Just when you thought the Mavericks were playing as bad as they could play…. They do something like this and totally redeem themselves …
The Mavericks' season has been herky-jerky, full of stops and starts.
On Thursday night, it was all that, but without the stops.
The defense couldn't keep Denver's whirling, Allen Iverson-led offense from piling up points and, in the end, a victory as the Nuggets peppered the Mavericks, 122-109, in a game that was a direct descendant of the shootout days of the 1980s.
By the time the crowd at American Airlines Center dwindled in the final minutes, it was clear these Mavericks are flat-out bad right now. They have lost six out of nine, including three of the last four. Too many players are playing below expectations.
"They're not very pretty right now," president Donnie Nelson said. "But they're ours, and we love them."
That was Nelson's way of saying there will be no overreaction to the Mavericks' disjointed play through the first quarter of the season. So drop those ideas of Kobe Bryant, Jason Kidd or Shaquille O'Neal.
Instead, the Mavericks will concentrate on what it's going to take to pull out of this dreadful tailspin. They surrendered a season-high in points, forced only eight Denver turnovers, suffered 19 giveaways of their own and shot only 33.3 percent in the fourth quarter, when the game was still undecided.
Dirk Nowitzki (32 points, 12 rebounds) and Jerry Stackhouse (23 points, seven rebounds, five assists) had strong games, but anything the Mavericks did on the offensive end was wiped out with their lack of defense.
"It was a layup drill out there," Nowitzki said. "They got whatever they wanted. At no point in the game I thought we could really stop them."
Least of all when they were still in the game. A Jason Terry 3-pointer cut Denver's lead to 90-89 with 1:44 to go in the third quarter. Yes, the third quarter – a testament to the sloppy defense on both sides.
The difference was Denver's defense actually got serious the rest of the way.
Denver scored on its last four possessions of the third quarter and four of its first five in the fourth quarter to go up, 107-94. The Mavericks got no closer than nine points the rest of the way. Iverson finished with 35 points, 12 assists and six steals. Carmelo Anthony had a poor shooting night, but ended with 23 points. Linas Kleiza had 23 points off the bench for the Nuggets.
"Just got to fight through it," coach Avery Johnson said of what the Mavericks have to do. "We got to take a little time and refocus and reenergize and get back after it. The men are up for the challenge. They're disappointed. We're all disappointed. They don't want to play this way, but they'll keep fighting."
Not all of the problems were on defense. With five minutes left in the first half, Nowitzki was 7-for-9 from the field and everybody else was 7-for-24. Josh Howard fought foul problems, and Devin Harris and Terry were a combined 7-for-21 from the floor.
But nothing could overshadow the soft defense.
"Another hot player kind of burned us off the dribble, and we just got to take a little more pride in getting that guy stopped," Johnson said. "We just don't have that consistent attitude on defense. That's something we've always taken pride in. Right now, we're just trying to get one thing we can hang our hat on."
The Mavericks are 12-8. At one point last season, they were 35-8, although that wasn't such a great omen of things to come, either.
"Obviously, this is not the way we wanted to start the season," Nowitzki said. "But we're looking forward to the rest of the season. It can only get better."
Meanwhile, SportsGuy doesn’t think the Mavs could do a Kidd deal …
Mavericks -- Impossible because Devin Harris just signed a big extension (making him impossible to trade) and I can't imagine why the Nets would want to touch Jason Terry's contract (five years, $48 million remaining) or Erick Dampier's contract (4 years, $41.5 million remaining). You could argue that "Terry + a giant expiring contract + two No. 1 picks would be a decent haul," but the Mavs don't have one of those Theo Ratliff-like expiring contracts and their No. 1 picks aren't appealing, anyway. So they're out.
Well, the Winter Meetings are over, and the Rangers Can congratulate themselves for not being price-gouged …And now they can explain to their fans how they plan to field a AAA team at Major League ticket prices…
The Rangers came to the Winter Meetings with one philosophical rule: They would not allow themselves to be price-gouged.
And, if had not been for those room service quesadillas, they might have been able to pronounce themselves completely virtuous for the week. While the club came away with role-player Chris Shelton and five minor leaguers (thanks to the minor league phase of Thursday's Rule 5 draft), they did hold to their philosophy.
