Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Wednesday, April 25

Big Game already? You better believe it. Dirk will need to shut up his MVP critics tonight.

Like this one

Nowitzki could thrash the Warriors tonight by making quick, precise passes to open teammates. But even that has proved impossible for him amid the blur of Warriors pests.

Oh, the Warriors say they expect to get hit by Nowitzki's revenge tonight. They say the best player in the league can't be neutralized for two games in a row.
"I highly think it's impossible," said Stephen Jackson, the primary
Nowitzki defender. "I highly think it's impossible. Because he's such a great shooter and such a player...

"But we're going to try. We're not going to just give him a great game. He's going to have to work for it, just like last game."

By now, we know this rhetoric is all part of the Don Nelson gee-whiz PR plan for this series. Praise the Mavs, praise Nowitzki, keep pretending the Warriors feel lucky just to be alive and in the postseason and maybe it's three games to none Warriors before Dallas snaps awake.

"I will add that it will be a bounce-back game for the Mavericks," Nelson suggested Tuesday. "And we've got a better chance to get hit with lightning than to win the game tomorrow."

Yes, of course, anything you say, Nellie.

Do you hear the subliminal, whispery undercurrent of confidence, swagger and maybe a little Dirk-agitating?

And what does Nowitzki want for Game2? It's hard to tell - he turned his eyes to the floor and quickly walked past reporters without comment Tuesday. On Monday, Nowitzki did talk, and he sounded more passive and less confident than any great player I've ever heard during the playoffs.

This obviously could all change tonight - you knew Michael Jordan would go for 40 in Game2 if he had a Game1 clunker; Steve Nash and Tim Duncan never have two bad games in a row. But those are different personalities, too. Nowitzki said he wouldn't necessarily take the ball hard to the hoop against the small Warriors, wouldn't force up shots and might not be able to take over this series by himself.

Probably all true, but not the sentiment you ever heard from Larry Bird or Hakeem Olajuwon.

Sand Bagging continues from Oakland

"He's going to have a bounce-back game," Nelson told reporters before the Warriors practiced at American Airlines Center on Tuesday. "We just anticipate that's going to happen."

Nowitzki is certainly under pressure to perform. All the pressure is on the Mavericks, and his shoulders carry the primary burden. Dallas-area media — newspapers and sports talk radio shows — are all focusing on Nowitzki's Game 1 stinker (14 points, 4-for-16 from the floor). Fans are certainly waiting to see how he responds.

While Nelson is confident, Nowitzki allowed for the possibility that, for this series, he won't be the dominant MVP candidate he was all season. Instead of putting up 24.6 points per game, his average during the regular season, he said he may have to switch gears and focus on getting his teammates involved.

"They're really, really running at me hard," Nowitzki said after Monday's practice. "They're fronting me in the post, front and back of me sometimes. If I have it, everybody's on alert. As soon as I put it down, they're coming. So, yeah, just find my teammates when they're open, and move the ball, and just be active out there and be a threat. Hopefully we can win that way."

Because of the way the Warriors are defending him, the Mavericks might be better served to have Nowitzki as a facilitator instead of a big-time scorer. Though Nelson described Nowitzki's struggles in Game 1 as an "off night," it's looking more as if the Warriors' game plan deserves the credit.

With Stephen Jackson, the Warriors' best man-to-man defender, assigned to blanket No. 41, and the Warriors' guards ready to collapse the moment he dribbles, Nowitzki can't seem to find a rhythm. In his last two games against the Warriors, his only since the Warriors acquired Jackson, Nowitzki is averaging 13.5 points on 25.9 percent shooting from the floor.

Pattern or fluke?

Assuredly, Dallas will have to figure out something to change this trend. Most agree
the Mavericks can't survive with Nowitzki being neutralized.

"I think that as good as Dirk is out on the floor," said Warriors assistant coach Larry Riley, who also coached under Nelson in Dallas, "it wouldn't be surprising if they would try to post him down low."

Meanwhile, here is a bunch of post-mortem Hockey stuff….

Cowlishaw is calling for the head of Tippett

The playoffs are all about the goalie, the team leaders and the coach.
The goalie was great. The leaders were up and down, more down than up. The coach didn't get his message delivered.

You may think that's letting the players off the hook. You may think that's letting the inmates run the asylum.

And it's probably a little of both, but it's also a time-honored practice in the NHL.

Bob Gainey was right to get rid of Ken Hitchcock in the 2002 season. He had lost the players. And with his abrasive style, he wasn't going to get them back.

Now keep in mind this was less than two full seasons since a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals. This was less than three full seasons since Hitchcock was part of Dallas' Stanley Cup parade.

As we sit here now, we are three seasons removed from the team's only playoff series victory under Tippett.

That's quite a different standard than Hitchcock was being held to by the previous regime.

Since the only win under Tippett, 17 NHL clubs have won playoff series. That's more than half the league.

And seven of those teams have made coaching changes since those wins!

