Thursday, February 28, 2008

Busy Night!

How are we ever going to accomplish all the objectives for this evening?

Objectives for my Thursday:

• Attend the Dallas debut of Brad Richards as the Stars take the ice against the Blackhawks.

• View the Mavericks big road test at San Antonio

• Watch with total attention the new episode of Lost

There is no way these can all be accomplished, but it will be fun trying.

Meanwhile, the media likes covering some stories. Others, like Steve Nash being owned by CP3 does not get the headlines unless you go looking for them.

Here are the 4 meetings between the Suns and the Hornets:

Game 1 – Dec 15. NO 101, Ph 98. CP3 21 and 10. Nash 12 and 7
Game 2 – Jan 5. NO 118, Ph 113. CP3 28 and 10. Nash 23 and 11
Game 3 – Feb 6. NO 132, Ph 130. CP3 42 and 9 Nash 32 and 12
Game 4 – Feb 27. NO 120, Ph 103. CP3 25 and 15 Nash 8 and 13

Totals – New Orleans has won all 4 games.

Chris Paul averages 29 points, 11 assists. Steve Nash 18.7 points, 10.7 assists

I would be very interested in Suns-Hornets in the playoffs.

the report from Phoenix

It did not go well for the Suns during their first three meetings this season with the Hornets when New Orleans played without one of its four stars.

So it was bound to get worse when the Hornets were fully loaded with firepower and fire in the belly off a three-game losing streak.

If the teams' regular-season series were a playoff series, New Orleans' 120-103 walloping Wednesday night would have finished off the four-game sweep of the Suns.

It was a game that would make fans long for the Suns of old. Instead, Phoenix just looked its age while New Orleans took on the personality of the young, aggressive team that spaced the floor well and let its MVP-caliber point guard leave a defense carved up like a jigsaw puzzle.

What was a 59-55 Hornets lead at halftime blew open in the third quarter, because New Orleans had that familiar lineup balance, with the starters all scoring between six and nine points in the quarter to tally 38. New Orleans had been struggling offensively, with just one 30-point quarter since the All-Star break, but had two Wednesday.

Phoenix's familiar problems with quality opponents (6-13 vs. the West's winning teams) and its defense have resurfaced, putting the Shaquille O'Neal transition phase into something that makes the Suns look fazed. The Suns, who again have fallen to fifth in the West, are 5-5 since Shawn Marion left and 2-3 with O'Neal against a tough schedule. A tough transition was expected, but disconcerting losses by 17 and 30 points this week were not. Wednesday marked the fourth time that Phoenix has given up at least 120 points since the trade.

"These are a bit embarrassing," Suns guard Raja Bell said. "You don't like to get smacked on the bottom like that. A loss is one thing. But to get blown out, it's not a good feeling."

Though Suns point guard Steve Nash did not make a shot until there was 3:54 to go in the game, Hornets point guard Chris Paul continued to torch Phoenix. Paul had 25 points, 15 assists, six rebounds and three steals Wednesday, but the Hornets gave it to Phoenix from all directions.

"We've had some success against these guys," said Hornets forward David West, who broke a post-All-Star break slump with 27 points. "We felt confident coming in here. . . . We match up with them pretty well. CP (Paul) and our guards have an advantage over their guards with their speed and ability to get up and down the floor."

Meanwhile, tonight, let’s get ready for some MAVS – SPURS!

Just 51/2 games separate the leading Los Angeles Lakers from the eighth-place Golden State Warriors, with the Spurs and Mavs jockeying for position in between. In the Southwest Division, the Spurs lead Dallas and New Orleans by just one game.

"We're fully aware Dallas just added a Hall of Fame player to their club," said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. "And that makes them even better."

That point has been debated in NBA circles since the league rubber-stamped the trade last week.

Dallas is 3-1 since Kidd's arrival, though all three victories came against teams
likely lottery bound and the loss was to New Orleans. In four games with Dallas, Kidd has averaged 8.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, 11.3 assists, 3.8 steals and has single-handedly revitalized Dallas' transition offense and passing game.

However, Kidd's return came at a cost: To get him, the Mavericks took out a second mortgage on their future.

Dallas parted with 25-year-old Devin Harris, one of the league's up-and-coming point guards, as well as DeSagana Diop, a 7-foot backup center useful for banging on the bigger bodies in the West (see Duncan, Tim).

