Well, Game 1 is tonight in Cleveland, as our little heroes, the Dallas Mavericks attempt to slowly and surely recover from the biggest disaster in NBA Playoff History. It will begin on ESPN at 7pm, and expect all season long that when the Mavericks appear on a Network broadcast, 2-3 hours of doubting and questions that will not be answered until the spring time.
There is nothing you can do, and there is nothing the team can do. If you depend on the national announcers to build your team up to make you feel better (and most of you are like this) then prepare for many nights where you will be angry. The Mavericks are no longer everyone’s darling – of course, where did that get them when they were? The Mavericks are a national punch-line until further notice.
So, what will be different this season? Quite possibly, nothing. As I feared that night in Miami in June of 2006, when Game 3 had just been choked away, the best chance for this team to ever have their One Shining Moment likely has already happened.
Now, the West is looking as dangerous as ever. But, for some reason, I have as big a love affair with these guys as I do any team in this city. I freaking love the Mavericks. I am a homer for these boys. And I am prepared to unwrap this 2007-08 season and begin the long march to the playoffs.
This is how you find out if you are a die-hard fan. Because the so-so fans will hop on in April. Are you in for Game #2 in Atlanta on Friday?
Dirk is ready to get going again …
Nowitzki, 29, seems relaxed and ready for his 10th NBA season, crediting a two-month summer stretch during which he didn't touch a basketball.
Dirk's Excellent Adventure included several weeks of backpacking through Australia, New Zealand and Tahiti. He entered clean-shaven and "fed up with basketball" and emerged with a monk-like beard and cleansed mind.
It was his first extended break from the sport since he was selected ninth in the 1998 NBA draft, five days after his 20th birthday.
He packed a towel for his first trip to Dallas because he wasn't sure one would be provided during his stay at then-Mavericks coach Don Nelson's home.
At the time, he earned about $1,100 a month from his club team in Würzburg and drove a Volkswagen. He earned $1.47 million during his rookie NBA year, but because it was a lockout-shortened season, common sense told him to rent a car, a Plymouth.
"Every time I pulled up, the boys [teammates] would be killing me, 'Get a car!' " he laughed.
His father owned a Mercedes, so one of his few ambitions was to get one. He indulged
with an E-class in his second season and now drives a new two-door CL63.
Though he could afford a fleet with his $16.3 million salary, his only other ride is the Denali he gets for doing commercials for a local dealership.
"Other than that, I don't buy fancy watches or rings," he said. "I don't need all of that. Obviously, it's awesome to know that I don't have to worry about it ever in my life again. I can do whatever I want, really, and my family will be fine."
Though he is entering the final season of a six-year, $79 million contract, he already has signed a three-year, $59 million extension that kicks in next year.
But while some pro athletes have sizable entourages, the tightness and makeup of Nowitzki's inner circle has changed little during the last decade.
Just when you thought the Mavericks were short a spare, they sign Juwan Howard again …
The Dallas Mavericks are welcoming back a familiar face. Forward Juwan Howard is ready to sign a one-year contract, giving the team valuable depth on the front line.
The two sides have agreed in principle to the deal that cannot become official until today, when Howard clears waivers. He and the Minnesota Timberwolves agreed to a buyout of his contract on Monday.
"Juwan is a consumate professional and a winner through and through," president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said. "It's an honor to have him back. It's going to be good fit for us, and he's a Maverick alum – he knows the Maverick way."
Howard, 34, was solid for Houston last season, averaging 9.7 points and 5.9 rebounds in 80 games (38 starts). His 26.5 minutes per game were a career low, but he was effective.
To create a roster spot for Howard, the Mavericks waived D.J. Mbenga, ending a three-year run in which the athletic, 7-0 center never earned enough playing time to blossom.
Complicating matters for Mbenga was an anterior cruciate ligament injury in February.
He didn't play again until the preseason finale last week.