The bottom line is that the Stars already had an image and an attendance problem before this defeat. I'm not talking about attendance figures they announce. If you go to games, you know what I mean.

Empty seats. Lots of them.

Something has to be done to re-energize a fan base, to get the locals excited about those four games with the Kings and four more with the Coyotes (the NHL's schedule is so awful, don't get me started).

Hicks can stand pat and bring back Tippett and bring back Armstrong and bring back mostly the same cast of players that hasn't gotten it done since 2003.

I don't think that makes sense. Tippett's a good, genuine man. He's certainly good enough to coach again in this league, and he surely will.

I don't believe it should be here.

Heika ponders the answers to questions

They just couldn't grasp the key moments, and now they are searching for explanations. Armstrong has indicated he will probably wait until May to make any kind of decisions on the future of the coaching staff. The entire staff is heading into the final year of its contract next season, so he could just tell them that's their final exam – win in the playoffs or there will be no renewals.

He also has to make decisions on free agents such as Sydor, Stu Barnes, Eric Lindros and Ladislav Nagy. Expect the first two to be back and the latter two to be gone.
But is it time to consider moving or replacing youngsters such as Jussi Jokinen, Antti Miettinen or Steve Ott? Should they take from the defense to add an offensive player? If they take that path, then Philippe Boucher and Trevor Daley are probably their most tradable commodities.

Tippett said his system is not the problem.

"That word system is so overrated," he said Tuesday. "We do what 90 percent of the teams in the league do. You tweak when you need to, but the system was not the problem."

Tom Hicks with his “superstitions”

Tom Hicks on Tuesday explained his absence from the Stars' first-round playoff finale in Vancouver on Monday night with one word: superstition.

With business clients in town Monday night, Hicks went to Rangers Ballpark in Arlington to watch his baseball team in person and his hockey team play Game 7 against the Canucks on TV. Though it was the first time the Stars have played a first-round Game 7 on the road during Hicks' ownership, he said he wasn't about to change what has become a ritual.

"I'm a very superstitious owner," Hicks said. "I've never been to a road game in the first round in 13 years. Most of those series were with Edmonton, and I couldn't travel there and a superstition developed. I've been to every road game thereafter [in subsequent rounds]."

In Canada, at least this columnist was ripping the refs for Game 7

If there was ever a collection of circumstances which favoured the home team, this was it. The Dallas string of penalties in the second and third periods which turned the tide Vancouver's way was nothing short of astonishing, a remarkable turn of events to people who have watched NHL playoff hockey over the years.

With Dallas nursing a lead as only they can in the second period, they proceeded to take seven of the next eight penalties, some of them infractions that wouldn't have been considered offences in a pee-wee game.

A tap on the arm of Trevor Linden by Stu Barnes that wouldn't have bruised an egg
gave Vancouver a two man advantage for 48 seconds in the second period which allowed the Canucks to generate some crowd noise with some great scoring chances, even though they weren't able to convert. But there's no question it lifted Vancouver off the mat.

The penalty to Joel Lundqvist early in the third period which again got the Canucks going was nothing short of amazing. There appeared to be virtually no contact between offender and offended, yet the arm shot up as though there'd been some kind of mugging. Harry Neale on Hockey Night called it "a brutal call" and Tom Larscheid reportedly referred to it as "a phantom call" on the TEAM 1040. What Dallas coach Dave Tippett thought of it wasn't known until afterwards, when there was no point moaning.

"Baffling," was how Tippett described the work of Rob Shick and Greg Devorski. "Why don't they let the players decide it. The five penalties we took in the second period changed the whole complexion of the game, changed the momentum of the game. ... We could never get our legs under us after that."

The penalty that resulted in the winning goal was another of those new NHL mysteries, the most flattering thing that can be said about it being that it's been called all year, albeit sporadically. As Daniel Sedin circled the Dallas net with the puck, Jeff Halpern was chasing him with his stick in one hand, lifting it to the point of contact around the waist but not impeding him in the least. Sedin didn't even notice he was there.

Doubtless these guys would take the Adolph Eichmann defence of "just following orders", but never in the history of the game have the officials been so prominent in determining the outcome of games.

Stars Email:


Hearing you guys talk about the Stars’ continued loyalty to players from the Cup days sounds exactly like what we suffered through with the Cowboys in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Emmitt, Troy, and Michael hit their primes during the Super Bowl runs, only to fall into steady decline by 1997. Yet, Jerry couldn’t let them go before they became a burden and after they ceased being good trade bait, because of how he and the fans felt about them. The same is now true (and has been true for a couple of years) for Lehtinen, Zubov and Modano, who hit their primes in the 1998 through 2000 seasons and are now sliding down the decline curve – still decent performers but with no expectation of getting better, and now hogging up a goodly portion of the salary cap.

Dave in Tulsa

Torii Hunter – Rule Breaker …not so much…

Maybe a thank-you note would have sufficed.