That's part of the reason the Spurs player most likely to be affected by Kidd's return westward — point guard Tony Parker — declared himself "really happy" with the trade when it went through last week.

In part to make up for the loss of Diop, the Mavs signed another ex-Net, 6-foot-11 former All-Star Jamaal Magloire, on Wednesday.

"You can't say Jason Kidd isn't going to help them," Parker said. "(But) Devin Harris and Diop definitely caused us problems."

Whether Kidd can cause the Spurs the same sort of problems remains to be seen.

How do the new Mavs
matchup with the Spurs

The San Antonio Spurs are 4-0 in playoff series since the Mavericks defeated them in Game 7 of the second round in 2006.

And there's a belief among some Mavs that if they had taken care of their end last postseason, another Mavs-Spurs series might have prevented a fourth championship parade from chugging down the River Walk.

The Mavs loved the way they matched up with the Spurs. But that was back when Devin Harris matched point-guard speed with Tony Parker and the center tandem of Erick Dampier and DeSagana Diop clung to Tim Duncan as well as anyone has.

But that was before Harris and Diop were shipped to New Jersey and the Jason Kidd era rekindled four games ago.

"It's all new territory for us," Mavs coach Avery Johnson said. "We know how some of our players match up against their players, but we've added some new guys and we're not there yet."

Parker, the 2007 Finals MVP, perhaps speaking truthfully or trying to goad or maybe just trying to diminish the rivalry, smiled and said the trade pleased him. No Harris and no Diop, he said, was a relief for the Spurs.

As multiple storylines between old rivals unfold tonight, not the least of which has the Mavs trailing the Spurs by one game in the Southwest Division, one storyline in particular has captured the center of the Mavs' attention.

Suddenly, Dampier, their stoic 6-foot-11 center, is allaying fears that the Mavs won't be strong enough or deep enough at center in a playoff series against Duncan and the Spurs, the Lakers' retooled front line or the Suns' Shaquille O'Neal and Amare Stoudemire.

In four games since the All-Star break, Dampier has been energized on the defensive end. He had 16 rebounds and seven blocked shots Monday against Chicago. He's blocked 20 shots in the four games and is averaging 9.5 rebounds as his playing time has jumped to 31 minutes, almost 10 more than his average before the trade.

"It's just knowing that you're going to get the majority of the minutes," Dampier said, "knowing you have to stay on the floor, stay out of foul trouble, so I try to be a presence out there, whether it's on the defensive end or the offensive end."
He'll get help defensively tonight from Mavs newcomer Jamaal Magliore, a 6-foot-11 banger, and veteran Juwan Howard.

In the last four games, Dampier is giving the Mavs an offensive low-post presence. Of the players Kidd was supposed to help make scoring easier -- mostly Dirk Nowitzki, Josh Howard and Jason Terry -- Dampier is possibly at the top of the list.

Tonight, The Cowboys prepare for the opening of the free agency window

Free agency begins today with the Cowboys tendering contract offers to all of their restricted free agents. Barring something unforeseen, look for tackle Flozell Adams and the rest of the unrestricted free agents to hit the market at 11 p.m.

Team needs

Receiver: Finding a young playmaker at wide receiver has been a need for a couple of years. It's more so now. Terrell Owens will be 35 in December and Terry Glenn might not be back.

Cornerback: The Cowboys need a quality third cornerback to go with starters Terence Newman and Anthony Henry. Jacques Reeves played OK at times. But to compete for a title, an upgrade is necessary.

Running back: There are no running backs under contract, although they will certainly tender restricted free agent Marion Barber at the first-round level. Even with Barber, the Cowboys need a back in the draft and or free agency because Julius Jones will not return.

Offensive tackle: If Flozell Adams is not re-signed, left tackle shoots to the top of the list. They could move Leonard Davis from guard to tackle. Outside of that, the Cowboys don't have any immediate answers.

Franchise player

Safety Ken Hamlin (above)The unrestricted free agent was tendered a one-year, $4.4 million contract for next season, but is still in negotiations for a long-term deal.
Unrestricted free agents

Left tackle Flozell Adams Adams is one of the best left tackles in the league and is the top tackle on the free-agent market. The Cowboys want him back at the right price, considering his age (32). Look for Miami and its cast of former Cowboys to be a huge player in the Adams sweepstakes.

Safety Keith Davis He is the club's best special teams player. He is also looking for a starting role, which is not possible in Dallas. New Orleans covets him. So does Miami. Look for him to test the market.