General manager Jon Daniels did pony up for the quesadillas, but he wouldn't go to three or four years for center fielder Andruw Jones. He hasn't given up the guarantee of a second year to any of the free agent relievers or corner outfielders to whom he's talked with. He wouldn't give up a package of his top, most-advanced prospects to make trade talks for a young center fielder more likely. And he wasn't about to empty the farm system to get into the Johan Santana bidding.
Daniels checked on every young high-ceiling outfielder who might be available on the market, from Adam Jones to Josh Hamilton, without getting very far. Daniels said upgrading the outfield remains "on the front-burner." That said, if the Rangers make a move this week, it's more likely to be a one-year deal for a reliever.
The Rangers have handed out one-year offers to both La Troy Hawkins and Eric Gagne,
but neither has bitten. Daniels' comments Thursday suggested he has placed a deadline on accepting current offers.
"We're hoping to get some closure on some of these things in the next couple of days," he said. "Some things have started to pick up with some trades being made and signings being made."
Asked if "closure" meant that deadlines had been placed on offers, Daniels repeated the Rangers were hoping to get "closure" on those situations.
Besides, the Rangers have already offered Gagne a two-year deal and were turned down. They extended that offer shortly before trading Gagne to Boston in July. The offer included two guaranteed years and two option years.
"We're only planning on guaranteeing one year in this market," Daniels said of the free agent market in general.
The Rangers were more willing to do a two-year deal for Jones. But agent Scott Boras told Daniels the price for switching leagues from the NL to the AL had to include a longer commitment. The Rangers made it clear that Torii Hunter was the only center fielder on the free agent market in whom they were interested in on a long-term deal.
"On a short-term deal, he wasn't willing to go the American League," Daniels said. "He didn't want to change leagues and have that adjustment period."
The other outfield target in whom the Rangers might be willing to go beyond two years: Japanese right fielder Kosuke Fukudome. But he still hasn't officially announced he will play in the U.S. Fukudome is believed to already have an offer of at least three years for $10 million per season from San Diego. The Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox have also expressed interest.
In a game that leaves both teams with QB’s on carts, the Redskins stay alive, the Bears do not ….
Todd Collins kept waiting for another chance to play in the NFL. And waiting ... and waiting ... and waiting.
Forget about the five years without throwing for a touchdown. How about the three years without so much as attempting a pass of any sort?
Collins finally was called upon Thursday night by the weary Washington Redskins, and the perennial understudy performed brilliantly. Replacing injured starter Jason Campbell, Collins tossed two TDs to lead Washington over the fading Chicago Bears 24-16, ending the Redskins' four-game losing streak.
Making it even more special for Collins and the rest of the Redskins was the context of this win, coming as it did 1 1/2 weeks after the shooting death of safety Sean Taylor, and only three days after his burial.
"We've been through a lot. We really didn't have any practice time this week, dealing with the death of a teammate and a funeral," said Collins, 15-for-20 for 224 yards and his first two TD throws since 2002, when he played for Kansas City.
Said Redskins coach Joe Gibbs: "It seems like it's been forever since we won a game. This team's overcome so much. ... It's been an emotional roller coaster for us."
While the Redskins (6-7) consider themselves very much in the playoff chase in the so-so NFC, the Bears (5-8) were ready to concede they've followed up a trip to the Super Bowl with a dud of a season.
"It's pretty much over now," defensive end Alex Brown said.
Campbell departed in the second quarter with a dislocated left kneecap a few plays after hurting his throwing elbow, and Chicago quarterback Rex Grossman never returned from a left knee injury on his second drive.
Campbell will have an MRI exam Friday, and the Redskins said they would wait for those results before offering any prognosis.
Asked whether Grossman will play again this season, coach Lovie Smith said, "Don't know enough about it. You know, it didn't look good."
Cowboys – Lions
I have no belief that the Lions can stay with the Cowboys, as the Lions are in their normal seasonal tailspin that threatens the job security of its coaches (but never Matt Millen) and that sorry organization plays out the string. They have the tools, but given the events of last season in this meeting and the roll the Cowboys are on, I see a relatively clean, simple crushing of Detroit.
Dallas 34, Detroit 20
Lions doubt Martz knows what he is doing …
Coaches coach. Players play.
It's the unwritten rule in the Lions' dressing room even if players disagree with the Sunday game plan that is laid out before them. Most offensive players admit they want to run more. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz thinks otherwise. Yet players said they likely won't ask Martz to rethink his game plan as the Lions head into their 1 p.m. game Sunday against the Cowboys at Ford Field
The Lions (6-6) head in on a four-game losing streak. During the slide they've only rushed 56 times for 178 yards and two touchdowns. By comparison, opponents during that span have run 111 times for 461 yards and four touchdowns.
