim leads most of the second half and missed 13 free throws.
Now, on to what really matters to me:
Barcelona 1, Liverpool 0 …which means Liverpool goes through! I know, you are asking how is that possible, but the two game series ended 2-2, with Liverpool holding the advantage with more “away goals”. So, Barca goes home….
Liverpool deserved to go through after dominating the first half, hitting the crossbar twice through John Arne Riise and Mohamed Sissoko and drawing several fine saves from Víctor Valdés. It was not until Gudjohnsen was introduced as a substitute that Barcelona attacked with zest. The former Chelsea striker gave Barcelona hope when he beat José Reina with 15 minutes remaining but Liverpool held on to secure their passage.
Frank Rijkaard was magnanimous in defeat, the Barcelona manager admitting that his side had struggled to counter Liverpool's "lively" style of play in the opening half. "They have got a lot of depth, they get forward quickly, they are very direct and they create danger and they did that tonight," he said. "They put in a great performance. It's full of concentration, full of mentality and teamwork and they do it quite well. I think they have possibilities [of progressing]."
Rijkaard conceded, though, that the damage had been done in Barcelona two weeks ago when Craig Bellamy and Riise scored to give Liverpool not only a win but two crucial away goals. "My players worked hard to try and turn the tie around but I think the overall tie has not been decided tonight," rued the former Holland international. "The reality of the situation is that we are out and that is possibly due to the result that took place in the Camp Nou."
Tom Hicks enjoys Anfield …
NEW Liverpool owner Tom Hicks struggled to take his eyes off the roaring Kop throughout last night’s Champions League clash with Barcelona.
The 60-year-old Texan was almost dumbstruck after his first visit to Anfield, eventually conceding: “That was fantastic. The atmosphere was superb and the Kop were amazing.”
After watching the Reds secure a place in Friday’s quarter-final draw, despite losing 1-0 last night, he added: “Why not, why can’t we now go on and win it? I wouldn’t want to draw us next, that’s for sure.
“Tonight was a special night for all of the players and the fans.”
By the way, “The Kop” is the end of the stadium where the most dedicated and renowned supporters sit (or stand).
Hicks on all things football…including spending and Manchester United …
The changing of the guard went almost unnoticed amid the thunderous din which greeted Liverpool's eventual progress last night, although those who will shape the club's future could not help but be swept along by the ferocity of this occasion. Up in the directors' box, George Gillett and Tom Hicks sat entranced by the football phenomenon. "I've seen a lot of sporting events all around the world," said Hicks, "but nothing comes close to that."
Even in defeat, their first taste of a game as co-owners of the "Liverpool Reds" could not have been more enthralling on a momentous night in more ways than one. As the hosts scrambled into the quarter-finals, dethroning Barcelona en route, power was symbolically changing hands in the boardroom. Gillett and Hicks had already purchased some 62.2% of the club's shares and anticipate securing a 75% stake by March 12, a financial commitment effectively amounting to £435m. But, with the side not due to play at Anfield again until the visit of Arsenal on March 31, this was also David Moores' last match as chairman and, therefore, the end of an era.
Moores had seen it as a chance "to go out with a bang". It might have become a whimper after Eidur Gudjohnsen hauled the Catalans level on aggregate. Yet, for all that it was excruciating, this remained a game to savour even as Barcelona pushed for the decisive goal. As those around them chewed on their fingernails through the final exchanges, the Americans simply lapped it up.
Already, their investment appears enticing. The pair had emerged into the directors' box some 15 minutes before kick-off to be struck by the wall of noise already flung down by the Kop. They have spent the past 20 years accumulating sports clubs across North America, but had now ventured into new territory. Gillett had stood dumbstruck during the bellowed pre-match rendition of You'll Never Walk Alone, and again when it rang out in stoppage-time. "That was like nothing I've ever seen or heard," he said in the aftermath. The deafening noise also had his co-owner beaming in disbelief.
They had watched the first leg from a Canadian ski resort, and Saturday's defeat by Manchester United from the Rangers' spring training camp in Phoenix. Satellite television coverage could not have done those games justice. There was more to enjoy in the flesh, even if frustration lingered that a lead was never gleaned. Liverpool had had 10 shots by the time Barcelona mustered their first, a horribly awkward volley spooned over the bar by Ronaldinho met with howls of derision from the stands. The millionaires erupted in laughter at the crowd's reaction.
"Will I always have this much fun when I come to Anfield?" asked Hicks. "I'd heard so much about the fans, but that was spectacular. The Kop was just special."
The first time the Americans demonstrate their clout in the transfer market, it will surely be to sign a striker. "Everyone involved with Liverpool wants to be the very best," said Hicks. "The new stadium's going to be very critical to that. People tell me about Chelsea's spending, but the team east of here [United] is the club we have our eye on. They've been competitive over a long period of time and that's what Liverpool has the opportunity to do."
That much had not escaped Moores. "The only regret is that we never won the Premiership under my chairmanship, but with the new owners I'm sure the club can win No19 soon," said Liverpool's chairman of 16 years. "In football nowadays, it's not enough to be rich. You need to be super-rich to own a club as big as Liverpool. I feel I'm leaving it in safe hands. I know I got the best possible deal."
It earned him £88m for his 51.6% stake. "But I made the decision for the good of the club, not myself," he insisted. "You have to think about the next 50 years. I told the Barcelona president, Joan Laporta, that I couldn't have picked a better game with which to bow out. Maybe it was meant to be this way."
He could have done with a goal to calm his nerves. His head was in his hands when Ronaldinho wriggled away and fired against a post, and then again when Gudjohnsen eked out a reward. Moores could hardly watch even if the new guard remained transfixed, perhaps still attempting to comprehend the away-goal rule. Drunk on the atmosphere, the last word was left to Hicks: "I wouldn't want to draw us in the next round. Would you?"
24 recap …
Further proof Hollywood is out of ideas …
Winner for most unusual piece of development this pilot season goes to ABC, which has turned a series of quirky Geico commercials into an actual half-hour comedy project.
"Cavemen" will revolve around three pre-historic men who must battle prejudice as they attempt to live as normal thirtysomethings in modern Atlanta.
Project, from ABC TV Studio, is penned by Joe Lawson, an advertising copywriter who was behind the "Caveman" ads -- as well as other Geico commercials (think the cockney-speaking Geico gecko, and the reality TV spoof "Tiny House").
Liddell is drunk