Running back Julius Jones Jones wants a new start with a new team, especially since he is no longer a starter. The Cowboys will not get in his way.

Cornerback Nate Jones He might be brought back for his versatility. Dallas will still search for a younger player to fill his role.

Cornerback Jacques Reeves The team's third cornerback is expected to hit the free-
agent market. Miami is a possibility because of the presence of former Cowboys secondary coach Todd Bowles.

John Clayton looks at the market

Defensive tackle: This is a particularly thin market. The franchise tags given to Albert Haynesworth of the Titans and Corey Williams of the Packers wiped out the position. That leaves only three defensive tackles who played 40 percent of the defensive snaps -- the Vikings' Spencer Johnson (photo), the Saints' Brian Young and the Titans' Randy Starks. That doesn't include Raiders defensive lineman Tommy Kelly, an end who could convert to tackle, although there's a good chance he could re-sign with the Raiders.

Cornerback: This is one of the priciest positions on the market, thanks to Nate Clements' eight-year, $80 million contract last year. Asante Samuel (photo) will get his big deal. The Chargers' Drayton Florence is next. Brian Kelly of the Bucs might go to Detroit to reunite with former Bucs coach Rod Marinelli. After that, there's the Lions' Travis Fisher, the Cowboys' Jacques Reeves, the Pats' Randall Gay and the Jags' Terry Cousins. No wonder trade interest is heating up around the Falcons' DeAngelo Hall, the Eagles' Lito Sheppard and the Raiders' Fabian Washington.

Running back: The re-signings of Jamal Lewis (Browns) and Justin Fargas (Raiders) leave the Chargers' Michael Turner (photo) and the Cowboys' Julius Jones as the top backs available. After that, the only halfback on the field for more than 40 percent of the snaps last year is the Texans' Ron Dayne.

Quarterback: The Bears looked at free agency, trades and the draft and decided to take one more chance on Rex Grossman. Daunte Culpepper (photo) tops the list of quarterbacks, but if Josh McCown of the Raiders and Todd Collins of the Redskins re-sign, where does a team go? The Dolphins' Cleo Lemon and the Jags' Quinn Gray are the only other QBs who played more than 30 percent of the snaps.

The Free Agency list

Scott Burnside looks at the Stars big trade

Tampa Bay sends Brad Richards and Johan Holmqvist to Dallas for Jussi Jokinen, Jeff Halpern, Mike Smith and a 2009 fourth-round pick

This is the kind of deal that, at the end of the playoffs, we may look at and say, "This was the deal that brought the Stanley Cup back to Dallas."

And a year from now, we may look at this deal and say, "This is the deal that made the Tampa Bay Lightning contenders again."

Richards is obviously the best player in this multiplayer trade. He'll instantly help an already impressive Dallas team with his terrific two-way play and will almost certainly play with more talented players on a regular basis than he did in Tampa the past two seasons. Dallas, traditionally a defense-first squad, has opened things up this season and ranked seventh in goals per game heading into Tuesday's action. Richards will add to that without having to do it all. And come playoff time, Richards will prove his worth by killing penalties, taking faceoffs and contributing on the power play. Against teams like Anaheim, San Jose and Detroit, the Stars are now their equals.

On the other end of this trade, Mike Smith is the key. The Lightning failed to secure top-notch goaltending since they won the Stanley Cup in 2004. And while Tampa GM Jay Feaster will be scouring the free-agent lists for a No. 1 this summer (does the name Cristobal Huet ring a bell?), Smith was playing well enough that he may have pushed Marty Turco out of the No. 1 job in Dallas. Turco has re-established himself as one of the game's top netminders, but Smith has a lot of upside. He is 12-9-0 with a 2.46 GAA and .906 save percentage. He will no doubt get an early start at impressing Feaster and coach John Tortorella. Jokinen gives the Bolts some scoring depth (and shootout prowess) and Halpern is a gritty player who can fill in on the third/fourth lines and add some penalty-killing time.

Zach Randolph Sucks – so happy the Mavs didn’t move on him

Our guest today, Kevin Harvick blows his stack


P-Cat said...

I have to say...if the Cowboys take a running back—or especially move up to take a running back—they are not the geniuses of football they are purported to be. In a deep RB class, the Boys can get a complimentary back later in the draft. Leon Washington was a 4th rounder. Heck, Marion Barber was a 4th rounder. With more pressing needs, the Boys should stay where they are and take a CB and a WR. Just my two cents.

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