Nelson said Mbenga is expected to clear waivers and play in Europe this season.
"We have nothing but love and respect for that young man," Nelson said. "We think he has a very bright future. We're hopeful that future will be with the Mavericks. This is the toughest part of the business."
Althought the Mavericks are ridiculed, here is a funny video from San Antonio ….
Tony Romo appears to be rich now …The bar just raised for the kid…I hope he is up to the pressure that lies ahead…
Tony Romo was in the midst of playing every sport for every season, and he was the best player in his high school, but he wasn't really trying as hard as he could. Mostly because he didn't have to.
"God gave you something," Ramiro told his then-teenage son. "If you don't want to take it any further, that's fine. We're going to love you no matter what. But take that gift you still have and work at it. We're not going to tell you to do this. And we're not going to make you do it."
Tony did the rest. On Tuesday, that paid off big time for Romo, as well as Jerry Jones and the Cowboys.
After searching high and low, and spending a lot of millions in between, Jones committed himself to the future of the Cowboys at quarterback and officially made Romo the heir to Troy Aikman.
The unlikeliest candidate when the Cowboys signed him as undrafted rookie out of Division I-AA Eastern Illinois in 2003, Romo agreed to a six-year, $67.5 million extension Tuesday.
After going through Tony Banks, Quincy Carter, Ryan Leaf, Clint Stoerner, Anthony Wright, Chad Hutchinson, Drew Henson, Vinny Testaverde and Drew Bledsoe, Jones could say his search is over. Mostly because Romo's play told him he no longer needs to look.
"We tried very hard to be very prudent on how we'd make this kind of commitment," Jones said. "It's no secret, but it's hard to put it together and get where the Cowboys must strive for without excellence at the quarterback position."
Through more than a season's worth of starts, Romo has demonstrated he is worth more than 15 minutes of fame. He is a Pro Bowl quarterback with a 12-5 record as a starter, and is among the NFL leaders with a 95.6 passer rating. His team is tied for the best record in the NFC at 6-1, and the Cowboys are in the enviable position of having a stable quarterback position.
"When we had it, we won Super Bowls," Jones said. "When we didn't have it, we didn't get close."
But Romo doesn't view his new contract as an end. He knows he still hasn't won a playoff game.
"I don't think I've made it," Romo said. "Were my goals to make a bunch of money? If that's the case, I've accomplished something. That was never the intent. The best part is these guys really believe in me."
The belief was born, however unlikely, when the Cowboys originally signed him to a rookie free-agent contract May 1, 2003, with a $10,000 signing bonus. Since then, he steadily moved past the "big-time" prospects such as Hutchinson and Henson, and outlasted the established veterans such as Testaverde and Bledsoe.
Here is the Todd Archer breakdown …
Tony Romo signed a six-year, $67.5 million deal that included $30 million guaranteed and an $11.5 million signing bonus.
Where does the rest of the money come in? There are no roster or option bonuses to the deal. The other guarantees come in Romo's base salaries the next two years.
Here are the yearly base salaries:
2007 - $6 million (the Cowboys added $4.5 million to his $1.5 million base this year)
2008 - $6.5 million (fully guaranteed)
2009 - $7 million ($6 million guaranteed)
2010 - $8.5 million
2011 - $9 million
2012 - $9 million
2013 - $11.5 million
Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, Phil Sheridan attempts to rile up the natives …
At the risk of committing football blasphemy, it must be said that it's better for Eagles fans when the Dallas Cowboys are good.
It just doesn't feel right when Chan Gailey or Dave Campo is on the sideline for some 6-10 season. If you're honest with yourself, you enjoy it a lot more when the 'Boys are riding high and the Eagles take them down. That's what rivalries are all about. The nastier the villain, the harder you root for the hero.
When the Cowboys are good, as they are going into Sunday's game at Lincoln Financial Field, there is no meaner villain in the eyes of Philadelphia sports fans.
