Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Busy Few Weeks in Sportsville

A quick check of the Sports Datebook tells us the following:

The NBA Trade Deadline is Thursday, Feb 21.
The NHL Trade Deadline is Tuesday, Feb 26.
The NFL Free Agency Period begins, Friday, Feb 29.

Let’s focus on the top 2 this morning, and how they pertain to our little champions here in Dallas.

The Mavericks look awful, with another stinker in Philadelphia. How should this impact Feb 21?

The Stars look amazing, with a franchise-tying win streak of 7 games. How should that impact Feb 26?

I think in both cases, something should be done. Maybe not an earth-shaking over-haul, but to assume either one of these teams is set up for a historic spring run seems far fetched at this point. The New York Giants can inspire us all to cross our fingers and hope for the best, but it isn’t a good strategy to simply buy a lottery ticket and hope that doing that will support your family.

After the last two games, the Mavericks have demonstrated that they are lost without a point guard. They need point guard help, badly. They need someone who can take the stinking ball to the hoop. They just seem to play a real flawed style of basketball that got them beat against Golden State, and now appear doomed to go one and done again this spring.

They must do something in the next 10 days. If they don’t, I will take that as a sign that this team is not serious about winning the big one.

As for the Stars, they have rolled through 7 straight wins, all without Sergei Zubov and Phillipe Boucher who were both representing the Stars in the All-Star game 1 year ago. So, should they stand pat? Well, you can make a case that the Stars could be a real decent team as is, but I seem to think that given their recent experiences in the playoffs, I don’t know that they can take any chances.

They have finally built up a reserve of talented youth (still no stars, but many quality contributors) that can get them in any trade discussion. I still think they could use another scorer, and they should try to get that done in the next two weeks.

The 7 game win streak is nice, but would you be likely to take down the Wings, Ducks, or Sharks in a 7 game series? I still don’t love their chances against those teams. I think a win streak in early February can be considered classic “fool’s gold”. It can mislead us into delusions of grandeur. We must all remember that regardless of how easy goals and wins are to attain in Feb, by the playoffs, both are so much tougher to find. Goal scoring has been missing in the last several springs, and they must take every precaution to insure it doesn’t happen again.

I think it is mandatory that this team wins at least one playoff series to preserve whatever good will its fan base has left, so I expect Hull/Jackson to continue to try get that done until Feb 26.

Another day, another Mavs disappointment …tough to deal with the Eastern Conference I guess…

Mediocrity would have been an upgrade on a miserable two-game trip through the Northeast. When you visit two Eastern Conference lightweights that are a combined 15 games below .500 and come away with two embarrassing losses, there's plenty of reason to get agitated.

"We've had two nights in a row where we had a 10-point lead and we kind of kicked the game away from there," Johnson said. "That's very disappointing. We had another awful third quarter, bad second half."

The Mavericks were pathetic after halftime. They actually had a 53-50 lead at the break, but it was a 3-point shot by Andre Miller just before the halftime buzzer that drew the Sixers close and set up their second-half runaway.

For the second game in 24 hours, the Mavs were 10 points up in the second quarter. Both times, they squandered the lead.

"I didn't think we had much going," said Dirk Nowitzki, who was 1-of-10 after halftime and just 4-of-15 for the game. On the trip, he was 8-of-31.

"In the third quarter, we only had 13 points. It's been back to back when we couldn't get anything going. We haven't been shooting the ball well. Teams have been loading up on the strong side and not letting us post up. They're really getting the ball out of some players' hands. So you've got to make them pay."

That hasn't happened. The Mavericks are doing their best not to fall back on the excuse of injuries. But they were missing Devin Harris, Jerry Stackhouse, Erick Dampier and, at the end, Josh Howard, who left in the fourth quarter with a lower back contusion.

"You never want to make excuses in this league," Nowitzki said. "We still have enough weapons to compete and to win games. We just shot the ball poorly.

"It's not easy, but a lot of teams have injury problems. The good teams at least find a way to hold the fort down and stay in games on the road and find a way to win those ugly games. These couple games we just couldn't do it."

Stars win in a struggle with the Coyotes

The Dallas Stars tied the franchise record with their seventh consecutive win Monday, beating Phoenix, 2-1.

But players weren't really concerned with the fact it was the first time in 10 years the team had strung together that many victories. They were more interested with how they did it and what it means in the structure of the 2007-08 campaign.

"What's been great is that we're doing this as a team" defenseman Stephane Robidas said. "You look around and everyone is contributing. That's what's important."

Monday was another perfect example. Dallas struggled to get a puck past Phoenix goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, who finished with 42 saves. But Steve Ott came up with a big even-strength goal midway through the third period, and Mike Modano won it with a 5-on-3 power-play goal with 3:12 remaining.

Mix that with Marty Turco's fifth consecutive victory, plenty of yeoman performances throughout the lineup, and you have a pretty happy locker room.

"I think that's how you build strength in a group – by making sure that everybody is contributing and everybody takes responsibility for doing their job well," Stars coach Dave Tippett said. "If we can continue to build that feeling in our group, it just makes our group stronger and stronger, and then you never know what can happen."

The Stars know they are making it tough on their Pacific Division opponents. They pushed their record to 35-20-5 and have 75 points – the second-most in the NHL behind Detroit (87). That's a little deceptive, because the Stars have played five more games than some of their opponents. But this run of seven straight wins also has put them among the top four teams in winning percentage.

"I think you have to look at winning percentage," Turco said. "But I think we're doing pretty good there, too."