Torii Hunter's gift of expensive champagne to the Kansas City Royals has the Minnesota Twins outfielder in some bubble trouble.

Hunter's gift of four bottles of Dom Perignon, which he had delivered to the Royals clubhouse this past weekend, was meant as a reward for the Royals sweeping the Detroit Tigers last September, allowing the Twins to come from behind to win the American League Central. The gift fulfilled a promise Hunter made last fall.
But baseball has rules about this sort of thing.

Namely, rule 21-b, which proclaims "Any player or person connected with a Club who shall offer or give any gift or reward to a player or person connected with another Club for services rendered ... in defeating or attempting to defeat a competing Club ... shall be declared ineligible for not less than three years."

The San Diego Paper lists All NFL arrests since 2000

Newy and Marcus Spears

Champions League Final 4:

Yesterday: Man United 3, AC Milan 2 …Rooney was awesome…

Today: Liverpool visits Chelsea …(please no email spoilers!) As Liverpool fans, a tie is good, an away goal or two is a must, and a win would be amazing…

Over my years of covering the NFL Draft, I will admit (like many of my colleagues) that I would try to talk about players that I had never seen play. It is a numbers game. Unless you are preparing for the Draft all fall, I don’t know how you properly look at everyone. On Saturday’s in the fall, I am watching the Big 12 and the Big 10 except for the biggest of showdowns.

Well, now with Youtube, you can see highlight tapes of all of these guys. I know it is a poor tool, since it is only highlights that some college kid put together in his dorm room, but it is better than absolutely nothing. To properly know a player, you need to see there horrible plays, too. Imagine what a great highlight tape of Roy Williams you could put together – and never visit his coverage skills.

Anyway, here is a look at the 1st Round Safeties. I will post the top WRs tomorrow.

LaRon Landry – LSU – Safety

Reggie Nelson – Florida – Safety

Michael Griffin – Texas - Safety

Brandon Meriweather – Miami – Safety

Meriweather is awesome, but has a rap sheet

Meriweather and Wright are more problematic because their ability makes them so tempting.

The major blemish on Meriweather’s record is his one-game suspension last year for stomping on the head of Florida International players during a brawl between the teams. He was also involved in a shooting episode when he fired a licensed handgun
to defend a friend and teammate who’d been shot.

Wright left Southern California in 2005, a year after being charged with rape. Authorities also found drugs in the apartment he shared with a roommate. The charges were dropped when the woman failed to testify, but Wright transferred to UNLV.
Wright is described by scouts as a smooth talker and those who have interviewed Meriweather find him gentle and soft-spoken, the kind of leader most want on their team. Neither has been convicted of anything — something that’s often overlooked by websites that keep scorecards on arrests — arrests, not convictions.

So while they may slide a little lower on draft day, they still could go in the first round because of their talent. Indeed, Wright might be the best cover cornerback in the draft.

Edmonton Prospect Robbie Schremp


Brad said...

If the Mavs lose's the longest summer in Dallas history. So very very long. Soooo long.

Jake said...

See ya Coach Tippett. Maybe you and Doogie Armstrong can go ice fishing together.

Keys for tonight, play the big man, foul a lot, they've got no free throw skills. Please Mavs, act like you've been there before.

Brad C said...

Biggest game in franchise history tonight.

Andy D. said...

Slow down Brad C, slow way down dude...

This is by far, not even close to the biggest game in franchise history. Remember last years finals???

Show everyone you are a 67 win team tonight and take care of business. Dirk needs to play like he belongs on the superstar stage (again), we need to play Avery ball like we have been all year (again), and we'll be fine.

andrew said...

If all I had to go on were those videos, I'd pick Nelson, then Griffin, then Merriweather, then Roy Williams... oh, I mean Landry.

AggiesBMF said...

Doesn't Hicks know the first rule in sports superstitions? If a superstition stops working ,then you change it.

Tommy, I hate to tell ya, but the Stars haven't been doing well in the first round the last couple of years. Maybe you need to start going to more games on the raod or change your underwear or something.

Phil K. said...

andrew is dead-on. All I could think of when I saw Landry's video was "Dallas would have the most devastating hitting-Saftey duo in the history of the NFL as well as the most wide open middle, ever.

Jay said...

Please Mavs, don't embarrass me tonight.

As far as Dirk's comments, he doesn't really sound like an MVP but I also think that he his personality doesn't necessarily mean he can't be a great leader and player.

I think he's the type that will continually have to prove himself. He's put up numbers for years and last year he had some glorious moments in the playoffs. Game 7 against the Spurs. 50 points against the Suns.

And then there was the meltdown in Miami...yikes...

I can't believe we're one game in and already panicked--but geese Avery what the crap was that game 1? That game was awful and extremely unMavs like.


really mike vanderjagt said...

I've determined Ben and Skin have a bag.

A very big one. Especially Ben.

Sorry Ben, but Baron Davis was clapping for 11 seconds. If Salvatore, who does indeed suck, had not tossed Davis, he'd still be clapping right now.