This goes back to the early 1970s, when the pre-Dick Vermeil Eagles were terrible and the Tom Landry Cowboys carried themselves like the rich kids from the nicer side of town. They had their fancy stadium with the hole in the roof, their cheerleader posters, the whole America's Team conceit. It was hard not to hate them.
Fittingly, when the Eagles finally reached their first Super Bowl, they did it by beating Dallas at Veterans Stadium.
It was a mixed blessing. That NFC championship game was the high-water mark of an entire Eagles era. But if you ask Ron Jaworski or Bill Bergey or any of those Eagles, they'll tell you that beating Dallas left the team emotionally drained for the Super Bowl itself. In a roundabout way, even in defeat the Cowboys haunted the Eagles.
When Buddy Ryan got to Philadelphia in 1986, he picked up on the fans' loathing of the Cowboys and saw an opportunity. Ryan made no secret of his disdain for Landry. After his first win over the fedora-wearing legend, Ryan opened his news conference by saying that the Eagles really hadn't played all that well.
"Isn't that what Landry says?" Ryan sneered.
During the 1987 players strike, Landry's team - most of his regulars - trounced Ryan's very irregular replacement squad at Texas Stadium. Two weeks later, with the strike over, the real Eagles were beating the Cowboys, 30-20, as time was running out.
Randall Cunningham took a snap, started to kneel to run out the clock, then heaved a pass downfield to Mike Quick. Dallas was called for a pass-interference penalty, and the Eagles punched the ball into the end zone for a grudge score. As Ryan ran up the tunnel toward the locker room, laughing, he shouted something unprintable about Landry.
Dallas week was like some kind of festival in those years. Linebacker Seth Joyner would stand at his locker and talk with real passion about wanting to beat the Cowboys. For guys like Joyner, Wes Hopkins and Andre Waters, there was something personal about the rivalry that you just don't see in the current players.
Ryan's time in Philadelphia coincided with Landry's decline, and the Eagles beat them nine times in 10 tries through 1992. By then, Rich Kotite was coaching against Jimmy Johnson and a budding young team with Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin.
That year, the Cowboys zoomed past the Eagles again. Another era ended with Reggie White's final game as an Eagle, a 34-10 playoff loss at Texas Stadium. The Cowboys won the first of their three Super Bowls in the '90s. The Eagles lost White, then Joyner and Keith Jackson and Clyde Simmons.
The rivalry lost some luster, but there were still some memorable games: stuffing Emmitt Smith twice on fourth and 1, the botched chip-shot field goal that cost the Eagles one win, James Willis' end-zone interception off Aikman and lateral to Troy Vincent for a combined 104-yard touchdown return.
If the '90s belonged to the Cowboys, this decade has been all Eagles. In 2000, Andy Reid's team declared itself with that 41-14 opening-day victory in triple-digit heat, then went on to win five of six NFC East titles.
And maybe this is why the Cowboys continue to loom so large in these parts. When the Cowboys have been on top, they've won Super Bowls. When the Eagles have had the upper hand, they've fallen short.
Now the Cowboys appear to be surging again. In Tony Romo, they have a quarterback worthy of your most irrational dislike. He seems like a good guy. He dates singers and actresses. He was seen hanging out with Britney Spears in L.A. last week.
There's Roy Williams, the safety whose penchant for injuring opponents forced the NFL to outlaw the horse-collar tackle. There's DeMarcus Ware, the playmaking outside pass rusher. There's that wide receiver who played briefly in Philadelphia - what's his name again?
The Cowboys are 6-1. Dallas week feels like a big deal, so an Eagles win would feel that much better. That's all you can ask for from any rivalry.
I just about made this today’s lead story. Because it is my lead story. Today is a wonderful day for me. The NHL Network is Now on Directv!!!!…Channel 215!!!! I am watching it as I blog!