For the season, the Lions (926 yards) are the only NFL club to have rushed for fewer than 1,000 yards, and the only team that comes close to the Lions' league-low 234 carries is the 49ers (247).
The Lions are on pace to rush for 1,235 yards this season, slightly above the 1,129 they rushed for last season under Martz. The last time the Lions approached these numbers was in 1988 -- the year before Barry Sanders' rookie season -- when they rushed for 1,234 yards.
Center Dominic Raiola and left tackle Jeff Backus have said the Lions need to run more. Even wide receiver Roy Williams said the same.
But no one feels comfortable stepping forward to make suggestions.
"I firmly believe in running the ball," Backus said. "I think it has a lot to do with playing winning football. It establishes a lot of things for us offensively and defensively. There are a lot of pluses to it."
Backus said it's no secret that linemen love to run the football. However, he said he does not feel comfortable expressing his views to Martz
or the rest of the coaching staff.
"I don't think we are in a situation where we can," Backus said about suggesting plays. "We just need to do our jobs on the field and let them coach. Let them do their thing. I don't think the way we do things here it is not an atmosphere where as an offensive lineman we can make suggestions."
Romo rewrites Cowboys record book …
Romo's 2007 numbers project to rank in the top three in club history in seven major statistical categories – passer rating, attempts, completions, completion percentage, yards, yards per attempt and touchdown passes.
Danny White's 1983 season ranks in the top three in four of those categories.
The only other seasons that are top three in even two of those categories are Troy Aikman's 1993 campaign and Roger Staubach's 1971 season.
"I really haven't looked at it too much," Romo said. "I just think we're playing good football, and in that process, stats are going to be what they are. It's about winning football."
But while Romo deflects what could be coming, others are taking notice.
In Aikman's opinion, it's impossible not to.
"I would say it's by far the best season a [Cowboys] quarterback has had," Aikman said. "I understand those who would argue against that – well, the season's not over. Well, I think already, if you're just looking at a season for a quarterback, it's without question the best year."
And Aikman threw in this for good measure: "If you put my best two years together, I don't think you'd come up with the numbers that he's going to have at the end of the season.
"Unless Roger's got a beef with it [being considered the best], I certainly don't."
Stars have Ottawa tonight, so the Dany Heatley show rolls in…
In other hockey, Langenbrunner is named captain of New Jersey …
Jamie Langenbrunner was named the Devils' eighth captain, with John Madden and Paul Martin chosen as the alternates. Elias, Dainius Zubrus and Brian Gionta opened this season as triple alternates, when coach Brent Sutter declared that Elias' captaincy was up for grabs.
Langenbrunner took Elias out for lunch Tuesday to hash out the delicate situation.
"He could have sulked for a second, or taken a few nights off. But he took us on his shoulders in true Patty fashion," Langenbrunner said.
Elias helped spoil the homecoming of Claude Julien, the coach under whom he served as captain until Lou Lamoriello fired him with four games left last season.
Zdeno Chara, Glen Murray and Dennis Wideman had the half-full arena booing its streaking Devils after the first. Langenbrunner wasn't exactly Mark Messier between periods in his first opportunity.
"I was terrible in the first period. I took a lot of responsibility. The first goal was my fault," Langenbrunner said.
I helped vote Tim Tebow to the O’Brien …
Even with a soft cast on a broken right hand, Tim Tebow has no trouble lifting heavy trophies.
Thursday night he was clutching the 2007 Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award. The Florida star was announced the winner during Thursday's ESPN Awards show, becoming the first sophomore to win the honor.
Saturday night, he's the favorite to become the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy. Any problems if you've got to lift a 22-pound stiff-arm statuette?
"Not at all," Tebow said with a laugh. "The adrenaline will be flowing."
Tebow was named the winner of the O'Brien over finalists Chase Daniel of Missouri and Dennis Dixon of Oregon.
Tebow, a 6-foot-3, 235-pound left-hander, had a remarkably productive season in his first year as a starter. He was second nationally in passing efficiency with 29 touchdown passes and 22 rushing TDs.
Tebow is the second Florida player to win the O'Brien. Danny Wuerffel won the O'Brien in 1995 and 1996 (and he also won the Heisman in 1996).