And the Stars are making this run while key defensemen Sergei Zubov (foot/groin) and Philippe Boucher (shoulder) are sidelined. That's putting the onus on the team to spread the responsibility and plug holes with strong overall play.

Here are some other odds and ends:

Flozell Adams contract issue is important

Left tackle Flozell Adams received a $500,000 bonus for making the Pro Bowl. He was the only one of the 13 Cowboys who played in the NFC's 42-30 victory Sunday to have a Pro Bowl incentive in his contract.

Now, Adams is waiting to see if the Cowboys are going to pay him for the future. He could become an unrestricted free agent Feb. 28.

The Cowboys might put a franchise tag on him (they have until Feb. 21) to keep him for another year until they can groom his replacement. Or they could sign him to a long-term extension or let him become a free agent. The latter is unlikely.

If the Cowboys designate Adams as a franchise player, he would be guaranteed a 2008 salary of $9 million.

Texas and Kansas put on a fine show

The Longhorns needed a big play on Monday against Kansas, and it was Abrams and that right arm again that provided it. Only Abrams found himself rejecting a shot instead of throwing one down.

Abrams swatted away a Brandon Rush 3-point attempt in the closing minute, helping to
preserve the 11th-ranked Longhorns' 72-69 victory over No. 3 Kansas at a sold-out Erwin Center.

It marked the ninth-straight game both teams have entered their conference tilt with a national ranking, and the latest version didn't disappoint. There were eight ties and six lead changes.

With UT leading 67-64 with less than a minute to play, Rush found himself wide open in the corner behind the 3-point arc. He had time to eye the basket, set his feet and watch as Abrams flew in and slapped the ball away.

"I got three good fingers on it," Abrams said with a wide smile when describing just his second block of the season.

But three were good enough, just like the Longhorns. They hit 5 of 6 free throws in the final 40 seconds to keep the Jayhawks at bay.

The Longhorns (20-4, 7-2 Big 12) picked up their fourth victory against a ranked
opponent this season — three of which have come against teams in the top 10.

And just like in UT's other signature victories against UCLA and Tennessee, the Longhorns got critical contributions from Connor Atchley and Justin Mason. They accounted for 57 points on 22-of-34 shooting in the UCLA and Tennessee victories.

Mike Sherman does not get his man …so there is no reprisal of mid-90’s Aggies staff…

Former Texas A&M defensive coordinator Bob Davie has declined an invitation to reprise that role with the Aggies, according to a source on campus.

Davie, a former Notre Dame head coach, is an ESPN analyst. A&M spokesman Alan Cannon said Monday coach Mike Sherman continues his search for a defensive coordinator.
"It's been the policy with coach Sherman not to comment on a coaching search until there is something to announce," Cannon said.

Reggie Herring, who had served as A&M's defensive coordinator for only a month,
bolted Aggieland over the weekend to become the Dallas Cowboys' linebackers coach.
A source said late Monday night that former Alabama defensive coordinator Joe Kines could be in line to replace Herring.

US Soccer decides to play some big boys …good for them! Playing teams from Central America does not get you where you need to go…

The U.S. Soccer Federation finalized exhibition games for the American national team at Poland on March 26 and at Spain on June 4.

The game at Poland will be played in Krakow, the USSF said Monday. The site for the game in Spain has not yet been set.

USSF president Sunil Gulati said last week the federation is negotiating to play a top five team in the northeast United States on June 8. Argentina appears to be the most likely possibility.

In addition, the News of the World reported Sunday that the United States may replace Scotland as an opponent for England in an exhibition game at Wembley on May 28.

The United States is preparing for the start of World Cup qualifying, against Barbados or Dominica on June 15 at Carson, Calif. Poland and Spain are getting ready for the European Championship, which opens June 7.

Catching up with Coach Fran

NY Times watches the Wire with a good twist

Does Emmitt need money?

Look who is coaching golf

Coach Sherman is ready to roll – gold around 2:15

Who should we hire?


Jay Beerley said...

The franchise tag is perfect for Adams. He is not worth big, long term money. Too old. Get one more good year out of him and then you get 2 shots of drafting and maybe free agency at finding a replacement. Or using some guy on the roster already.

I love the Mavs and Stars, but have decided to not pay attention until playoffs role around. Too many ups and downs. We'll see...

Lefty said...

At least Emmit doesn't do any talking in that HEB spot.

Jay said...

Ya can we do the franchise tag on Flo? I would do that in a heart beat unless I could get maybe like a reasonable 3 year deal.

I guhgree ab the Stars and Mavs. What's the point until the playoffs?

I hope the Mavs get a backup PG. I thought it was dumb to trade away Anthony Johnson or whatever his name was. He was a decent backup veteran PG we traded for cash? Anyways we've been hurting ever since. Good news is that's a pretty easy position to acquire.

Randell said...

Meh, I'll talk Stars 24/7/365.

What worries me is this: Could the Stars be peaking too soon? How many times have we seen teams get hot too far away from the playoffs. Carry on a hot streak from the last 3 weeks of a season through the playoffs: do able. Carry on a hot streak from 2 months out all the way through the Stanley Cup playoffs: Improbable.

I would have much rather seen this win streak come 6 weeks from now. Still, getting a few key pieces back from injury down the road might be enough of a shot in the arm for the team to carry success that long and on into the playoffs...

But having said all of that, I am in complete agreement. The Stars need to make a move for scoring help. Bring in a shifty sniper now and see if maybe that can rekindle the magic with Modano and Lehtinen. Without a legitimate 2nd scoring line, this team will again be 1 and done in the playoffs.

As for who to bring in and who to give up? No clue. That's what Sports Sturm is there for.