Oh, how I love my hockey highlights. I no longer care that Sportscenter wants to give me 20 seconds of hockey. Screw them! I have 24 hour hockey!!! Hurrah!
Patrick Kane, #1 pick of 2007 draft, in town tonight with the Wirtz-less Blackhawks …
Crosby with another 10 game scoring streak …
Top to bottom, the Penguins nailed it, getting goals from the players who are supposed to score, getting a solid game from backup goaltender Dany Sabourin, staring down a Wild team that lives off a stifling defense -- all the while taking care of its own end.
It started at the top, with center Sidney Crosby collecting a goal on a pretty breakaway and three assists. His left winger, Evgeni Malkin, had two goals and an assist. Their right winger, Ryan Malone, had two assists.
"Crosby's line was on fire," coach Michel Therrien said. "They were skating very well, creating some good opportunities, but being cautious about the defensive game as well."
Twice, Minnesota erased a one-goal Penguins lead.
The Penguins regained the lead for good, 3-2, when Petr Sykora's wrist shot from the slot beat goaltender Josh Harding at 10:05 of the third period on the Penguins' only power play. They iced it 4:24 later when defenseman Sergei Gonchar's eyes got big as he got the puck, after Malkin blocked a shot, and saw Crosby streaking out of his own end.
"The only thing I was worried about was if it might jump off my blade," Gonchar said with a small laugh.
The pass was crisp, and Crosby soared from near the center red line on a breakaway to beat Harding with a forehand shot that slid under the goaltender.
Sabourin stopped 28 of 30 shots by the Wild, whose scoring chances seemed to come in flurries.
The Penguins seemed to start slow, but it was more a case of being patient, setting things up in their own end.
"We knew if we went [flying] down against them we'd be in trouble," Whitney said.
Things opened up in the second period just enough for the teams to take advantage of some offensive chances.
"We had to be patient," Crosby said. "They play a strong system and they're disciplined. We really made an effort to skate and create chances. I don't think we sat back, and that can be easy to do against a team like this."
Malkin found a minuscule space between Harding's left skate and the goal post for a wraparound goal at 3:30 of the second period to break the ice.
Crosby, at the far side of the net, partially whiffed on a pass behind the net to Malkin, but it was just enough for the puck to trickle to the winger.
Stephane Veilleux tied it from the left circle at 6:14 when he pounced on the long, wide rebound of a Branko Radivojevic slap shot from the opposite circle that left Sabourin scrambling side-to-side in the net.
Fifteen seconds later, Malkin restored the lead for the Penguins. He dove in the right circle to deposit a rebound from a Malone shot that bounced off Crosby in front of the crease.
"Our first line played unreal," Sykora said. "They created most of the chances, and they turned the game around in the second period with those two big goals."
Minnesota came back again when Brian Rolston deposited a feed from Mikko Koivu to tie it, 2-2, at 6:26 of the third period. With Brent Burns off for tripping Penguins center Maxime Talbot, Sykora made it 3-2 at 10:05 of the third period for what turned out to be the winner.
Then it was up to Crosby, who moved into the team lead with 17 points and has a 10-game point streak, to seal it. Which is about what would be expected of the team captain who led the NHL in scoring last season.
Matt Ryan Spews on National TV – We should all be this lucky
Amazing Race is back on Sunday …Do love this show…
With the 12th edition of Amazing Race arriving at 8 p.m., Sunday on CBS, some big things have changed, while many things have stayed exactly the same.
CBS was ready to begin airing AR in January, but the stinkage of Viva Laughlin was so bad that it was required to pull our dear Phil Keoghan out of the drawer and dust him off early.
No worries here. We’ll take a disappointing season of AR over just about anything that’s on TV. Right?
- Two fewer episodes in the season.
- Elimination of the non-elimination Pit Stops (yea!)
- Five countries we’ve never visited, including Ireland, Lithuania, and Croatia
- No young all-male teams (or, as we like to call them, the winners).
New Amazing Race