"I've always looked up to Danny Wuerffel," said Tebow, who is a Florida native. "It's a great honor to win an award that he won twice."
Tebow will be presented with the award at the annual 31st annual O'Brien Awards Dinner on Feb.18 at the Fort Worth Club.
It will be the night of the Gators; former Florida quarterback, coach and Heisman Trophy winner Steve Spurrier, currently head coach at South Carolina, will be given the Davey O'Brien Legends Award.
College football awards
Davey O'Brien (quarterback) Tim Tebow, Florida
Doak Walker (running back) Darren McFadden, Arkansas
Fred Biletnikoff (wide receiver) Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech
Maxwell (outstanding player) Tim Tebow, Florida
Camp (outstanding player) Darren McFadden, Arkansas
Bednarik (defensive player) Dan Connor, Penn State
Outland (interior lineman) Glenn Dorsey, LSU
Jim Thorpe (defensive back) Antoine Cason, Arizona
Lou Groza (kicker) Thomas Weber, Arizona St.
Ray Guy (punter) Durant Brooks, Georgia Tech
John Mackey (tight end) Fred Davis, USC
Dave Rimington (center) Jonathan Luigs, Arkansas
Lombardi (lineman) Glenn Dorsey, LSU
Nagurski (defensive player) Glenn Dorsey, LSU
Coach of the Year Mark Mangino, Kansas
don’t you want a list of all of the Bermanisms in one place? …
Robot Chicken’s Christmas Special approaches …
As a Pats fan trapped here in Cowboy Country this is an exciting time. With the Green Bay game and the fact NE has suffered in 2 cold weather games, much has been made about homefield throughout the playoffs.
It has been bantered about that it was extremely beneficial for the Cowboys to secure it rather than travel to GB and NE to secure to force Indy into the cold weather. Ignoring the argument that maybe NE relies to much on the pass and is not the cold weather team they used to be.
So I researched the last 10 years of AFC/NFC Title Games. Guess what I found out. Apparently is doesn't matter. Its 10-10.
I can't think of anything to explain this except that in the instances of the visiting team winning, that it was the 2 best teams and homefield didn't mean much?
1997-98 Green Bay Packers 23 San Francisco 49ers 10 San Francisco 3Com Park
1998-99 Atlanta Falcons 30 Minnesota Vikings 27 Minneapolis Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome
1999-00 St. Louis Rams 11 Tampa Bay 6 St. Louis Trans World Dome
2000-01 New York Giants 41 Minnesota Vikings 0 East Rutherford Giants Stadium
2001-02 St. Louis Rams 29 Philadelphia Eagles 24 St. Louis Edward Jones Dome
2002-03 Tampa Bay 27 Philadelphia Eagles 10 Philadelphia Veterans Stadium
2003-04 Carolina Panthers 14 Philadelphia Eagles 3 Philadelphia Lincoln Financial Field
2004-05 Philadelphia Eagles 27 Atlanta Falcons 10 Philadelphia Lincoln Financial Field
2005-06 Seattle Seahawks 34 Carolina Panthers 14 Seattle Qwest Field
2006-07 Chicago Bears 39 New Orleans Saints 14 Chicago Soldier Field
1997-98 Denver Broncos 24 Pittsburgh Steelers 21 Pittsburgh Three Rivers Stadium
1998-99 Denver Broncos 23 New York Jets 10 Denver Mile High Stadium
1999-00 Tennessee Titans 33 Jacksonville Jaguars 14 Jacksonville Alltel Stadium
2000-01 Baltimore Ravens 16 Oakland Raiders 3 Oakland Network Associates Coliseum
2001-02 New England 24 Pittsburgh Steelers 17 Pittsburgh Heinz Field
2002-03 Oakland Raiders 41 Tennessee Titans 24 Oakland Network Associates Coliseum
2003-04 New England Patriots 24 Indianapolis Colts 14 Foxboro Gillette Stadium
2004-05 New England 41 Pittsburgh Steelers 27 Pittsburgh Heinz Field
2005-06 Pittsburgh Steelers 34 Denver Broncos 17 Denver INVESCO Field at Mile High
2006-07 Indianapolis Colts 38 New England Patriots 34 Indianapolis RCA Dome
Click here to see some Wire short stories, including Omar in 1985 …
The Wire is returning soon!
Darius Miles doesn’t make sense here